Opening the doors to Hôtel Crayon in Paris is like being dropped into an episode of Art Attack; from the giant-sized pencils propped up against walls to the illustrations covering every inch of wall space and the furniture draped in Opal Fruit-bright throws. It’s enough to bring out the inner artist in anyone. Entering from the nearby Tuileries and stately Musée de l’Orangerie – all neat, ornamented grounds and sculptured topiary – Hôtel Crayon feels rather out of place. The boutique hotel seems like it would be more at home in the arty, creative streets of the Marais, despite its proximity to the artistic masterpieces at the The Louvre. But the Hotel Crayon takes a much, much more relaxed approach to art.
Some walls are blank canvases to allow guests to add their own temporary artwork, and the hotel is expertly kitted out with a laid-back mix of contemporary design and vintage second-hand finds. Furnishings are carefully handpicked at flea markets in Saint-Ouen, Nice and Marseille by owners Christophe Sauvage and Julie Gauthron (an artist whose style isn’t for the faint-hearted) before being souped up with personal touches. In a city crammed with frilly hotels serving Michelin-starred food on tables covered with crisp white linen, sumptuous beds of just the right plumpness and spas with all the trimmings, Hôtel Crayon is an anomaly; an errant younger sibling with other plans.
There’s no restaurant and no subterranean spa or rooftop where you can stargaze. What you will find, however, is personality. Whether you like it or not (and many will find the décor too wacky) it’s certainly no wallflower. The reception is dotted with Tom Dixon lights that hang moodily above the honesty bar (stocked with every drink you can imagine) while the floral easy chairs and cool leather sofas encourage guests to linger.
After taking the coffin-sized lift to the fifth floor, my room turned out to be a small but perfectly formed affair, all blue walls and antique furnishings. A sketch of a naked woman stood in place of a traditional headboard, while an sturdy dial black phone and a romantically rickety dressing table blended wonderfully with all the usual mod-cons including a teeny but spotless bathroom stocked with indulgent scented beauty bits and a revved-up power shower.
Don’t expect to find the same thing next door though. The 26 rooms are individually designed and include the small ‘individual style’ rooms splashed with calm colours to encourage a restful night’s sleep. Larger sleeping quarters are available for a supplement and come with an in-your-face fusion of traditional bric-a-brac pieces and blingy beds with all the razzmatazz of the Moulin Rouge. Dotted around you’ll find Jean Paulin chairs, a Scandinavian bench, armchair by English furniture makers Pinch, seventies lamps and industrial cabinets – basically anything goes.
Breakfast at the Hotel Crayon a simple spread of pastries and hot drinks, served right in the pit of the hotel in what felt like a mild sauna. But if you stay at Hôtel Crayon it isn’t the food you come for. Before I left, I wanted to leave my mark just like visitors before me – graffiti the walls, paint the staircase, or scribble on the floor. Instead, the staff found me a creative outlet – in the bathroom. It felt a little like a return to childhood toilet roll art, in my case, daubed with ‘I heart Johnny’ or something like that. My older and wiser hand, Picasso-like, wrote ‘I woz here’ in classy pink crayon on the bathroom wall. See the masterpiece for yourself and add your own scrawl.
Doubles from €110 per night. 25 rue du Bouloi, Paris, France (00 33 1 42 36 54 19, hotelcrayon.com). Returns to Paris from London St Pancras start at £69 return. See Eurostar.com for more information and to book.
IN THE AREA…
With the Louvre next door, it would be criminal not to make a point of shimmying over to say hello to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, both of which are housed in the gallery. For those who’ve already had the pleasure of meeting them, the museum also hosts a revolving series of exhibitions, which currently include a spectacular set of little-seen paintings by Delacroix, until recently hidden away in private hands, and a collection of artifacts and artworks that chart the rise and fall of the ancient Etruscan city of Cerveteri. See louvre.fr for more information.