Paris’s Only Chateau Hotel, the Newly Renovated Saint James, Is the Perfect City Escape

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On a recent week-long Paris vacation, my family and I did what we felt we were both privileged and obligated to do: We threw ourselves headlong into the city. We walked! We dined! We made our way through museums and parks and puppet shows and up and down early morning and late-night boulevards, stopping along the way for everything from sugary breakfast waffles to champagne or espresso (grownups) and gelato (kids) nightcaps! In short, we joyfully exhausted ourselves, day after day and evening after evening.

And then we did something really smart: For a respite from—and amidst—it all, we checked ourselves in the Saint James hotel for a few gorgeous days of sumptuous, sun-kissed rest and relaxation.

Tucked away in Paris’s quiet, leafy 16th arrondissement—just a few steps away from Avenue Foch and a short walk from the haute shopping end of the Champs-Élysées—the building that now houses the Saint James was built in 1892 at the direction of the widow of the former French president Adolphe Thiers to house scholarship students from the Thiers Foundation. Students—only 15 at a time—had the run of this gorgeous neoclassical building for a term of three years. Later, the building and surrounding 50,000-square feet of gardens became a private club, and since 1991 it has functioned as a hotel—now part of the Relais & Château collection—while continuing to host club members.

Just prior to our arrival, the entire property—which now features 50 rooms and suites, including duplexes and two ground-floor suites with terraces—had been reimagined and updated by French interior designer Laura Gonzalez, who kept all that was wonderful about the place, from the bones to its stately 19th century tiling, while imparting a brighter, more playful vibe to the grandeur with geometric patterning, Versailles parquets, and Art Deco touches, artfully juggling styles and textures and colors. (Gonzalez also made ample use of homegrown talent, bringing together fabrics by Maison Pierre Frey and Le Manach, frescoes and plasterwork by Sofrastyl and Atelier Roma, custom rugs by Pinton, and lighting from Patrice Dangel and Jean Roger Paris.)

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