After two years of gradual but total renovation, the Hôtel Saint James Paris is now a hotel très particulier, its 48 large rooms and suites—plus a pair of three-story apartments in the gatehouse pavilions—completely redesigned in an exuberant, eccentric and irreverent style christened “crazy chic”.

The widow of former French president Adolphe Thiers built the elegant neoclassic building with its enclosed garden in 1892, in a residential area of the 16th arrondissement that had once been a hot-air balloon field. The mansion was a residence for scholarship students of the Thiers Foundation until 1985, when it became the Paris bastion of the Saint James Club, an English gentlemen’s club. Partly transformed into a minimalist modern hotel in the 1990s, it was bought in 2008 by the owners of the Left Bank’s Hôtel Relais Christine, who hired Franco-American decorator Bambi Sloan to begin its radical makeover in 2010.

In rooms inspired by Empress Elizabeth of Austria, legendary Parisian decorator Madeleine Castaing, Chinese porcelain or English gentlemen (Harris tweed-covered walls, corduroy armchairs with leather elbow patches), lush fabrics mix with flea-market furnishings. Plush carpets imitate black-and-white château stone floors or herringbone parquet. Bathroom tiles have migrated from the Paris Métro. Leopard patterns and hot-air balloons pop up everywhere. And the monumental black-and-white lobby is a tribute to My Fair Lady.

The original wood-paneled library—now the bar—remains untouched, and is still open daily to Saint James Club members, as are the spa, gym, restaurant and garden terrace. (The restaurant is open to the public for dinner only, the bar Mon–Sat, 7 pm–midnight.)

43 ave Bugeaud, 16th, Métro: Porte Dauphine. Doubles from €370.

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of France Today