Monegasque Institution Sheds its Furniture


The legendary Hôtel de Paris is parting ways with its furniture content – a collection of quality and high-class memorabilia worth a small fortune

Winston Churchill had his own apartment there – a 2,000ft2 suite on the top floor of the Rotonde, where he set up his easel and from where he could observe the yacht Christina belonging to his fiend Onassis. The story goes that in 1945, he had returned to the casino crying “Gentlemen, let’s play again!” and that he had won 2 million francs that evening. The world’s first global film star – Frenchwoman Sarah Bernhardt – is said to have left all her fortune there. The novelist Colette called herself Mme Thevault whenever she stayed there. There was a time when you could bump into Salvador Dali in full conversation with legendary chef Frezouls, or Charlie Chaplin with Ava Gardner or Liz Taylor. In Monaco, they say that it was at the Hôtel de Paris that the very term “jet-set” was first uttered to describe the meeting of so many stars, captains of industry and Hollywood personages.

Auction Day: The doors are open but there's no-one home only buyers

Auction Day: The doors are open but there’s no-one home only buyers

Last Sunday, the city on the rock turned a page in history. Closed since last October for renovation works, the mythical palace that celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014 has put up its entire stock of furniture for public auction.

Before work commences on the re-confection of almost 80% of the building, the publicly-owned Société des Bains de Mer (the hotel’s owners since 1863) have essentially decided to shed a significant portion of its historical heritage. In total, there are almost 10,000 pieces of furniture in 4,000 lots coming from the 138 bedrooms and suites, from the two gastronomic restaurants (one of them being a 3-star Michelin restaurant), from the entrance lobby and the garden. The lot is to be cleared by the end of the week.

The entire inventory should fetch at least a million euros according to Artcurial – auctioneers in charge of the sale. Since last week, the Empire room, entrance hall and three suites have been set up to allow buyers peruse the various lots before the bidding started on Sunday.

“Our commitment to the history of the hotel is unwavering,” says Luca Allegri, general manager of the famous establishment. “The sharing of this event with our clients will surely be an emotion-filled experience.” The local press has described it as “heart-wrenching”.

View from above: the Hôtel de Paris beneath the flag of Monaco with the Mediterranean Sea in the background

View from above: the Hôtel de Paris beneath the flag of Monaco with the Mediterranean Sea in the background

“Thankfully, a lot of films were made there,” says Amélia, whose mother was chamber maid in the hotel for almost 20 years. “That will leave us a souvenir.” Indeed, the hotel has proven to be an irresistible backdrop for numerous films over the years, including Bond film Golden Eye in 1995, Priceless (Hors de Prix) with Audrey Tautou in 2006, Iron Man 2 in 2010 and an animated version in Madagascar 3.

In terms of best souvenirs available, people can console themselves with the furniture of Churchill’s suite, including the famous easel on which he painted. There’s also the piano from the American bar, the enormous carpet from the lobby and the furniture from Sarah Bernhardt’s suite. There are also signed dinner ware, bathrobes and towels embroidered with the Hôtel de Paris logo – all going under the hammer.

Five Facts about the Hôtel de Paris:

1. It was the first hotel in the world to install en-suite bathrooms in 1864

2. The hotel’s cellar, created in 1874, covers a total area of 1,500m2. It was dug out by hand 15 metres beneath the surface of the street over a ten-year period. Between 350,000 and 450,000 bottles are kept here, according to seasonal demands.

3. The ceiling of the Empire room where the auction will take place was restored using 8,000 gold leaves in 2004.

4. For each bed in the hotel, there are 5 different types of sheet permanently available to correspond to the possible tastes of the hotel’s clients.

5. The hotel is equipped with a bakehouse where two bakers busy themselves preparing up to 20 different types of bread every day. It’s one of the last establishments where everything is done in-house.

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