With additional reporting by Tal McThenia.
In 2016, the Hotel Ritz in Paris emerged from a comprehensive four-year renovation and rejuvenation. With hundreds of rooms, and scores of public lounges, bars, and restaurants filled to the hilt with gilt, this left its current owners with a hoarder’s treasure trove of lovely, decommissioned objets—from curtains to carpets to canapé plates to cabinetry. When similar changes have occurred recently in prominent American interiors—for example, the Philip Johnson-designed Four Seasons restaurant in Mies van der Rohe’s landmark Seagram building in New York City, or Barbra Streisand’s New York apartment—the old dross was auctioned off. So wildly successful were these events that the Parisians have decided to get in on the action. Now (actually right now, starting April 17 and running through April 21) you can bid on much of what made the Ritz ritzy. (The hotel’s name is indeed the etymological source of the adjective, you know.)
Founded by famed Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz and famed French chef Auguste Escoffier in the late 19th century—following the success and debacle of their work together opening the Savoy in London, and then being forced out due to some malfeasance involving the embezzling of valuable booze—the hotel at 15 Place Vendôme represented the pinnacle of elegance. It has catered to the wealthy and well-connected from the Gilded Age, Jazz Age, Jet Set, and Dot-Com Boomers, and on through, well, the new gilded age. Such luminaries as Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway, Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Truman Capote stayed there.
We’ve scoured all 3,500 or so lots—an auction catalog that spans some 10,000 individual objects—and selected some of our favorites, a delightful combination of historically significant, Ritz significant, exclusive, or just plain oddball—many of which we would have in our own home, or cabinet of curiosities, to aid in our constant travel fantasies or five-star service cosplay. If you want to see everything and make your own choices, you can download the full catalog for the five-day sale here. Happy bidding.
Lot 9: “A pair of metal and marble torchères”
This pair of candelabra-carrying nymphs, who once welcomed guests in the lobby, are the most valuable artifact of the auction. €8,000–€10,000 (US$9,900–$12,400)
Lot 448: “The ‘first’ bathtub of the Ritz Paris”
The Ritz was among the first hotels to offer en-suite bathrooms, and this is among its first bathtubs. Some plumbing required. €1,500–€2,500 (US$1,900–$3,100)
Lot 3219: “A pair of wood carved decorative junks from the suite Mademoiselle C.”
From the suite of Coco Chanel, who made the Ritz home for decades, a trove of black and gold treasure is up for bid, including this pair of Chinese junks. €2,000–€3000 (US$2,500–$3,700)
Imagine your piebald pit bull rescue, curled up with a chew-toy in this Louis XVI–style dog bed that once belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. What could be more rock and roll? €600–€800 (US$1,900–$3,100)
“A rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world,” gushed Marcel Proust over asparagus, a vegetable so revered in France that it has its own plate. €100–€150 (US$125–$190)
Lot 354: “A set of bath towels”
You can no longer smuggle the Ritz’s classic peach robe, towels, and slippers out in your suitcase, but for a bid of several hundred euros, they can be yours. €300–€500 (US$370–$620)
Lot 2905: “A signpost from the Bar Hemingway”
In August 1944, Hemingway rushed into the Ritz to chase out the Nazis, who’d made it their air force headquarters. Finding the enemy already gone, he hung around and started guzzling martinis. €300–€400 (US$370–$500)
This handsome vessel will hold enough seafood for a whole party and make you the talk of summer. €800–€1,200 (US$1,000–$1,500)
Out of all the velvet up for auction—and trust us, there’s a lot—we’d most enjoy sinking into this pair of semi-circular sofas, which once graced a corner of the Bar Vendôme. €1,200–€1,500 (US$1,500–$1,900)
Wafting though salons and gardens, the chords of a harp have long been ubiquitous at the Ritz, a soothing cushion of sound . . . the velvet of music. €2,000–€3,000 (US$2,500–$3,700)
Teatime at the Ritz is a sumptuous affair. At the center of salon Proust, this marbletop table overflowed with madeleines of every variety, 18 hours in the making. €3,000–€4,000 (US$3,700–$5,000)
Your Ritz Paris fantasy playtime will not be complete without a pair of bejeweled call-button remotes on the bedside table. These are part of a set of brassy room accessories. €150–€200 (US$190–$250)