High-end hotels have realized that the gilded 18th-century look doesn't say "luxury" like it used to.
Crillon, the 100-year-old hotel that housed General Eisenhower after the Liberation of Paris, is auctioning off almost everything, from beds and curtains to 2,000 bottles of wine and doormen’s uniforms.
The dressers, Baccarat coffee cups, mini bars, room service trolleys and lights fixtures from Crillon’s halls, 147 room, 44 suites are going up for sale after the hotel, owned by the Saudi royal Family, closed this month for a two-year renovation.
On sale is a piece of Paris history. Built in 1775 on the Place de la Concorde and converted to a hotel in 1906, the Crillon palace housed the British and American military commands in World War I. It was occupied by the Germans in World War II before it was taken over by the Allies. The Covenant of the League of Nations was signed within its walls in 1919. Over the years, the hotel has played host to Winston Churchill, the Shah of Iran and Madonna.
“Most of these furniture pieces wouldn’t attract huge value on their own,” said Stephane Aubert, who handled a similar sale for Paris auction house Artcurial when Versailles’ Hotel Trianon was restored in 2007. “But there’s a certain cachet about coming from the Crillon that’s impossible to estimate.”
While starting prices for all 4,000 lots total just 1 million euros ($1.3 million), Aubert, who’s handling the sale for Artcurial, says that’s a conservative estimate. Louis XV- style couches will start bidding at 2,000 euros, two-poster king-sized beds at 400 euros, and Louis XV dressers at 600 euros.
The auction will take place over five days starting April 18 in the hotel’s Les Ambassadeurs restaurant. The goods are on display in the hotel until April 16.
Most furniture is Louis XV and Napoleon III style, and was built for the hotel between its 1909 opening and the 1950’s.
Vincent Larroque, who has tended the bar at the Crillon for 25 years, watched wistfully late last week as potential buyers looked over the sale’s most highly estimated piece, a 5-meter long art-deco bar designed by French sculptor Cesar.
Bidding will begin at 10,000 euros while Sonia Rykiel- designed bar chairs will start at 800 euros a pair.
Even two pewter shakers, which Larroque says have mixed drinks for celebrities ranging from Keith Richards and Lou Reed to Claudia Schiffer and Tom Cruise are on the hock, starting at 150 euros each.
“I’m very sad to see all this go,” said Larroque. “I don’t know what will replace it. This was a special spot.”
The hotel says the renovation will “enhance the nobility and elegance of the building, and conserve the atmosphere of a 18th-century residence.”
Crillon has been owned by the Saudi Royal Family since 2010, after earlier being owned by Starwood Capital and the Taittinger group of Champagne fame.
Artcurial’s Aubert said the greatest challenge was having just three months to catalog the wares all while the hotel was open.
“We’d show up early in the morning and try to figure out with the receptionists which rooms would be free that day,” he said. “But some clients keep their room all year, so we had to be discreet.”
Some of the more singular lots are the reception desk (400 euros), the concierge’s “pigeon hole” mailboxes (800 euros), and a Pleyel grand piano that sat in the “Presidential Suite” (3000 euros).
A few mini bars and restaurant chairs have been repainted by artists such a cartoon illustrator Enki Bilal and fashion designer Alber Elbaz. Those proceeds will go to charity.
Some chandeliers, tapestries, and wood paneling are not for sale because they are classed as historic monuments.
“And we can’t sell the views of the Place de la Concorde,” said Aubert. “That’s priceless.”
Editors: Vidya Root, Mark Beech. To contact the reporter on this story Gregory Viscusi in Paris at email@example.com. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at firstname.lastname@example.org; James Hertling at email@example.com.
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Photo Credit: Visitors take a look at furniture displayed for auction in the bar of the Crillon Hotel in Paris, Monday April 15, 2013. Located Place de la Concorde, the Crillon hotel will put most of its furniture and some of his fine wines under the hammer next week, before a two-year restauration. Remy de la Mauviniere / Associated Press