Just an hour from Heathrow, Villa René Lalique is perfect for a weekend break. In 15 acres of peaceful forest in Alsace, an hour from Strasbourg on the French-German border, this Hansel and Gretel hotel — half-timbered with shutters and a pitched roof — glistens inside with exquisite glass and crystal.
There are geometric vases on intricately detailed glass tables, perfume bottles with Art Deco curves, chandeliers, and crystal embellishments set into sofa arms, tables and doors.
The house that Lalique built is the work of a master craftsman, one of France’s foremost Art Nouveau jewellery designers. Founded in 1888, René Lalique’s eponymous firm became a byword for luxurious French artistry. Over the past century it has produced elaborate glass panels, famously for the Orient Express and for many grand salons across Europe, along with delicate jewellery and crystal collections for homes and hotels from London to Tokyo. Its Art Deco panels in Claridge’s are stunning.
Lalique established his manufacturing base in Alsace in 1919 and built Villa René Lalique nearby as his family home. When Swiss businessman Silvio Denz bought Lalique in 2008 he kept the original factory and he remains the sole producer of Lalique crystal. On Denz’s first visit to the factory, he enquired of his lawyer who owned the old black-and-white house on the hill… and discovered he owned it himself.
Denz lavished money on the villa. An elite team of architects and designers transformed it into a six-suite hotel linked to a new contemporary wood-and-glass extension with a two-Michelin star restaurant and 20,000-bottle, temperature-controlled wine cellar.
Villa René Lalique opened as a hotel and bespoke company showroom in September last year. All furniture and fittings, from the beds to the decanters lined up along the black lacquer bar, are for sale. Denz’s background is in luxury perfume and wine — he owns vineyards in St Emilion, Tuscany and Catalonia — but Lalique fires his imagination. “It is a classic brand, luxurious but never showy, with a timeless style,” he says. “The Art Deco style Lalique developed still looks better in the modern house than any other style of the past 300 years.”
Architect Mario Botta enlarged the house and added that fabulous extension while Tina Green, wife of Topshop owner Sir Philip Green, and her business partner Pietro Mingarelli, worked on the interiors. They had Lalique-Maison, a range of Art Deco-inspired furniture and accessories to play with, but their brief was also to preserve the atmosphere of the original family home.
Interiors are crisp with a mostly pale palette of rich creams and beige highlighted by striking dark lacquer. Crystal inlays are everywhere, from bathrooms to doors. Super-size black-and-white photos of René Lalique, his family and original factory staff cover the walls, while the route to the wine cellar has a wall of framed crystal butterflies by Damien Hirst. The end result is a calming, enveloping homage to fine crafts.
Guests come from across Europe for wine tasting with head sommelier Romain Iltis and to enjoy chef Jean-Georges Klein’s restaurant. And if, at the end of your stay, you want to buy a piece of Lalique, from a champagne glass to a backlit panel, simply ask and it will be delivered.
- Villa René Lalique: rooms from £280 a night.
- All products available to buy at the Lalique boutique: 47 Conduit Street, W1 (020 7292 0444)
- easyJet flies daily from London to Strasbourg
THE LALIQUE MUSEUM
Visitors cannot visit the Lalique factory but can tour the Lalique Museum which opened in 2011 in a modern building in Wingen-sur-Moder, the village where René Lalique first set up his glassworks.
There are 500 pieces on permanent exhibition, displayed against a black backdrop, as above, plus a café, shop and landscaped gardens.