All too often designers get too big for their own boots. Well, talking of footgear, if you do not like a particular Louboutin or Manolo then you do not buy it, ditto if you do not like one of the ghastly current haute couture frocks in the current London, Milan, New York and Paris shows you simply head off to H&M or Zara and buy something that is also up to the minute, and wearable. But, stay in any luxury hotel, and you are at the mercy of the designer. And sometimes the gal just hates that. Take Philippe Starck. Yes, he has had two good – or at least not annoying – ideas. One was his spider-shaped lemon squeezer, now an Alessi perennial. The other is retrieving old chandeliers from the very-old Royal Monceau Paris before it closed for renovation in 2008. These he has cleaned up, put in matching shades and hung over the grand staircase.
But when it comes to some other areas of the 149-room hotel, he has gone a little stark-raving mad. Columns and walls in the lobby have rows of books, but set at least 12 feet above ground level so no-one can read anything and presumably maids cannot clean them (or does this lovely hotel use flying angels). His bathrooms are equally impractical. Think of having to clean all the mirror work in the bathroom shown, which is part of suite 300. The bathroom reminds me of an amazing glasshouse in a museum in Buffalo, New York. Inside and out, the 12 by 12 by 12 foot ‘house’ is all glass. Very funny but impossible to try and take photographs.
Just like here, impossible to photograph the bathroom without appearing in the shot. The more I think about this bathroom I realise how essential it is to be sharing the facilities with a good-looking body. In Karnataka, on my last trip to India, having a Gudda bath at the divine Vivanta by Taj, Madikeri – Coorg, when oils are slathered in and out of the folds of your body as you sit at a table, now that reminded me yet again of the importance of having no extra fat. Here, too, it would be good to share the facility with, well, no names mentioned, but definitely not a sumo wrestler or any travel professional who has let him or herself go to seed.
Out of the bathroom, I look around the rest of suite 300. I have a big glass table that is the desk, and a most amusing desk chair. I have palest salmon-coloured walls and golden curtains that operate, all windows at once, by a switch by both sides of the enormous bed, which has a lovely pearl-coloured eiderdown, the old-fashioned top-of-the-bed thing that seems to have been made obsolete by the ubiquitous duvets. The televisions are hidden, both of them, in ten-foot mirrors that stand propped up, floor to wall. Of course being Raffles I also have all the bits and pieces I might want, and add to ‘the brand’ this particular hotel’s charming things, like envelopes that are lined in soft pink, and a this-week-only art gallery suggestion list, in English and in French.
Talking of art, I do have some fascinating pieces here in suite 300. There is a jumble, a helter-skelter of deck chairs, different colours and all tumbling around.
It does indicate a somewhat disturbed mind on the part of the designer who chose all the stuff here – yes, Mr Starck again.
By contrast I also have a glorious real, play as I want, guitar. Presumably the soundproofing between this and the adjoining room could cope.
Another painting similarly intrigues in this suite – all the rooms in this luxury hotel are unique, by the way. It is a black and white of a young boy climbing a wall, trying to get out. Is Philippe Starck trying to say something?