Le Meurice: Can a Luxury Paris Hotel Be Surreal?
Of all the art movements to use as inspiration in hotel décor, I'm not sure surrealism would be my first choice. (If I woke up in the morning to the sight of a melting alarm clock, I think I'd summon an ambulance.) So although I'd long known that the artist Salvador Dalí had been a design inspiration during Philippe Starck's renovation of Le Meurice, Paris' most venerable palace hotel, the whole proposition sounded somewhat dubious.
After all, surrealism is about thought unhampered by reason. And I like a luxury hotel that is, at the least, reasonable in its décor if not in price.
What's more, "reasonable" would not be the first adjective associated with Dalí, as a guest of Le Meurice. In his month-long annual stays, he requested a herd of sheep and then proceeded to shoot them with his pistol -- blank bullets, otherwise what a mess. He also requested a horse for reasons unrecorded in hotel history. And freshly caught flies, from the handily placed Tuileries Garden across the street.
These, however, are not the moments that are immortalized in the lobby, which is where the Dalí-esque touches are found. In fact, they're easy to miss if they're not pointed out to you. You could walk right past the large frosted mirror in the foyer, for instance -- frosted with actual frozen water, you can carve your initials into it with your finger. (The connection: Dalí loved mineral water.) But it would be a shame to miss the brass chair and tables whose legs are outfitted with lady's shoes, based on Dalí's original design -- these are in the lobby restuarant called, what else? Le Dalí. (Just don't try to move that chair, it's heavy.)
There's more -- the hotel has a Dalí booklet if you're determined to track down each one, and you'll need it, as they're pretty subtle.
Just don't go looking in your guest room, to which the theme does not extend. The guest rooms are done in the style of an 18th century French home -- think elegant muted colors, plush fabrics, in other words, the most outrageous design elements will be the ones you introduce, maybe with your outfit, and the only surreal aspect will be in your dreams. It's all very lovely and there's nothing at all to make you fear you're losing your marbles.
Unless, of course, you phone room service and order a herd of sheep.