Hôtel Alfred Sommier is a hidden gem in the centre of Paris. The grandiose “hôtel particulier” encapsulates the idea of Parisian chic, and mixes historical features, subtle elegance, jardin à la française-inspiration and remarkable interiors.
Located in the heart of the French capital in the 8th arrondissement, a few quiet and elegant streets from the Madeleine Church – where the funeral of Chopin took place, among many other historical events – and the impressive Opera Garnier, Hôtel Alfred Sommier is the essence of discretion, luxury and style. The Jeu de Paume museum, Musée du Parfum Fragonard, and Place Vendôme are not far either.
As always with French landmarks, history plays a significant part in the prestige of the venue. Hôtel Alfred Sommier’s history is fascinating. It remains deeply intertwined with the family’s heritage. In 1859, sugar-trade businessman Alfred Sommier’s father acquired a vast plot on Rue de l’Arcade to build a large mansion for his family. At the time, the Madeleine area was on the Baron Haussmann’s urban landscape agenda. Second Empire architect Joseph Lesoufaché was then commissioned by the Sommier family to design two homothetic buildings adjoined by a large courtyard and a lovely back garden. At the age of 18, Alfred quit school when his father handed the family business over to him. The sugar refinery thrived under his smart management and the company became the leader of the French market. The success of the Sommier family business allowed them to settle in this central area of Paris.
But history didn’t stop there, continuing the family’s philanthropic legacy, in 1875, Alfred Sommier bought the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte, 55 kilometres southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne département of France, an architectural jewel designed by Nicolas Fouquet. He restored both castle and park and made them into one of the most beautiful private properties in France. While Vaux-le-Vicomte deserves its own review and trip (it’s around an hour from Paris), today it continues to belong to the Sommier family, a notable fact given France’s turmoil during the Second World War.
The discretion of the location and its atmosphere truly reflect this family spirit. One of Alfred Sommier’s other illustrious descendants, Richard de Warren de Rosanbo undertook the transformation of number 20 Rue de l’Arcade into the current hotel. He brilliantly oversees its operations today. A passion for the arts led the family to become collectors and philanthropists: Edme Sommier (Alfred’s son) and his wife Germaine Casimir Périer donated a Chardin painting and a sculpture of kings Charles XII of Sweden by Bouchardon to the Louvre Museum. Robert Le Roux, the son of Anne Sommier, Alfred’s sister, bequeathed two paintings by Giandomenico Tiepolo.
Richard, who describes the soul of the hotel as “a family mansion”, confesses that the hotel’s collection includes historic paintings from Lacroix de Marseille and Huet, his own acquisitions, and site-specific commissions. “I’d love to be a more avid collector!” he said. A gorgeous sculpture of Alfred Sommier placed on the restaurant’s fireplace welcomes guests. Richard makes an interesting comment: “musical and cultural events are planned for this summer in the private garden.” A strongly curated cultural offer will please guests.
Unlike many other recent hotels in Paris, Hôtel Alfred Sommier leaves it to its architecture, artistic decor and furniture collection to speak for themselves.
This hotel has a lot of charisma. Framed family pictures are displayed on the grand piano of the majestic entrance of the hotel. Just behind it, a large fauve-style painting depicts Vaux-le-Vicomte. Everything comes full circle in a very poetic and harmonious way. It’s therefore not suprising to hear that the hotel has served for many fashion shoots. Richard says “the most recent fashion shoot was for Vogue Korea”.
The large grey marble staircase flanked by two impressive Caryatide sculptures (which also gave its name to the in-house restaurant) guides guests to a total of 80 rooms, including 20 majestic suites, equipped with marble bathrooms, modern comfort and contemporary appliances including Nespresso machine, television and stunning lamps. On the fifth floor, one of the suites overlooks both the Eiffel Tower and the Butte Montmartre. Six rooms have terraces overlooking the Paris cityscape. This is one of Paris best kept secrets.
Hôtel Alfred Sommier highly deserves its 5 stars. The blue-chip standards are reflected through the family monogram wrought in the grand staircases’ iron. It acts as a creative and noble leitmotif throughout the entire property. The monogram appears embroidered on the garden’s Emperor-purple blankets, bedroom cushions and chic stationary. It elevates the hotel to high luxury. Other creative features include Guerlain toiletry products (can’t get any chicer than that), large ornate mirrors, white-stone façade, paintings of family ancestors in the breakfast restaurant, marble fireplaces, high-ceiling, Gien tableware, charming parquet floors, wall mouldings and angels’ frescoes. A unique attention to details are what guests expect. These also include French newspapers and international magazines available everywhere in the hotel.
The choice of colours contributes to the refined sense of luxury: light touches of gold, cream and white dominate the interiors, whether on the mirrors or on the meeting room’s marqueterie doors. Sarah Lavoine’s branded blue (maybe?) features on the headboards and on the beautiful heavy curtains. Epoque furniture and a gorgeous conservatory also make the hotel one of the most elegant locations in Paris.
Cherry on the cake: the large-size, two-level terrace features beautiful magnolia trees and potted plants. They are juxtaposed with charming iron-tables and chairs, overlooking three large flower-printed wall panels. Richard adds: “the 14m high decorative displays overlooking the garden terrace were created by my Belgian cousin Nicolas d’Ursel and his associate Fabien de Cugnac”. In similar fashion to the printed details of Vaux-le-Vicomte’s paintings above the beds and on the main doors, these give a contemporary art twist, while nodding to the rich past.
Paris will always be Paris and its cultural offer is rich. Richard indicates that “the Louis Vuitton Foundation stages some of the best exhibitions!”. Le Louvre remains one of his favourite museums too, maybe because members of his family donated paintings and sculptures. His 5 top-things to do while in Paris? “I love going to Deyrolle on Rue rue du Bac to admire the taxidermy animals, and walking through Les Tuileries garden”.
Service is blue-chip too with discreet, nice, attentive and knowledgeable staff. Fashionable navy blue and gold-belt uniforms reflect the sophisticated attention to details. Fitness, and salon meeting rooms are also available for active guests, and corporate events.
Hôtel Alfred Sommier is a charming, fantastic, and truly unique hotel.