The Infantile Disorder of the Decor
There is as large a diversity of tastes as there is of colors.
One of the most significant corollaries of the guest experience in a charming hotel is its aesthetic vector. A large segment of travelers usually put on a pedestal the kind of hospitality remarkable for the expressive substance of their accommodation rather than for the essence of their hosting. Or, what is the same, the hospitality is judged according to a canonical and stereotypical image of the underlying charm of hotels where the guests spend their pleasant nights. At the slightest questioning of their uncritical attitude, everyone, hoteliers and guests alike, defend their love of the theatrical by using the color chart for an orthodox design or even a literary essay about aesthetics. There is as large a diversity of tastes as there is of colors.
I have just read a biography of French perfumer Serge Lutens, who warns that although a lot has been written about taste, very little has been read. The author of Féminité du Bois, and architect of Shiseido fragrances, is currently selling no less than 27 exclusive perfumes customized in flacons with the initials of each buyer, at his headquarter of the Palais Royal in Paris. Of course, these bottles can not be purchased anywhere. Each of them offers an evening atmosphere, a winged mystery, ignorant of olfactory pyramids and nasal recipes. Lutens is achieving right now the culmination of an entire life dedicated to the acquiring of knowledge about art through the senses.
Born 74 years ago in Lille, in northern France, Serge Lutens was always sensitive to beauty and a dreamer since his childhood. At only 20 years old, because he was invited to collaborate closely with Vogue magazine, he moved to Paris. Then Christian Dior proposed to him the creation of their first makeup line and the development of a new aesthetic concept that would push this firm into the elite of art and fashion. The young artist accepted: he mixed textures and colors offering women a new opportunity to assert themselves through cosmetics.
In the seventies, Lutens experimented with painting, photography and movies, one of which, Les Stars (1974), was selected at the Cannes and Berlin festivals. In 1980, he returned successfully to the world of luxury cosmetics, designing some fragrances for Shiseido, including Nombre Noir. His contributions, at some distance from the dictates of industry and large-scale commercialization, triggered an explosion of exquisite perfumes, which explored unfathomable scents until then: cyprus, amber, vetiver, violet, vanilla…
His repertoire reaches the riskiest sprays, the most twisted evanescences, the unfading memories of oriental spices: Ambre Sultan, Fleur d’Oranger, Chergui... Thousands of aromas, thousands of essential outbursts, thousands of expansive volumetries… All of them in farfetched quartz, in pure Lalique crystal jars… «What bothers and dazzles me is what actually motivates me”, said the creator.
All this would last until his ripe age dictated a necessary pause in his creations. And then from his hardened marrows emerged L’Eau, a fragrance conceived as olfactory pause that did not resemble the intense oriental ingredients that identified the perfumes of his youth. L’Eau, the pause, quickly was dubbed the anti-perfume. The non-perfume.
«I reacted against the overloaded environment, which doesn’t allow one to identify the odors in the olfactory magma in which we live; L’Eau is a white shirt on a clean body; it is the smell of a freshly ironed pillow cover; is the comfort of a good night’s sleep”, explains Lutens.
Yes, about tastes there is much written, we’re seeing cited that still. Plastic texts, onerous reflections, and intellectual tests as they were quoted in the pamphlet penned by the father of twentieth-century architecture, Adolf Loos, entitled Ornament and Crime. Now, reading Serge Lutens, I think boutique hotels which exude an overload of decoration do not deserve to be branded as criminals, nor therefore deserve the derision of the architects.
More than a crime, the vain ornamentation of these hotels is attributable to that sin of youth which impels hotel designers and decorators to react with hyperbole all the lack of identity suffered by those who have not yet reached a serene age. More than a crime, ornamentation is a childhood disease that is cured with age. Apparently, our hotels already need a pause. An ethereal, aquatic, evanescent estrus to update their past charms. And a mature reflection leading, as Lutens did, to the anti-perfume, the freshly pressed pillow smell of non-decoration.