The legendary Ritz Paris hotel finally re-opened on June 6th, after a severe electrical fire in January delayed the original opening scheduled for that same month. The extensive renovation that took almost 4-years was carried out by world-renowned French architect, Thierry W Despont.
Swiss hotelier César Ritz purchased what was then the Hôtel de Lazun, originally a palace built in the early 18th century and home to noble families. His vision was to have the most luxurious hotel in the world. As noted by Shivaji Vora in The New York Times...'It should have he is said to have declared, "all the refinement that a prince could desire in his own home." The Ritz officially opened June 1, 1898 and became an immediate hit with the very wealthy, famous and literary, including Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald and perhaps most famously Coco Chanel who lived there from 1937-1971!!
After remaining open uninterrupted for 118 years, Mohamed al-Fayed who purchased the Ritz in 2012 closed its doors for a full renovation. Mr Despont was tasked with carrying out a renovation on one of the most important landmarks in Paris, to update and lighten the hotel's interiors, while maintaining its grandeur and sumptuous 5-star luxury. As Mr Despont states, "It needed a redo, but maintaining the essence and strong identity was essential and my vision was to keep the Ritz exactly as it was but better." Many unseen but necessary upgrades were made including upgrading heating and cooling systems, high-speed Wi-Fi and guest telephones that regulate lights and temperature.
In terms of interior design the Ritz maintains its lavish 18th century-decor with refurbished upholstery, chandeliers, drapes, antiques and carpets. Amongst other changes that have taken place, the number of rooms has been reduced from 159 to 142, of which 71 are suites. These include unique themed suites named for Proust, Mozart, Maria Callas and of course Coco Chanel.
For me, one of the most intriguing additions is the opening of the world's first Chanel spa, Chanel au Ritz Paris that's part of the 2-story health club with 7 treatment rooms. I've always loved being at the Ritz and was a little disappointed that it hadn't yet re-opened when we were in Paris in April. Really looking forward to seeing the new improved Ritz next time I'm there. If any of you get there before I do, please let us know how the spa is!!
photography Andrea Meichsner for The New York Times