“Welcome to the Hôtel du Petit Moulin! We would like to thank you for your confidence and for choosing our hotel during your visit in Paris. Le Marais is full of history, wonderful shops, galleries, museums and restaurants. In fact, the building in which the hotel is set was originally the first Parisian bakery. This is where Victor Hugo would come to buy his baguette! Today, the original shop frontage remains, reminding guests of its former past as a ‘boulangerie’, protected under French Heritage. Make yourself at home, relax and enjoy a quiet drink at the honesty bar open from noon to midnight or head to the spa of our sister hotel, the Pavillon de la Reine, situated in Place des Vosges, just a 10 minute walk away from her and available to all our guests. Have a lovely stay with us.” Luc Guillo Lohan, The Manager.
Heaven’s in the detail and the Hôtel du Petit Moulin delivers from bookmarks and business cards to brass door keys and petite boxes â picorer. Highlights of the room service from Restaurant Chez Nenesse on nearby Rue de Saintonge include entrées: salade des queues de langoustines (Dublin Bay prawn salad); plats: fillets de bar aux fines herbes (sea bass fillet, sauce with fine herbs); and desserts: mousse et sorbet chocolat sauce pistache (chocolate mousse and sorbets with pistachio sauce).
Filling a pair of 17th century buildings which couldn’t be more pre Haussmann Parisian if they tried, the ground floor was once a bar and a street corner bakery. Victor Hugo’s house on Place des Vosges is just around the corner. As Monsieur Lohan notes, the former bakery still retains a hand painted glass shopfront. There are just 17 guest rooms. One bedroom on the rez-de-chaussée. Four on the premier étage. Four on the deuxième étage stacked in the same layout as below. Four stacked on the troisième étage. One on the étage intermédiaire. Three on the quatrième étage. The architecture is full of original quirks from fragments of timber structural beams to windows floating between floors. The interior is absolutely fabulous Christian Lacroix sweetie darling.The haut couture designer clearly had a lot of fun dreaming up this Louis XV on an acid trip décor. The colourful chaos of the montaged découpaged toile de jouy in the main rooms contrasts with the calm of the white marble bathrooms. Top floor Room 402 is the largest guest suite and angles into the street corner with the best views, taking in a sweep of chimneys rising above the buildings lining Rue de Poitou and Rue de Saintonge. The mirrored ceiling provides an altogether different view, not least of the shagpile carpet. “Early to bed, and you’ll wish you were dead. Bed before 11, nuts before seven,” shrieked Dorothy Parker in her short story for The Little Hours for The New Yorker, 1933.
Why the name Lavender’s Blue? Apart from being good with colour and enjoying the paradoxical phrase (surely lavender is purple to the masses?), there are geographical reasons for the naming of the vision that became a house that became a collection of essays that became a lifestyle that became an obsession that became a romance. This part of Battersea, back in its rural Surrey days, was awash with lavender fields. Nearby Lavender Hill and Lavender Sweep pay testimony to its perfumed history. Sweet. Oh and the Marillion song is pretty nifty too.
Step inside, and the rooms could be anywhere (or at least anywhere pretty decent); there are no visual references to its location in southwest London. Unless you count an 18th century threaded collage of Kew Palace. The street facing windows are opaque while the rear of the house reveals itself only onto a private cobbled trellised courtyard overlooked by absolutely nobody. A little piece of secret London. There are subtle hints of the Ireland of yore: a diorama of the long demolished Antrim Castle in the hallway; a framed envelope from the Earl of Kilmorey in the drawing room. But really it’s an international collection: no antiques stall or flea market or second hand shop or vintage pop-up was safe from plundering for the last 10 years. Amsterdam, Belfast, Bilbao, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Lisbon, Paris, Paris again, Rotterdam and of course Savannah.
The tiny mirror framed with horns is also from Savannah. The tinted photograph of General Lee came from an antiques arcade. It’s faded so his features can only be seen from certain angles like a shimmering ghost. “The family were glad to rid of it!” the dealer proclaimed. “He’s a bad omen!” Despite being swathed in bubble wrap, the picture split down the middle in our suitcase, hopefully dispelling any malignant spirits in the process. En route to Savannah we simply had to stop off in Atlanta for “Funday Sunday”. Margaret Mitchell’s flat where she wrote Gone with the Wind was a must-see. It’s also a late 19th century building – roughly the same size as Lavender’s Blue.
It may all look a little shambolic but there’s method (occasionally) and sanity (mostly) in the madness. Chicness amongst the shabbiness. Collections within collections include 18th century wax silhouettes hung in a group in a dark corner of the drawing room. “Darker again!” we ordered our ever patient decorator. And so he added another layer – or was it four or five? – of purple paint to the drawing room walls. At night, and even during the day, the walls merge into the charcoal grey ceiling. Antlers cast mysterious shadows by night. A tiny internal window over the recessed bookcase yields yet more mysterious lighting.
The bedroom is all about pattern. More is more. So very Sister Parish. Sanderson wallpaper covers the walls and ceiling while a Christian Lacroix shirt has found new life stretched across two square canvases. Nothing is coordinated – matching is just too bourgeois. Ok, the blue and white theme of the kitchen is pretty controlled but that’s all. And we’ve got to live up to our Delftware. It’s an eclectic collection, a layered timeless look, nothing too contrived or designed. The collection is complete, right down to the Argentine spoon embellished with Evita’s face and the majolica vase next to the piano. We’re resting on our laurels in the courtyard. Ah, the courtyard. So very Lanning Roper. Scene of lively summer lunches (Selfridges catering) and even livelier autumn soirées (more Selfridges catering). So very Loulou de la Falaise. Mostly with Annabel P, Lavender’s Blue intern amanuensis, on overtime. It’s getting greener and greener and greener. Grey Gardens watch this space. Sorry neighbours.
“LOVE it!” breathes model Simon Duke, simply and succinctly. Loving is a theme. “LOVE it!” repeats neighbour Emma Waterfall, MD of Cascade Communications. “Especially the William Morris inspiration in the bedroom. Fab.” Ok. “LOVE the purple!” raves interior designer to the stars Gabhan O’Keeffe. Still focusing on the drawing room, Nicky Haslam, man about town and interior decorator, is a fan: “That room is EVERYTHING I love!” Lady Lucy French, girl about town and theatre director exclaims, “I LOVE your interior design! Stunning!” The final words must go to conservation architect extraordinaire John O’Connell. “Very brave, very Russian, very YOU!”
As the penthouse corridor becomes a runway, mannequins attired in Jonathan Blake’s Fall/Winter 2013 and Spring/Summer 2014 Collections weave their way past pulchritudinous Sloane Ravers, brilliant black suited barristers, hot hoteliers and the odd columnist. “My designs are inspired by Chanel, Valentino and Versace,” notes Jonathan. “They’re wearable, classic and elegant. Several of the pieces I am featuring tonight are made from a powder blue silk fabric. Others are made of gold lace.”
To die for definition, clever cuts, sophisticated silhouettes, majestic materials… Jonathan Blake’s woman is international, knows she can look great while being taken seriously. Prices range from a £170 blouse to £9,000 for an evening dress. Meanwhile, we live in hope of a Jonathan Blake men’s collection. Shipping, becalmed.