What is different
You walk past a neo-classical facade into a huge entrance hall with an asymetrical reception area just off center, a great staircase complete with imperial eagle at the bottom, the White Lounge and a cigar bar. The decor is white, but you can just see some black cut-out figures walking into the distance at an angle. This should give you the clue. The hotel is full of quirky touches and odd perspectives. If you want convention, turn around now and walk out. If you want something rather different, you're in for a treat.
The house was originally built for the Duchess of Rivoli, Princess of Essling, Mistress of the Household of the Empress Eugenie in 1864, a typical neo-classical Haussmann-style building. In 1919 it was sold to the Ecole Central (the Centraliens), and became the student house for students of the celebrated design school. Each room is named after a former student.
In the 1990s the building became a hotel, changed owners and a competition was held for its redesign. Martin Margiela, the Belgian fashion designer, won the brief and set to work to produce a hotel full of illusions, a deliberate ironic fantasy.
Each room is different, but the overall color scheme is black and white. If you don't like black, make sure you don't have a room approached by a completely black corridor which I found quite disconcerting.
Most of the rooms and suites are startlingly white. Various shades of white and grey, with the occasional black chair, suit the spacious rooms, many lit naturally with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the road. All Martin Margiela's signature themes are here. In some rooms, everything, including the pictures, are covered with white fabric; perhaps a suit jacket is draped over a free-standing lamp. As a contrast, try the Cabinet of Curiosities Suite with its coal black walls and black-stained oak parquet floors and, of course, a cabinet of curiosities occupying one wall in the lounge.
In all the rooms, the well-equipped bathrooms leave nothing to be desired; and lights around the mirrors resemble a star's dressing room.
It's all rather odd, but extremely well done. Go onto the website to look at the various options before you book. You must specify one of the Martin Margiela rooms or suites, or choose the chic alternatives.
The Restaurant and Bars
La Table du Huit Restaurant has a concrete floor and walls, glass roof and glass walls on one side. It's a slightly uncomfortable space, though some touches work well, like the illusion that the armchairs and tables float above the floor (a bit disconcerting at breakfast, though thoroughly understandable during a good dinner). There are pretend painted doors and false ceilings, and the outside terrace is ideal for summer meals and particularly for Sunday brunch. Children love it.
The menu offers light and inventive dishes like tartare of bass with fresh coriander for a starter, then roast chicken with seasonal vegetables, and strawberries with fresh mint and lemon sherbet. There's a good tapas menu available from 6pm and Sunday brunch.Restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, light snacks, tapas and dinner.
Closed Saturday lunch and Sunday evening.
The White Lounge is open daily for drinks and snacks 8am to 8.30pm.
The Cigar Bar, a masculine, all-black panelled room which is reserved for cigar smokers is open noon to 3pm and 6pm to 2am.
The Bar is open for cocktails Monday to Saturday 11am to 1.30am.
La Maison Champs-Elysees
8, rue Jean Goujon
Tel.: 00 33 (0)1 40 74 79 18
Metro Champs Elysées Clémenceau (L13) ou Franklin D. Roosevelt (L1)
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation for the purpose of reviewing the property. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.