In the heart of Paris, one woman puts her particular touch to a new hotel

This Parisian interior designer has forged a singular design empire from her beloved 1st arrondissement. On the eve of the unveiling her largest project to date, Sarah Lavoine speaks to GRAZIA about family, furniture and the future of Le Roch

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Lavoine pictured in the library at Le Roch Hotel and SpaCredit: Instagram

Be it through fate or characteristic French fortitude, Sarah Lavoine has chosen the perfect week in which to open her first hotel.

The interior designer whose name has become synonymous with a new brand of Parisian style (with none of the hackneyed monochrome clichés you've come to expect from Pinterest) has worked in the industry for over 20 years now, during which time she has launched her own eponymous line of furniture, a home décor range and an accessories line with stockists in over 50 countries.

However it's in Paris - the city where she has lived since returning from a stint in New York studying acting under the legendary Lee Strasberg at age 19 - that Lavoine has refined her aesthetic and built her namesake lifestyle brand. It’s here that her life's work to date culminates this week in the opening of Le Roch, a luxury 37-room Design Hotels™ property and high-end spa in the heart of the city's first arrondissement between Place Vendôme, the Opéra Garnier, and the Louvre.

“I have given everything for this project and I did not sacrifice any ideas,” the Polish-born Lavoine told GRAZIA. “It was a total bliss as a creative project.”

Le Roch, a 19th century hotel where classical Parisian design flourishes have been paired with geometrical patterns that square off against statement artworks, is full of unexpected twists like Moroccan earthenware in each room’s private hammam, or Lavoine's own furniture mixed with pieces by Cassina. It is, in other words, her vision for design come to fruition. 

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The view of the patio adjoining the Indulgence Suite at Le Roch 
Credit: Courtesy of Le Roch
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A Hammam style steam room off the bathroom of Le Roch's Prestige suiteCredit: Courtesy of Le Roch
"When I came back to Paris, I realised that I really wanted to express myself in another way [besides acting]" Lavoine says. "That's when I decided to work at my mother's office - Sabine Marchal. She was an interior designer as well, and this gave me an opportunity to learn in a more academic way everything I naturally understood through my education and my background. She taught me rigorously and made me understand what it means to endeavour in your daily tasks."

With a collaboration at the studio of Francois Schmidt under her belt, Lavoine, now 43, created her own design firm in 2002 with humble ambitions - albeit ones greatly informed by the real world lessons she inherited from her mother and her father, Jean Poniatowski, who helmed French Vogue from 1981 to 1995.

"I was lucky, my parents taught me how to enjoy beauty in any detail: how to look, but also how to seize every opportunity, how to be able to learn from anyone. When I was young, they generously introduced art, architecture and fashion to me. What they shared with me were the basic essentials that helped me reinforce the way I look at the world. It really created my own lifestyle. That’s why today I also want to share it, just the way they did with me."

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Lavoine and her father, Jean Poniatowski
Credit: Instagram
It’s that singular attention to detail that Lavoine says will distinguish Le Roch not only from each of her past projects to date, including the restaurant Le Victoria 1836 (pictured below left) and the Place Saint Sulpice flagship store of Comptoir des Cotonniers (below right), but from every other hotel in the city.

That’s no mean feat in a city like Paris, where the hotel has been elevated to an institution and hospitality is an art form.

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At left, the interior at Le Victoria 1836 and the interior at the Place Saint Sulpice flagship store of Comptoir des CotonniersCredit: Courtesy of Sarah Lavoine
“My idea was to bring the guests a feeling that they were at home. We used very comfortable elements: raw wood and velvet. We’ve also used a lot of mirrors and worked on natural light in order to broaden the spaces. Some details, such as the woodwork, were restored and kept as they were initially designed for this typical Parisian building. Colours are also at the heart of the hotel’s atmosphere. They are soft but powerful too. Black is everywhere, and it underlines the elegance of the place. Le Roch conveys my own vision of Paris.”

Lavoine’s Paris is firmly embedded in Saint-Honoré, on Paris’s Right Bank, where she has lived and worked (often in the same place) for the past two decades. It only makes sense then that Le Roch is “located two steps away from my home and my office, in the heart of my favourite area, Le Village Saint Honoré. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect showroom of my style and inspirations.” Atop of the demands of launching Le Roch, Lavoine maintains two Parisian stores and employs a team of 20, without whom she says she couldn’t have “created a real Maison Parisienne” in which she takes a great deal of pride.

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The Deluxe Indulgence room exemplifies Lavoine's signature use of contrasting colours offset by black feature wallsCredit: Courtesy of Le Roch
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Le Roch's Prestige suiteCredit: Courtesy of Le Roch
“My company is developing at full speed at the moment, so I spend my time going back and forth between designing spaces and furniture with the creative studio and improving my skills as a business woman,” Lavoine relayed from one of her offices on rue Saint-Honoré, located upstairs from the home she shares with her five and eight-year-old sons Milo and Roman and her husband, the singer Marc Lavoine.

“What I can tell you is that I was not aware of that when I studied, but business can be really exciting when it is related to your passion. Every day brings a new challenge; whether it’s a new design, a new project, or a new client. I’m wearing 1000 hats in a day at the studio and that’s what’s exciting.”

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The Saint Roch suite comes complete with a personal wine cellar, butler and shopper
Credit: Courtesy of Le Roch
For someone with an innate sense of colour and a love unexpected combinations, the message is in the melange. “I love to mix styles, times and inspirations. I hate total looks and trends – they always end up out-dated at some point. Colours are also extremely important to me. I love to marry colours that should not be married, but [manage] to create happy couples. I try to educate my client to use them without fearing them [and] my daily task is to find how to bring happiness and comfort [to] my clients’ lives.

“Sometimes [it's] not just about finding the right colour nor the right fabric. It’s about listening carefully to people’s aspirations and trying to achieve them.”