"I like to create spaces, spaces for me are art," André Saraiva, the co-founder of Hôtel Amour, tells Highsnobiety via email. If you have had the pleasure of walking into one of his spaces and experiencing its charm, this will come as no surprise.
The hotel is as much a conceptual playground as it as a place for guests to lay their heads: each bedroom is outfitted with a wildly different concept (often provided by an artist friend), no two floors have the same colored walls, and with each turn you are greeted by an (often highly erotic or abstract) piece of decoration.
Saraiva is an artist in his own right, beginning as a graffiti artist in the 90s where he would spray his alter-ego Mr. A across the city and, eventually, worldwide. The decor in his infamous hotels in many ways reflects his street art and subsequent gallery work: it's unpretentious, experimental, and has a lot of pink.
This isn't a coincidence, "I’d always wanted to live in one of my drawings. To open a door to it and step inside," he says.
The hotel fulfills this fantasy to an extent and much of it is decorated with items from his personal life — inside you can find his artworks that needed a home, the furniture from the Parisian apartment that he sold to move into the hotel, and a variety of pieces he has picked up in vintage markets. It makes it a hugely personal space, which is something that can't be said of many hotels. He says, "when I’m in Paris I live at the hotel. For me, it’s home, and I want people to feel the same."
This isn't an approach taken by your typical hotelier, but that's partly because Saraiva isn't one. The 50-year-old came into the industry without having created a hotel before, which he believes helped him to treat its creation like a blank canvas.
Like all good ideas, Hôtel Amour was birthed after a few drinks. Over dinner at Thierry Costes’ house, organized by Rirkrit Tiravanija, is where the idea to create a hotel was sparked. When the topic came up the room was ablaze with ideas that they found out could be realized through a hotel that Costes' uncle had for sale.
Those on the table, which was filled with creatives such as Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag of M/M, the artist Philippe Parreno, and the gallerist Edouard Merino, planted the idea for Hôtel Amour firmly in Saraiva's head.
"The day after, I called Thierry Costes about seeing the hotel. I also called the artists, but once they sobered up, I realized nobody had the time nor the interest to do a hotel anymore. However, nothing could stop Thierry and me," he says.
In the end, restaurateur and friend Emmanuel Delavenne joined the two and they pooled together to buy the run-down hotel from Costes' Uncle. Located in the now-trendy neighborhood of Pigalle, it had been operating as a hôtel de passe, one favored by sex workers in the neighbourhood.
"I had just opened the nightclub Le Baron, a place that played the music we wanted. The idea for the hotel was to have a place with the rooms, the beds, and the food we wanted," says Saraiva. When he first opened the space it was almost an extension of his iconic nightclub, somewhere he could offer a bed to the crowd which frequented it.
However, his reputation for being able to throw the best parties in town has also extended to the hotel. His favorite nights spent there are launch parties and dinners run along with best friend Olivier Zahm, co-owner of Purple magazine. According to Saraiva, "those are legendary."
Soon the 24-room hotel became virtually always fully booked. This called for more space which was provided by Hôtel Amour Nice and the Hôtel Grand Amour, which also resides in Paris.
"Hôtel Grand Amour is the younger sibling of Hôtel Amour, she is a bit bigger than the first one. That is why we call her grand, but she kept the same DNA as her older sister. We have more space so we could integrate a bit more nightlife; a bar and library called the book bar, for music and books and late-night fun," says Saraiva.
Part of the DNA which Hôtel Grand Amour kept is making each bedroom different. Curated by the Swedish-French artist or his network of friends, every bedroom is treated as a different space for experimentation.
Across the two hotels, you can find: a bedroom with mirrored disco balls covering the ceiling by French designer Alexandre de Betak, one made by conceptual artist Claude Rutault where you can hang monochrome paintings around the faded pink room to make it your own, and the late writer and art critic Glenn O’Brien has a room with two Hermes Baby typewriters — one with a French keyboard and one American.
However, there is no saying that any of those will be there by the time you check in, as the space is in a constant state of change.
Speaking of the ever-changing rooms, he says "we did it in a very instinctive way, we didn’t have any idea or concept or style. It was very much free and inspired by our mood. This became our style, and now with my partner Emmanuel Delavenne we still keep that very free spirit of decoration and making things ourselves."
As part of our fourth Not In Paris multimedia flagship, we have come together with the hotel on a capsule collection that reflects its bright character. Available to shop via the Highsnobiety shop, check out how the graphic collection looks in the hotel through the editorial above.