… immersed in luxury, desire and reverie
BY ANJA FAHS
The grand era of Baroque – it was the pursuit of wealth and complete freedom. The epoch’s unique character is reflected, inter alia, in the architecture; all strict structures of the Renaissance were dissolved, their place taken instead by swinging shapes, domes, groups of pillars, gables and windows with rich ornamental finials, which were supposed to give admirers the impression of strength and movement. However, the period was also characterised by the atrocities of the Thirty Years’ War and the emerging absolutism that would conjure up conflict between bourgeois class consciousness and culture at court. Hence, lavish celebrations were organised, which mainly served the representation of princely splendour. More is more, was the credo.
Being attired appropriately, when attending these festivities, was an obligation for both women and men alike. At the beginning, puffed skirts, free shoulders, wide sleeves and fluttering curls predominated female fashion at the time. Men wore a pleated skirt with cape over an open doublet (an early form of today’s waistcoat), while the trousers took the shape of so-called Rhinegreaves or petticoat-breeches. Later, fashion became increasingly overstated.
What could not be missed under any circumstances were magnificently decorated ballrooms and portentous banquet tables with shaped crystal, artfully cut glass, filigree lamps and shimmering chandeliers. Here, high society felt especially at home – here, they celebrated until the early morning hours. Particularly popular was the legendary crystal from French manufacturer Baccarat. Kings and emperors alike were fascinated by this tantalising sparkling crystal. King Louis XV once said that he had fairly simple taste – he desired simply the best.
Thus, it was on his order that in 1764 in the village of Baccarat in the Lorraine region said glass manufacturer Baccarat was established. Their wonderful creations enthused emperors, tsars, caliphs and maharajas alike. Originating from the French court and the banquet tables of the noble class, chandeliers, glasses, decorative items and service became synonymous with luxury and sophisticated savoir-vivre. The high society adorned themselves with glittering jewels, revelled in their feasts and bathed in the splendour of light spent by Baccarat chandeliers and decorations. The ‘Harcourt’ glass service – named after one of the oldest families of the French nobility – has remained a prominent and elegant icon of finest glassmaking. Harcourt glasses continue to this day to bedeck glamorous tables and accompany the festive moments of life of the upper class.
Today Baccarat is still considered a national sanctum in France. Now, the company has opened its first hotel in New York City. With the new Baccarat Hotel & Residences, the doors to the luxurious world of crystal have opened wide for discerning guests. It is the first flagship project of the 250-year old traditional manufactory worldwide. In a perfect location in New York City, right across from the Museum of Modern Art, it is just a few steps from 5th Avenue. The 50-story building in which the hotel takes the first 12 floors, even looks like a crystal. The façade is clad with a vertical glass wall, looking like a noble curtain: It reflects every ray of light from the road and basically allows the building to shine and shimmer inside out. A touch of nostalgia wafts through the corridors, stairs and rooms of this luxurious house. It represents the timeless classic style of Baccarat in perfect symbiosis with modern New York aesthetics.
The hotel was created by the French design firm Gilles & Boissier. 114 luxuriously furnished rooms offer guests every possible convenience. Obviously, references to the famous Baccarat products can be found everywhere. In the foyer, an LED light show illuminates over 2,000 Harcourt glasses as part of a light installation and in allusion to the company’s numerous lighting innovations.
The house is decorated with 17 crystal chandeliers by Baccarat, which have been manufactured since 1824. Many well-known designers have reinterpreted the famous signature piece, the “Zenith” chandelier, including Philippe Starck, Jaime Hayon and the Campana brothers. Their works can be admired here, inside the French restaurant “Chevalier” for example. The romantic restaurant is perfect for a dinner for two. Astutely placed tables allow for privacy and yet offer a view of the entire room. Hardly any other hotel in New York provides such a wonderful setting for romantic moments.
The rooms and suites reflect refined craftsmanship coupled with history and tradition as well. Many pieces of furniture were specially designed and made for the hotel. The designers took inspiration from the classic as well as contemporary sketches the Baccarat archives provide. The mini-bars in the rooms were designed exclusively for the hotel. They are in the famous Baccarat Red and hold delicacies of the Parisian gourmet caterer Fauchon. Another exclusive feature is the “champagne-button” the room’s phone is equipped with. On request, the guest’s favourite champagne with the famous champagne flutes is served immediately.
Another highlight is the spa. The wellness area is the first spa by “La Mer” in the USA and markets the high-quality products and treatments of cosmetic brand La Mer. The design is modelled after the luxurious European coastal resorts. The centre is taken by the large pool, tiled in black and white marble, which appears like a submerged ballroom. Around it, divans nestle in cosy alcoves. The walls around the pool were painted by Francois Houtin, an artist who is famous for his highly detailed images of utopian gardens. They are reminiscent of the forests surrounding the Baccarat headquarters in rural France.
In addition to the hotel, the Starwood Capital Group, which has built the hotel and of which Baccarat SA is part, offers 60 private residences for sale. The apartments are available in various sizes and range between one and four bedrooms. There are four residences, each spanning an entire floor and a penthouse duplex villa with five bedrooms and a private outdoor terrace. Of course, all residences are furnished with the same care and luxurious interior – and the residents can take advantage of all services the hotel offers at any time.
“As the new Baccarat Hotel & Residences represents the elegance and unique prestige of Baccarat, it is to become a very special landmark in the heart of Manhattan,” says Barry Sternlicht, Chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group. He is certain that the hotel offers guests and residence owners an unequalled experience, because here they can encounter the unique artistic craft of the legendary crystal glass manufactory and its commitment to perfection with respect to service and style.
This article was published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q2 2015. Picture credit: © Kunstkopie.de