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This week for our series “In the Mag” we bring you a special look at Veuve Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc in Reims, France. Whitewall visited the special property in March of 2012. Along with our article we include here photos by Robert Lakow that didn’t make our spring issue.
We were seated in the cozy, lush main salon of Veuve Clicquot’s Hotel du Marc in Reims, France. It was probably the first time in the past few days that we didn’t have a glass of champagne in our hand. The days prior had included a rainy but rather magical tour of Notre Dame de Reims — all the way up to its rafters and out on its gargoyle-covered roofs. There had been a tour of their chalk-carved caves and a de-corking presentation. We had heard a great deal about the widow Clicquot, who boldly ran a business and became one of the wealthiest women in France when such a thing was unheard of. We had seen replicas of the riddling table she invented, which guaranteed crystal-clear champagne. We were still full from our five-course black truffle lunch at a local Michelin-starred restaurant. And we had had lots and lots of champagne.
Tonight was a black-tie affair — a final dinner and the chance to get a tour of the newly renovated maison (an endeavor that took more than four years) given by Sabina Belli, Veuve Clicquot’s former general manager, the woman who oversaw its design by Bruno Moinard. Hotel du Marc was built in 1814 in typical Napoleon III–style. It has belonged in the Veuve Clicuot Ponsardin family for years, serving as a private home for presidents and top managers of the champagne house and a place in which to entertain guests. After the enormous redesign — not just of interiors, but of plumbing, layout, and more — it serves as a grand maison to host important guests and friends of the brand.
We started with the room in which we were sitting, the main living area. Moinard designed much of it. The feeling is classic contemporary. The kitchen atelier next door (where we had previously dined) is completely contemporary. Dark colors on the walls create a space around a kitchen counter, foosball table, piano, and of course, a wall of fridges to house Veuve Clicquot. The counter is modular and multipurpose — it can be a bar for eating, a place for the house’s chefs to cook for its guests, or completely removed in order to create a grand ballroom or conference area.
Next we moved to the library, adjacent to the foyer. Most noteworthy in this space is a stuffed ostrich sporting a saddle and flying goggles and cap. Belli explained that this addition, named Nicole, provides the “wow-esque” factor of the maison. Design-wise, Moinar told us he created a room around the idea of “voyage and comfort. It is a mix of old and special-made furniture, close to the curiosity cabinet.”
The entire second floor of the maison feels like a cabinet of curiosities, but to get there one must climb the grand staircase in the main foyer. The walls are painted in a gradient that pays homage to the wine of the region, the Bordeaux. A wonky wooden railing, designed by Pablo Reinoso, leads you upstairs and around the corner to a dark hallway flanked by giant portraits of the Ponsardin family, Madame Clicquot and her daughter, that lean against the walls. Painted by a contemporary artist and obscured by a scrim, these add a bit of spookiness to the upstairs, honoring the ghosts of the champagne’s past.
The first room on your left is a special projects room. When we visited last March, it housed the bed designed by Mathieu Lehanneur for the perfect sleep after a long day’s travel. We were told it would stay for a year and then change to make room for a project by another talented and innovative designer (elements of Veuve Clicquot’s design commissions appeared throughout the maison and its gardens).
The other five guest rooms were each designed according a season of the region of Reims and a country — Russia and winter, Italy and autumn, the United States and summer, Japan and spring, China and an Indian summer. Said Moinard, “I wanted each guest to feel amazed to be welcomed in a special and unique room. It is the same spirit, the same thread. Colors are changing, suggesting, by discreet allusion, various continents. But everything is adapted to a French mansion scale.” The night before, after many a refill of our champagne glasses, we went from room to room, seeing how the one we had been staying in (the elegant and quite feminine Japanese and spring-themed room) compared to the others. We still preferred ours with its grand tub and ample natural light.
While Moinard’s design and Belli’s eye had created quite a visual experience for guests of Hotel du Marc, the real purpose for the home was to create a memorable experience for its guests. And that was accomplished as well. After our tour, we moved to the dining room, where we enjoyed yet another decadent meal and a game of conversational musical chairs, the men rotating to the left every 20 minutes in order to make conversation with the next lady. More champagne was had and we retired to the atelier, where we attempted some karaoke and a foosball tournament. Our team won and we went to bed sad that we had to leave the next day, having to wonder where our next glass of Veuve Clicquot would come from.