Words by Rosalind Milani Gallieni
“When you wander along Rue Washington, you suddenly come across the glorious, gorgeous, sensational, extraordinary Monsieur George. Top hat and tails, feathers from beyond, a twinkling fantasy of a bohemian rhapsody in deepest, darkest green. Coco Chanel resided within this setting. Mata Hari had her heyday here. Gregory Peck left his Brasserie, Les Deux Magots, to sit on Audrey Hepburn’s lap, and Lady Gaga has just moved in – and within this scenario enters Monsieur George….” Anouska Hempel
It was the 10th March 2020, just days before the lockdown of Paris and the whole of France, and I set off from London by Eurostar without a second thought to shoot Anouska Hempel’s new Hôtel Monsieur George, neatly pitched down rue Washington off the Champs-Élysées and at arm’s reach from my all-time favourite store, Guerlain. As to be expected, the entire top-to-toe rebuild of this classic Hausmann building – once the home of the French actor known as Raimu – is beautifully executed.
Anouska designed Blakes Hotel in London and at the time I joined her teams, I was making my first steps into travel and getting to know the ropes of her works and designs, from hotels to couture. Today, the name of Blakes Hotel still conjures up a certain “feeling” in anyone you mention it to, bringing back a whole era of bohemian decadence, mixed with absolute luxury and an inimitable quality in the design styling, that still tells many tales today. This is the hotel where she pioneered the very first boutique hotel concept and Blakes is still the singular, most recognised benchmark for what makes up the essence of a boutique hotel.
With Anouska living in the hotel at the time, and knowing exactly who was in and who was out, who wanted what and when a Bloody Mary was to be served, it made this address a safe haven to escape to, for privacy and absolute discretion. From here, she went on to create the Hempel Hotel, which features the hallmarks of her minimalist design – again, a first of its kind in London, and both of these hotels remain celebrated for their unique styles, worldwide.
Once the Hempel Hotel was on the map, Anouska’s next venture took her to downtown Singapore, to create a beauty out of a line of heritage shophouses on Duxton Hill. Here came The Duxton, along the palm-lined street, rich in piano black and cinnamon yellow, with gilded screens and furniture doused in lacquer. Anouska adorned the walls with calligraphy wallpaper from her personal collection, and ensured the grosgrain ran along corridors, panels, carpets and bedheads. She also designed the hotel’s Duxton Yellow Pot Restaurant, which has become an award-winning destination in Singapore, run by the very best Six Senses.
Anouska’s portfolio is truly awe-inspiring, from Blakes Amsterdam, the Grosvenor House Suites on London’s Park Lane and more recently, The Franklin Hotel in Knightsbridge, which all carry her “Hempel touch,” attracting an international following of pop stars, actors, heads of state and royalty.
So now, a new page in the book is earmarked for Paris. A new dreamscape begins with Anouska’s signature design in Monsieur George, a brand new address where she has once again expressed her colourful and sensitive imagination, revealing fresh, sparkling dimensions of her impressive design talent. Here, she has drawn on inspiration from far beyond the shores of England, as travel and adventures are in her heart and in her attentive eyes…. including Istanbul, Marrakech, Fez, Moscow, Beirut, and Rabat. She has designed Monsieur George with nuances from her recent residential works in Turkey where she is renovating a palace on the Bosphorus, combining a variety of genres. Anouska has pooled all of her assets with Monsieur George: experience, talent, story-telling, vision and creativity in this jade-green hotel, creating a new Blakes in Paris. I can hardly wait to step back into this dream, all over again….