Friday, 25 March 2011

In the Heart of Paris: The Hermés Boutique in Saint-Germain-des-Prés

Now a part of the the Saint-Germain-des-Prés scene is one of the most upscale, chic stores - the Hermés Boutique. It is not just another Hermés store, it is the Hermés boutique with the Saint-Germain-des-Pres grand style - artistic and interactive! 
This location, on rue de Sevres, is housed in the old swimming pool of Hotel Lutetia. As soon as the door opened, we were immediately transported into a world of refined goods.
The plants and blooms at the flower shop were a welcoming, beautiful sight. The colorful tulips and orchids brought life to this space, and the scent of hyacinth and roses filled the air.
Across was a  display of lead crystal decanters and matching glasses...
the Hermés scarves in different designs, colors and sizes...
the Hermés perfumerie. 
There are three floors  intended for displaying the luxury goods. The horse on the first floor, also featured in the display window, is resting on the metal railing which was an original detail of the pool area.
On the opposite side, on the same floor, is the café.
This is the view from the 1st floor of the book store.
From this vantage point, the over-all design for this space can be seen. A large part of the boutique occupies the bottom part of the once art-deco, 1930 swimming-pool, serving as the ground floor. This innovative and creative, organic design was conceived by Rena Dumas Architecture. The design is made up of overlapping ash wood in criss-cross pattern, first, on the banister on the grand staircase. With the use of fluid lines, there is some movement leading the eye down to the display floor. 

On the main space are giant shapes of the same material, looking like bud-shaped huts, that rise to a height of about nine meters. The set-up, somehow, reminds me of some type of encampment... in this case, of Hermés goods. This interior architectural style, certainly,  is the differentiating touch that sets it apart from the other Hermés stores.
Once inside, the wood-work design continues to lead the eye to different parts of the space. More so, the height gives the illusion of almost having no-ceiling, as in the sky's the ideas and product design.  Each hut is ingeniusly used to display a collection of products...
done in such a way as to be closely seen and touched, engaging the senses to make that decision to own it or not. 
The original bottom part of the pool, the mosaic tiles, were kept as the flooring material. It is that 'something old' in 'something new,' and it works very well. The color palet is quite neutral and goes well with many color combinations.
Aside from the fashion items, the flower shop, and the book store, the boutique is showcasing - for the very first time -  home furnishings and Jean-Michel Frank par Hermés furniture. 
At the very edge-side of the old pool, more products are on display. Here is a line of towels . The crazy-cut style mosaic floor...
is the inspiration for this metal-grill design, standing from the floor as an interior boundary wall, at the same time doubling as a camouflage for things beyond the display space.
This is all of 1320 square meters of merchandising space. What a great way to use this historical setting. The designer, Rene Dumas, respected the great features of the place and took it to another level of usage with her design concepts.

Rena Dumas was the Hermés architect and interieur designer for their various locations since 1976. She was married to former Hermés CEO Jean-Louis Dumas. She lost her battle to cancer in 2009, at the age of 71. She is accredited with giving the company it's modern look.

In a sense, a visit to the Hermés boutique is like looking at an art installation at a museum -  here the onlooker is able to participate going into it and around it. In the next stage, the visitor starts to have an imaginative interaction with the objects on display - with thoughts of desiring to have something, picturing a piece to become a part of a bigger setting or be by itself, then making the final decision to have it or not. 

Then again, one can just come here for art's sake - by looking at every detail, at the work of  creative minds, as you experience the space and what are in it - the feelings they evoke, the memories they may bring, and the lasting impressions they make.

17, rue de Sevres Paris 6e
Tel. 01 42 22 80 83

Perhaps, a visit to Hotel Lutetia and learning about it's history will draw, for us, a bigger picture of this place.  It is a few meters from the boutique on rue de Sevres to the corner on boulevard Raspail.

Built in the classic styles of the  Belle Epoque and Art Deco of the 1930s, Hotel Lutetia was restored back to what it is today, a four-star luxury hotel, after the second world war.
Located in the heart of Paris in the Saint-Germain-des-Pres, it is within walking distance from other parisian landmarks - the Seine river, Musée d'Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, La Chapelle de la Medaille Miraculeuse, and the many fashionable boutique shops, specialty stores, and art studios on the left bank. For the businessmen and the tourists who travel in style, this hotel has all the modern amenities. 
Enjoy the ambiance of the Art Deco interiors - with the chandeliers and period furniture pieces plus jazz music playing - at the Lutetia Bar. 
The designing architects Louis-Charles Boileau and Henri Tauzin took on this project in 1910. It was founded by Le Bon Marché - the prototype of what became to be known as a department store. In the last world war, it was occupied by the Germans.

By the beginning of the war in 1939, in France, people from conflict areas fled to Paris. A good number of artists and musicians were accommodated by the hotel.  By 1940, Paris  was evacuated when the German occupation began. Some of the guests/residents managed to escape while the others were caught. The counter-espionage unit of the German army  - the Abwehr - took over the use of the hotel to house, feed and entertain the commanding officers. 

After five years, in 1944, Paris was liberated and the French and American forces took over the hotel after the Nazis fled, and used it as a welcome center for the returning prisoners of war, displaced persons, and  concentration-camp survivors.

Hotel Lutetia was restored to being the luxury hotel that it was, as soon as times returned to normal, again.  In 1955, there was a new owner - the Taittinger family ( of champagne fame). Sonia Rykiel - who made the sweater look fashionable and opened her boutique after she was catapulted to fame when her design was featured on Elle - embarked on redesigning the hotel back into it's Art Deco style of the earlier, glorious years in the late eighties.

For the 50th anniversary celebration, in 1994, of D-Day in the Battle of Normandy - the liberation of Europe - it played host as the official hotel for the event.

The hotel is managed by the Concorde Hotels and Resorts Group. In 2010, it was reported that this iconic hotel was acquired by an Israeli group - Alrov Properties. 

Their history includes a few famous people in their list of who had stayed there, like Pablo Picasso - the Spanish painter who lived in France for most of his life and co-founded the cubist movement; Charles de Gaulle - the French General who led the French troops in World War II and founded the Fifth French Republic, and served as it's first president 1959-1969; André Gide - a 1947 Nobel Prize winner in literature, known for his fiction and autobiographical writings on 'disambiguation' - how to be fully oneself; and Peggy Guggenheim - an American art collector whose father, Benjamin, perished in the Titanic.

The Hermés history - with it's first shop opening in 1837, and remains family owned and now on it's sixth generation -  is just as interesting as  that of Hotel Lutetia. It was a business that was built on quality, handstitched craftsmanship, with a clientele that included the royalty and the members of the Parisian high-society. Today, their leather products are manufactured in the same handcrafted manner. The addition of other product lines - from equestrian to fashionable and now home furnishings - are made according to the strict quality standards of Hermés where only the perfectly made product is put out with it's signature brand.

If you happen to be in Saint Germain-des-Prés, take the time to drop in at the Hermés Boutique and the Hotel Lutetia. See for yourself how the two paths of these two iconic French institutions intersected. 

45, boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris France
Tel: +33 (0) 1 49 54 46 46
Fax: +33 (0) 1 49 54 46 00


  1. Katrina P. Chamsay25 March 2011 at 19:05

    Beautiful store and write-up! We hope to visit the place when we go to Paris in early July as well as the other sites you have posted :)

  2. You will enjoy Saint-Germain-des-Pres. You'll also find the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal there.

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