The legendary celebrity magnet Hôtel Costes in Paris is reopening with 38 spectacular new rooms and suites in a new wing on the rue Castiglione. Owner Jean-Louis Costes, who has never before given an interview to the international media, tells LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai about his lack of design philosophy and why the hotel owes its success to discretion
1. What is your design philosophy?
I don’t know what you mean by a design philosophy. I choose people; all my life, I have chosen people. My first designer was Philippe Starck [for the Café Costes, which propelled Jean-Louis and his brother Gilbert to fame in 1984], who was unknown at the time. Then I took Jacques Garcia [for the original Hôtel Costes in 1995], also unknown at the time. And now, as I am getting older, I have taken on Christian Liaigre, because we are both young fathers and our sons were at the same school. Each morning we would have a coffee together and he would tell me “Jean-Louis, I want to redo your hotel”.
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2. What is the ‘legend of the Costes’ that people talk about?
There is no legend. I don’t know. I didn’t do anything deliberately, but it happened. We are different. People talk about the music, the scent. There was no music in hotels 25 years ago. We had a CD that played on a loop, I got sick of having to turn it off all the time, so I spoke to one of our old waiters who had just come out of rehab. I said to him, “Take this space and play music all day”. He knew a few labels and artists and asked if he could make our own compilation CD, and I let him do it and we sold five million CDs. It became a legend, but it was by chance.
As to the scent, everything in the Costes has a little story. I was sitting downstairs when we had just opened, and an attractive woman stopped and said, “Monsieur, are you the owner of this place?” I said yes. She said, “I like it a lot, but it smells bad.” And at that stage it was true – we were just trying to get rid of the smell of the original building works. A few days later I saw her in the pages of Elle; she was the star perfumer of France, Olivia Giacobetti. When I saw her again, I asked, “So, what should I do?” She said, “You have to create something yourself.” And I told her to go and do it, and she created our candle, which is now famous and sold around the world. Before that, hotels just didn’t have their own scents. But I created it on the spur of the moment. There was no strategy, no marketing.
3. What do you like your guests to do?
I don’t like people who stay in their rooms. The guests have to meet and see real Parisians. People eating in the restaurant need to feel like they are in their own town.
4. What makes the Costes different?
I wanted to make an urban resort, not a business hotel, even though we have a lot of business guests. I’m also not part of a group, which makes a difference; we can be more joyful, more dynamic. I am one of the hoteliers who, over the past 25 years, has created this ‘entertainment’ style. And it’s not enough to be in a good location. You have to treat guests better than anyone else does. Your hotel needs to be more beautiful and have better facilities. I am always amazed when people build ugly little hotels and they do well with them.
5. What makes the new wing, the Costes Castiglione, so special?
I’m not sure. I treat this hotel as if it’s my home, and not just the current enlargement, but from the beginning. I always created it as if I were decorating my own home.
6. Why don’t you give interviews?
To speak about a place is interesting, but to speak about myself is not. It’s just not my thing. It’s not necessary to create media to succeed. You have to be a bit enigmatic. These days, any hotel which opens and changes its bathrooms wants an article about it.
Jean-Louis gave his first international media interview for this article and asked that we do not publish a picture of him.
Find out more: hotelcostes.com
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.