In Depth

Maison d’excellence: inside Chaumet Place Vendôme home

The maison's newly renovated address is the shining diadem of Place Vendôme

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Home to a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte atop an imposing column, Place Vendôme hasn’t always gone by that name. But for at least the last 100 years, this regal, iconic Paris square has been world famous as a hub for high jewellery (just one of many possible explanations for the French capital’s reputation as ‘the City of Light’ ).

As the oldest jewellery house in the Place Vendôme, Chaumet – which dates back to the late 1700s and is thought to have been the  first maison to move there in 1812 – might just be the jewel in its crown. Following a year-long renovation, the 240-year-old luxury brand has reopened its doors to extraordinary e ect, the former hotel particulier (French for townhouse) brought back to life with an additional focus on being a place for clients, a place for visitors, and – importantly – a place for the magic of the workshop itself to happen.

Beyond the walnut panelling and the embroidered walls of the ground- floor boutique, up through the expanded series of grand and private salons on the second  floor – accessed via a sweeping staircase with a decidedly princess feel – to the top of the building, you’ll find the jewellery masters at work in a sun- filled workshop overlooking that famous Napoleon statue. Coincidentally, the emperor happened to be an early Chaumet customer, along with his wife, Josephine, who appointed the house as her official jeweller in 1805.

It was in 1780 that a Frenchman named Marie-Étienne Nitot founded his now legendary jewellery maison, which, courtesy of the empress, became known as a house of tiaras; to prove this point, around 600 full-size nickel-silver pieces dating back to the 19th century greet you in the newly refurbished Salon des Diadèmes.

Nitot’s son, François-Regnault was responsible for placing the business in the Place Vendôme – at number 15, now home to the Ritz. It was almost a century later, in 1907 – under Joseph Chaumet, from whom the house takes the name – that the jeweller moved along a couple of doors to its now well-established location at number 12. “We had many discussions with [Chaumet CEO] Jean-Marc Mansvelt about the brand and about the very unique location,” explains Patricia Grosdemange, the interior designer tasked with the renovation project. “Jean-Marc had this very ambitious vision to recreate the hotel particulier with the workshop on the top, and to have the full experience here.”

The task was indeed significant, combining the maison’s own legacy – which boasts esteemed design and also clientele (Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Edith Wharton among them) – with those of the storied building itself: its Salon Chopin is so-named because the famed composer composed his last mazurka here in 1849. The room has been classified as an historic monument.

“It was important to find the right balance between heritage and modernity,” notes Grosdemange, who had previously worked on Chaumet’s Tokyo boutique. She began by cleaning everything to reveal the space as it had never existed before; artisans fully restored faux ceilings that had been lowered and wood panelling that had been missing. Then, for its architecture, Grosdemange turned her attention to the house’s signature penchant for tiaras. “I had a look at all the tiaras just to understand what are the rules of Chaumet, the geometry, proportion, how they are built,” she says. “I tried to find a kind of rule. I recognised a style that is very symmetrical, very pure, statutory lines, and then inside these lines there is a lot of nature.”

The latter is also a hallmark of Chaumet and made for a recurring theme throughout: the painted rug in the Salon des Perles, the wheatsheaf designs on the alabaster walls, and, at its launch during Paris Fashion Week, a hanging garden on the building’s exterior. This celebratory installation was replete with lush foliage, bees and Chaumet blue trellis, lit up at nightfall.

“Playing with the light is extremely important for the beauty of the store,” points out Benoît Verhulle, who, as the 13th head of the workshop (he joined in 1990), has the important job of preserving and translating Chaumet’s codes, and is responsible for heading up the handicraft that goes into all its collections. Especially created for this new launch is a limited-edition collection of Légende medallions that depict the stories of Chaumet throughout the years; there is also a series of architectural high-jewellery rings, the Trésors d’Ailleurs, that combine high volume with fine detail to bold, eye-catching effect.

“It’s not the [Chaumet] name, it’s the people that keep the name alive,” proffers Mansvelt in reference to the brand’s magic. Understandably, the CEO couldn’t be more thrilled with the new space, which sees rooms now opened up to feel bright and accessible, warm and welcoming to first-time Chaumet shoppers, yet exclusive and elegant for those designing special orders, who are newly engaged or being presented with the  fine-jewellery collections.

“Because it’s a source of inspiration, a source of excellence, when you see Place Vendôme you understand it, you are part of it,” says Mansvelt. “We sell a dream, but we also sell a tangible thing. We sell objects, [so] it’s about craftsmanship, it’s about detail, materials. It can’t be virtual, it has to be concrete, it has to be real! This has to be our number-one address.”

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