On the top floor of the plush Hôtel Lutetia, in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Isabelle Huppert awaits. She may not be in the flesh, exactly, but her touches abound everywhere, because she was enlisted to design her ideal suite at the historic hotel, which first opened in 1910 and reopened in July 2018 after a four-year renovation.
Still, it comes as a quiet shock to walk into La Suite Parisienne by Isabelle Huppert and see the black silk-chiffon Yves Saint Laurent haute couture dress the actress actually wore to the 44th edition of the César Awards, in Cannes, standing in the sunlit salon on a dressmaker’s form.
Tempered by musk and sandalwood, there’s also a very soft scent of jasmine and tuberose in the air, which is explained by the bottle of Huppert’s favorite perfume on one of the nightstands in the bedroom—Fracas (“Noisy argument,” in English), by Robert Piguet, limited-edition Isabelle Huppert. (According to the perfumer’s Web site, it was created in 1948 by celebrated perfumer Germaine Cellier, who wanted “to create a scent that would make its wearer feel like a bombshell; one that would leave an unsettling effect on everyone that encountered it.” It works.)
With its sleek furniture, including a soft-shouldered cinnamon velvet settee by Walter Knoll, an almost 215-square-foot terrace overlooking the Rive Gauche, which features views of the golden dome of Les Invalides and the glass vaults of the Grand Palais, and a white marble bath with a tub sculpted from a single block of marble, the suite purrs with a worldly low-key Rive Gauche elegance that’s made tantalizingly personal by some of the actress’s favorite books, such as Herzog, by Saul Bellow, and Valery Larbaud’s The Poems of A. O. Barnabooth, and several of her own framed photographs.
Though you will have been given a key to the suite at the front desk, being here still feels a bit like trespassing, because Huppert is so present that it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if she were to walk out of the bathroom in a heavy terry-cloth robe, her auburn ringlets still damp after a shower.
And then it dawns on you. The reason this suite is so provocative is that Huppert knowingly designed it to make you the private audience for her performance as a tauntingly beautiful woman completely beyond your reach, because she’s offstage and out of sight. Still, you might catch a glimpse of her at the hotel, since she lives in the neighborhood; she’s also often spotted in the audience at the Christine 21 and Écoles 21, two nearby small independent Left Bank cinemas she owns with her son.
Alexander Lobrano is a writer and restaurant critic. His latest book, the gastronomic coming-of-age story My Place at the Table, will be published in June