By any standards, the Duc de Choiseul, Louis XV’s politically nimble chief minister, lived well – exhibit A being his five-storey mansion on Rue Saint-Marc in Paris’s then stylish second arrondissement. Built in 1791 as the Duc’s post-retirement digs on a corner block facing the Opéra Comique and a stone’s throw from the Opéra Garnier and the fashionable rue Vivienne, the handsome pile has gone through several hands over the years – most famously as the Italian restaurant Poccardi where, in 1914, one Raoul Villain steadied his nerves with a meal before heading out to assassinate the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès.
By the time Nadia Murano and Denis Nourry, the owners of the Christian Lacroix-designed l’Hotel du Petit Moulin, took over 36 Rue Saint-Marc in 2013 with the object of turning it into a bijou hotel, it was looking a little the worse for wear, its once stately grandeur hidden under almost two centuries’ worth of accretions and grime.
A two-year restoration led by the Milanese designers Dimore Studio has literally lightened up the building’s interiors though without the riotous excesses of the l’Hotel du Petit Moulin. A glass-topped, trellis-lined courtyard has been carved out of a central room, flooding with light the public spaces dressed with black and white marble, luminous Dedar velvet, Jim Thomson silks, and a mood board of blues, blush and dusky reds.
The hotel’s 26 rooms are casually varied in their permutations of bold Art Deco-inspired palm-print drapes and dressing tables, burnt orange sofas, Louis de Poortere rugs, Fontana Arte and Flos lamps, and O. Borsani brass headboards.
The basement has been reinforced for the insertion of a small heated swimming pool (with a counter current mode for laps) and hammam. Possibly as a discrete acknowledgement of what happened the last time the building had a restaurant, the hotel offers only room service and light snacks, though that’s not such a disadvantage – the Grand Boulevards with their little nooks filled with brasseries and wine pits are just steps away.