The lobby of the SO Hotel in Paris was reborn as an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building.
Photo: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut

Why This Retro-Chic Hotel in Paris Is Making Locals Swoon

Crafted by French design studio RDAI, the SO/ Hotel transports visitors as soon as they enter the Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired lobby

A work by artist Neil Beloufa hangs in the lobby of the new SO Hotel in Paris. Photo: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut

“As soon as you open the door you see the fantastic view,” said Julia Capp of the new SO/ Hotel in Paris. Capp is associate general director of RDAI, the architecture and design firm tasked with the interiors of the boutique property, the first for the brand in France. And those views? Epic. The hotel is a stone’s throw from the Seine and housed on the 7th through 14th floors of a former municipal building (the Préfecture de Paris) completed in 1960 by architect Albert Laprade. It is the tallest structure in the 4th arrondissement and surrounding area, meaning that 80 percent of the 162 rooms and suites offer expansive cityscape views of Parisian icons including the Pantheon, Sacré Coeur, Bastille, Notre-Dame, and the Eiffel Tower.

The 1960s vibe hits the minute one enters the lobby, a long, narrow space that Denis Montel, artistic and general director of RDAI, found “difficult and unwelcoming with many concrete columns.” In his hands, the reception area was reborn as an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building, with a series of soaring white columns and walls clad in mirrors tinted a deep shade of orange. (Notably, RDAI designs all Hermès stores worldwide, hence their penchant for a specific shade of leather as well as the restrained but purposeful use of orange.) After check-in, the lobby splits around an island offering seating under Neil Beloufa’s contemporary work, Le Phare de Paris, much as the Seine does nearby.

The sweeping view from Bonnie, the hotel‘s on-site restaurant. Photo: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut

There are 122 works of art scattered throughout the hotel, including videos that play in the elevator (available to purchase as NFTs) that whisks guests to their temporary homes. The interplay of light and noble materials in the rooms—stone, wood, leather, and wool—was important and intentional. Furnishings are a mix of modern, Scandinavian, and pieces RDAI designed specifically for these spaces. “We wanted pieces that would patina over time, like a voyage in and of itself,” noted Capp, adding that the shimmering tiles in the bathroom were inspired by the Seine. Thoughtful room amenities include a leather-clad phone system, leather-clad hand weights, a steamer, towel warmer, skin and hair products from French clean beauty brand Codage (with treatments available in the on-site spa), and a whimsical speaker that looks like a French bulldog. You are in Paris, after all.

More than 80 percent of the guest rooms feature panoramic vistas. Photo: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut

The redevelopment of this site was part of the Réinventer Paris initiative, launched in 2015 by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who challenged the world’s top architects to reimagine 23 sites in the French capital with the aim of reinvigorating neighborhoods. David Chipperfield won the architectural portion of the competition for this site, resulting in an H-shaped structure that, in addition to the SO Hotel, contains luxury and affordable housing, a youth hostel, and retail space. And although it just opened last fall, the plan seems to be working: “The area around this building was always dead, there was not much life,” admitted Montel. “But it is really well located, so close to the Bastille and the Marais, that it is becoming more lively.”

The guest rooms were crafted by RDAI. Photo: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut

The hotel’s buzzy restaurant, Bonnie, is undoubtedly playing a huge part. (The name may seem random to Americans, but in fact is taken from a line in Bonnie and Clyde, a Serge Gainsbourg song he sung with Brigitte Bardot.) Located on the 15th floor, with a separate bar/nightclub upstairs, the space boasts unparalleled views of Paris, outdoors and in, thanks in no small part to The Seeing City, an artwork work by an Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann that wraps the ceiling in mirrors, reflecting the Seine, the Ile de la Cité and the Ile de Saint-Louis, and the rooftops of Paris. Now one of the most sought-out reservations in Paris, the views make even the most jaded locals swoon.

SO Paris, 10 Rue Agrippa d’Aubigné, 75004;

Cover: The lobby of the SO Hotel in Paris was reborn as an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building.
Photo: Gaëlle Le Boulicaut


Sign up to receive the best in art, design, and culture from Galerie

Thank You
Your first newsletter will arrive shortly.