The Night Flight: Grand Balcon
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 6/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
site: toulouse, france
In the 1920's and '30's, the hotel Grand Balcon in Toulouse, France, served as a home base for the aviation pioneers of Aéropostale, which operated the first commercial mail routes from France to Spain, Africa, and South America. Among those early pilots was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who not only flew the fabled single-engine planes but also immortalized them in the children's classic Le Petit Prince. The biggest challenge facing Agence Nuel's Jean-Philippe Nuel was to completely renovate the five-story building without losing its legendary aura.
His solution was to evoke floating via poetic images such as clouds. The long entrance hall, still much as it was, now ends at a video wall showing the planes of Aéropostale flying toward an infinite horizon. The original diamond-pattern floor tile is still there, but two polished stainless-steel cylinders, serving as reception desks, appear to hover above it on rings of light.
In all but one of the 47 guest rooms and suites, ethereal sky-scapes of cloud formations cover either the ceiling or an entire wall, and polycarbonate pendant fixtures might be asteroids. Furnishings are shades of gray and white. The single exception is Saint-Exupéry's room, 32. Nuel designed it with the help of Toulouse antiques dealer Isabelle Klein of Galerie 7. "Bâtiments de France has also classified Saint-Exupéry's room as a memorial. Sadly, little remained of the 1930's decoration except for the layout of the room," he says. "We had to imagine the surroundings in which Saint-Exupéry would have lived more than half a century ago." There's an old-fashioned wrought-iron bedstead, a simple wooden desk with a cane-seated chair, parquet flooring, diamond-patterned wallpaper, and floral curtains.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
FROM FRONT POLTRONA FRAU: SOFA (LOUNGE). CORINTO: CHAIRS. GRIFFINE: CHAIR UPHOLSTERY. ARTEMIDE: READING LAMP. METALARTE: FLOOR LAMP. BARRISOL: STRETCHED CEILING SYSTEM. DELTALIGHT: RECESSED WALL FIXTURES (RECEPTION). LUMINAIRES LUCIEN GAU: PENDANT FIXTURES (RECEPTION), READING LAMP (SUITE). VALENTINA CERAMICAS: WALL TILE (RESTROOM). BODEMA: SOFA (SUITE). PIERRE FREY: BEDSPREAD FABRIC. ROTALIANA: PENDANT FIXTURES. ENIA: CARPET. LELIÈVRE: CURTAIN, SHEER FABRIC (SUITE, BATHROOM), BEDSPREAD FABRIC (HISTORIC ROOM). DESIGNERS GUILD: CURTAIN FABRIC (HISTORIC ROOM). THROUGH GALERIE 7: FURNITURE, PENDANT FIXTURE, RUG. BETTE: TUB (BATHROOM). PORTA FRANCE: TUB FITTINGS, SINK FITTINGS. ALAPE: SINK. ALISEO: MAGNIFYING MIRROR. ALTAMAREA: VANITY FIXTURE. IGUZZINI ILLUMINAZIONE: RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES. CERAMICA VIVA: FLOOR TILE. THROUGHOUT ATELIER-CACTUS: ARCHITECT OF RECORD. LAUCO: LIGHTING CONSULTANT. VIRIATO: WOODWORK, METALWORK. ENTREPRISE BOURDARIOS: GENERAL CONTRACTOR.