The greatest luxury for maximalists in the new year? Sleeping and dining like royalty at the Château de Versailles.
Opening this May after a four-year, $39 million renovation, the 14-room Le Grand Contrôle hotel will span three buildings—Le Grand Contrôle, Le Petit Contrôle and the Pavillion des Premières Cent Marches—and offer guests the singular experience of strolling Versailles’ august grounds in solitary splendor. Rooms will have views of the Orangerie, and of the small lake and lush countryside of the Pièce d’Eau des Suisses. The entire property has been restored to celebrate the unapologetic opulence of former inhabitants Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.
“We’ll have access to the gardens, even after the closing of the park, and there will also be dedicated rooms in the castle available exclusively to our clients,” says Jacques Silvant, chief operating officer of Airelles, the luxury hospitality company that manages Le Grand Contrôle and owns Courchevel’s Les Airelles, La Bastide in Gordes and Mademoiselle in Val d’Isere. “Our guests will also be able to enjoy events in the small private garden near the castle.”
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The prized access follows intensive negotiations and meticulous labor. In 2010, Versailles, a state building under the auspices of the French cultural ministry, took the unprecedented step of soliciting hotel bids. Airelles, chosen in 2016, beat out 20 competitors, and began renovating the 1681 buildings, which formerly housed finance and army ministries. Celebrated chef Alain Ducasse, who opened Ore restaurant in Versailles that same year, signed on as chef for the new hotel, and was key to Airelles’ bid.
In his still-unnamed hotel restaurant, Ducasse will “recreate a dinner of the king in the 21st century” with a set menu, Silvant says. “We imagine the dinners as a theater piece, with dedicated music and costumes, and ideally only candlelight.”
Indeed, the entire project reflects a profound devotion to historical accuracy.
Architect and designer Christophe Tollemer focused his work around the year 1788, convening committees of professors, architects and historians to advise him about the building’s architecture, history and furniture.
“As far as I know we’ve been the only project to imagine an 18th-century project,” Silvant says. “Most companies imagined modernity. We wanted to remake it in a purely 18th-century style.”
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More than 500 people worked on the project, including a small army of artisans dedicated to restoring the wood paneling and flooring, and an auctioneer commissioned to source and buy period furniture, as well as cutlery, glasses and porcelain.
Tollemer used archives from Versailles and from vaunted French textile companies Maison Pierre Frey and the Royal Manufacture of Aubusson to create sumptuous upholstery evocative of the 18th century.
In addition to celebrating the glories of royalty past, the hotel will make a few concessions to contemporary amenities: a 15-meter pool and a Valmont spa.
For those not lucky enough to secure a coveted room, or for minimalists curious about the project but leery of sleeping in such heavy extravagance, the hotel’s bar and restaurant will be open to the public.
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“It’s a big responsibility for us and we feel a lot of pressure on our shoulders,” says Silvant. “There is only one Versailles. But it is also very exciting.”
Rates at Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle will start from $1,439 including breakfast. Reservations will open on February 3, 2020.