When you walk through the doors of the newly renovated Carlton Hotel, what first hits you is the light —the light and the space.
The cramped lobby of the old Carlton, with its low ceiling and narrow corridor between check- in desk and concierge, has given way to a vast open area, brightly lit by the Mediterranean sun streaming in through the banks of south-facing windows. The ceiling looks miles away.
Cannes-born interior designer Tristan Auer, famed for his restoration of the Hotel de Crillon in Paris and the redesign of the London Four Seasons, has gutted the entrance area, ripping out mid-century “improvements” to reveal the original high-vaulted design from 1911 by Carlton architect Charles Dalmas in all its belle epoque glory. Decades-old layers of paint slathered on the center columns have been stripped away, revealing the mottled marble underneath. Local artisans have painstakingly restored long-hidden, and faded, ceiling mosaics using archival photos as a reference. The petal-pink Venini chandeliers, diffusing and softening that southern light, add a modern touch.
Staff in Grace Kelly-inspired outfits — a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 classic To Catch a Thief that featured the future Princess of Monaco as a cat burglar preying on the Carlton’s wealthy patrons — wait in a discreet alcove on the left, while the new concierge stands behind a curved desk of white raku ceramic.
The reception area proper is farther back, in another sun-drenched room overlooking the Carlton’s new garden courtyard (more on that later). Encased in glass beneath the reception desk is the distinctive red clay powder familiar to French Open tennis fans worldwide. It’s another nod to hotel history: The red clay was first used on the Carlton’s own tennis courts in 1926 for the “match of the century” between French star Suzanne Lenglen and her American rival, Helen Wills. (Lenglen won, and the Carlton now has a suite named in her honor.)
Auer and architect Richard Lavelle, who oversaw the renovations, have kept the Carlton’s legendary two-domed front and its signature Riviera Restaurant, whose raised terrace again will be the spot to see and be seen at this year’s festival. Additions include a new cocktail bar — Bar °58 — set back from the lobby (the old bar area has been converted into a tea lounge with its own “tea master” to recommend infusions); Rüya, a Turkish-themed restaurant; and a new fitness and spa complex called The C Club, which includes a full-size boxing ring.
But the true transformation is in the rear of the building. What used to be a dreary parking lot has been enclosed and reimagined as 215,000 square feet of lush, landscaped garden, with sleek sunbathing decks, handcrafted cabanas and a glittery infinity pool. Framing the garden are two new wings with 37 luxury apartment-style residences, ranging in size from around 900 to more than 5,000 square feet. All residences have full access to hotel amenities. All this luxury, naturally, will cost you. Rooms at the “reborn” Carlton Hotel start at 1,200 euros ($1,300) a night, rising to 50,000 euros ($55,000) a night for the new penthouse suite, which includes 5,381 square feet of living space and a 5,381-square-foot private rooftop with a view that might actually justify the price.
This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.