The building is there. Proudly enthroned between the Gare de l’Est and the Rue d’Alsace, a road in the 10th arrondissement in Paris. The ninth member of the Okko Hotels Group has chosen to actively embrace this ever-changing district. To seize upon it, and become fully integrated into it. A landscaped garden is gradually being created.on the roof of this 22,000 tonne, 170-bedroom giant equipped with 90 spring mechanisms to absorb the vibrations of the station and the underground metro, And what a space! 2,500 m2 located close by the city hall, the Mairie de Paris. Space enough to allow the public to discover the famous platform n°1. The one we were promised would be “bold, generous and 4* design without a single cloud” by its product and communication director Solenne Devys. And when you look at it more closely, the newcomer seems to tick all the boxes. First of all, daring, by pushing the boundaries in the choices made, both in terms of artistic direction – focused on railways: it has the support of Compagnie des Wagons-Lit – and in terms of customer service. State-of-the-art and responsible, and, this time, enhanced by an exceptional catering offer designed for sharing. A first in the Okko Hotels galaxy, which confirms the company’s second commitment: generosity. The Club, the central living space of the hotel, the development of which has been entrusted to the talented Italian duo Studiopepe, prides itself on welcoming the hotel’s residents and visiting guests, going so far as to encourage the residents of the district to make it their home-from-home. Four-star design? Yes! As for the clouds, the only ones you will probably see will probably be those in your dreams, once you have nodded off in the exceptionally comfortable settings designed by Studio Catoir. Small monochrome bonbon boxes that most certainly do not sacrifice functionality for aesthetics and from which you can to count the trains before setting off on completely different kind of trip. To sleep.
Okko Hotels Paris Gare de l’Est, 30a rue d’Alsace, 75010 Paris.Entrance at n° 23 rue d’Alsace, at the bottom of the stairs. Reservations: by telephone on 01.40.03.10.06, or on www.okkohotels.com
Solenne, Olivier: who are you? What’s you role at Okko hotels?
I’m an engineer by training; I arrived in the hotel business by chance. After 15 years in this sector, I chose to leave the comfort of a large group to create my own concept. I wanted to revive the fundamentals of the hotel industry, while shaking up some of the established codes: it was certainly in need of it. So I founded Okko Hotels in 2008 with the support of Paul Dubrule, co-founder of the Accor group. After a long design and development period, we opened the first establishment in January 2014 in Nantes. Today the group has nine hotels open and 150 employees. My role is to take it even further by defining the company’s strategy and, in particular, its development.
After business school, a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and several internships in luxury marketing, my father suggested we join forces. We started with nothing, in an office loaned by friends. But you don’t get a second chance to create a brand, especially at 25! In eight years of collaboration, I have never regretted this choice. My father and I complement each other professionally. He knew the business by heart. He handles numbers, Excel tables and negotiation like no one else. For my part, I had lots of ideas about customer experience, communication, digital marketing. At Okko Hotels, I am the brand’s guarantor and I am in charge of product and communication strategy.
Nine establishments already in five years of existence! What is the concept behind Okko Hotels?
Okko Hotels are hotels located in the heart of cities, and we have designed them to offer our customers a 4-star stay without any clouds in the sky. Our concept aims to offer accessible design and a hotel experience based on generosity and friendliness. So the heart of our establishments is the Club: a huge space where you can have a drink, work, have a snack and read the press at any time. It is your living room for the whole duration of your stay, and so that you feel at home, everything is included: tea, coffee, yoghurt, fruit, snacks at all hours, as well as breakfast and our ‘aperitivo’ each evening. Beyond the generosity of the offer and the design of the spaces, it is the quality of the welcome that makes Okko Hotels one of the best French hotel brands in terms of customer satisfaction.
How is this opening different from previous ones?
It’s a special project in several ways. After eight establishments designed by Patrick Norguet, we wanted to bring a new aesthetic signature to Okko Hotels by entrusting the design of the bedrooms to Studio Catoir and that of the common areas to Studiopepe. On the other hand, by setting up an Okko Hôtels in the Gare de l’Est, we have chosen to be fully involved in the transformation of the district. This is why we have decided to open our Club to travellers in transit and local residents, who can now come to work, have a drink and discover our à la carte offer. We have also established numerous partnerships with local artisans and suppliers: the bread comes from Thierry Breton, the flowers from Thierry Féret, the beers from the Brasserie Fondamentale, the honey from Api Civi and so on.
This hotel is the result of a real battle that we have been fighting for years.
Your location, between platform 1 of the Gare de l’Est station and a street in the 10th arrondissement, is exceptional. Tell us the story.
This hotel is the result of a real battle that we have been fighting for years. It took a fight to convince the various people involved that a 4* hotel had a place in this environment and that we could be part of the transformation of the neighbourhood. We also had to fight to overcome all the technical and legal problems involved in such a project. It took the unfailing commitment and determination of the promoter, Spie Batignolles, the SNCF and the Paris City Hall to make this crazy project a success. The hotel is now open and its integration into the station on land belonging to the SNCF (and on which we have a temporary occupation permit) is a success. The public garden on the hotel’s roof has just been opened and is now accessible to local residents. The renovation of the rue d’Alsace is under way, but many other projects have already been launched to promote the development of the district and facilitate the connection between the Gare de l’Est and the Gare du Nord.
In addition to this, we have exploited the railway theme, even in the decoration. Who did you work with for this? What incredible objects can we discover here?
Because of its location in the Gare de l’Est, we have also developed our decorative approach by integrating collectors’ items from the Compagnie des Wagon-Lits, which we have completely restored, into the various spaces. The 200 marquetry panels from the 1930s, the model wagons, and various other objects such as crockery, luggage racks and even chandeliers, have been restored by the best Parisian craftsmen. The mix of contemporary design and original pieces is very successful. We are delighted to have been able to give new life to these objects by showcasing them here.
What was the creative brief given to the Studiopepe – who took care of the Club space – and to the Studio Catoir – in charge of the guest rooms?
We gave two very different briefs, but with one major constraint: that the whole thing must remain consistent. From Studiopepe, we asked for a particularly beatiful Club that would play with the huge double height of the salon area. We also wanted the Club to create a strong feeling of a break with the station area, emphasising the comfortable and soothing aspect. However, we wanted the railway theme to be present in the setting through the collector’s items and the large windows through which you can watch the trains go by. At Studio Catoir, we asked for a room that reflects Okko Hotels’ guiding principles, mixing functionality and aesthetics. From a practical point of view, they had to take up the challenge of integrating all the features you expect in a hotel room into 18 m2. We wanted quality to be apparent in the choice of materials and design.
And why did you choose them for the interior design of your property?
We chose Studio Catoir for the bedroom because we found it interesting to have a couple’s point of view on our guest room concept. We were also seduced by the elegance and poetry that emerged from their work. For the Club, we chose a team that had never been in the hotel business before, that we saw less in Paris, to create a completely new identity for the Club, which is why we collaborated with the Milanese duo Studiopepe.
Who is this new Okko Hotel designed for?
For Okko Hotels customers of course, but more generally for all travellers who come to Paris for business and leisure, as well as travellers in transit looking for a comfortable and friendly place to work and relax for a few hours. And how can we forget the residents of the 10th arrondissement to whom we offer a neighbourly rate!
Are there any other openings planned in the near future?
We will open this year in Toulon, early in Spring, and in Paris Montparnasse. Then it will be Lille and Nice in 2020. Paris la Défense in 2021.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily