Maison Martin Margiela Creates A Surreal Luxury Hotel

The cult darling of Belgian fashion brings weirdo decadence to Paris, a city overrun by precious traditionalism.


Avant-garde Belgian fashion house Maison Martin Margiela has given a très-cool makeover to a fussy, luxury hotel in Paris, the high Holy Land of fussy, luxury hotels.

Maison des Centraliens
reopened to the public in May with a slick interior that turns this ornate, Second Empire townhouse (and former home of a Viennese princess) into a monument to the headscrewy Belgian surrealism for which Maison Martin Margiela earned its fashion-world star.


The hotel’s high-brow impishness is weird stuff for Paris.

The place is a study in optical illusion. It’s got chairs and tables that appear to suspend in mid-air and trompe l?oeil wall coverings done up in the Hausmannian style that make closed doors seem like they’re open. Laser in on the photos, and you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out whether you’re looking at new wallpaper or molding that the architect, Jules Pellechet, dreamed up some 150 years ago. There’s a corridor covered floor to ceiling in what looks like tin foil and a mirrored, diamond-shaped parallelepiped said to reference 2001: A Space Odyssey. The dominant color scheme: clinical white.

This sort of high-minded impishness is weird stuff in a city that decorates its top hotels with canopy beds and Louis Quatorze tapestries. But there’s a business reason for it. Maison Martin Margiela — which no longer operates under the aegis of its fearless, but elusive, leader, Martin Margiela — rumbled to the fore of the fashion scene more than two decades ago with brainy, deconstructivist design often billed as a rebuke to the era’s penchant for opulent clothing. It has since become a cult darling of the taste-making elite, counting, among its loyal fans, everyone from Jay-Z to Thom Yorke.

Which means that in the rarefied world of fancy hotels, where exclusivity is everything, Maison des Centraliens has one thing the Ritzes and Le Meurices don’t have: It’s cool. Says Bernadette Chevallier, who helped oversee the rebranding:


The hotels whose openings have lately been in the news, or soon will be, are all top grade luxury hotels embodying quite a traditional idea of luxury, even conventional in some cases. It’s a choice that has its merits but the Maison des Centraliens, by contrast, puts the focus on discretion and an offbeat take on luxury hotel standards. “[I]ts values revolve around light-heartedness, humour and a laid-back attitude. ” Rather than a traditional luxury hotel, we are positioned as a prestigious boutique hotel that combines five-star amenities and services with an unconventional vision of the upmarket hotel business.

Even rarer: It’s relatively affordable. Rooms start at 203 Euros. A comparably sized room in a four-star hotel in Paris can cost twice that.

[Images courtesy of Maison des Centraliens]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D