Crystal clear: Villa Rene Lalique

Portfolio visits a hotel that is truly in a glass of its own


When I was a girl, I was fascinated by Cinderella's glass slipper. How could something so delicate and everyday as glass become a shoe strong enough and beautiful enough for a princess?

Forty years on, during a visit to Villa Rene Lalique in Alsace, I finally understood.

Lalique is a byword for quality glassware, the pinnacle of French luxury and style, and every second of the company's 130-year-old history has been put into making its founder's old home in Wingen-sur-Moder into an elegant, refined hotel fit for the 21st century – a Tesla charger sits in the grounds, along with a heliport.

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First appearances are deceptive. The Belle Epoque villa, which was built by Rene Lalique in 1921, close to where his glassmaking factory still stands, is an unassuming if pretty building: a half-timbered, red-roofed house surrounded by Vosges woodland. The sloping roof is built to shrug off Alsatian snowy winters, while the gables and blue shutters remind you of the German links to this area - after a chequered past, the neighbours now regularly pop in on each other, working in one country and living in the other.

Step inside, however, and you are transported into world of chic, understated sophistication that would not go amiss in Knightsbridge or Park Avenue. Rene Lalique's motto for his work was: "Better to seek beauty than flaunt luxury" and this underpins the interior design of Lady Tina Green and Pietro Mingarelli. The villa is furnished in timeless classic black and ivory, each piece bespoke Lalique Maison inspired by the glassmaker's original motifs – the beautiful art-deco Spirit of the Wind quietly decorates the black-lacquered arms of the Femme Aileen victoire fauteuils. Vintage family photographs on the wall and soft, plush sofas make you feel as if you're stepping into a home rather than a luxury hotel.

There are only only six rooms, each of them suites and named and themed after a Rene Lalique design, the only exception being the Zeila, which is a tribute to the panther created by his granddaughter, Marie-Claude, in 1989. Portfolio stayed in the refined Masque de Femme duplex which, at 715.8sq-ft, is the largest on offer, starting with a lounge on the second floor and stairs leading up to two double bedrooms, mirror images of each other, on the third. Lalique crystal highlights rather than dominates the room, with the famous Masque de Femme motif a subtle subtext to the main theme of comfort and relaxation. Flatscreen TVs sit organically on top of black ebony sideboards, as one with the art deco design despite the years that separate their two styles.

A trip to the Musee Lalique in the town offered further insight into the designer, from his delicate jewellery and graceful perfume bottles to the monumental Sources de France fountain. Nearby sits Villa Rene Lalique's newborn baby sister, the Chateau Hochberg, a boutique 15-room hotel featuring a modern brasserie under the watch of local chef Jerome Schilling. A shuttle service runs between the two, allowing guests to enjoy the culinary delights of each hotel.

Back in my room and enjoying a beer from the free minibar, I settled down to enjoy the views over the woodland while listening to music via the Jean Michel Jarre-designed AeroSystem One sound system, a black crystal column the work of by 13 master glass-blowers, and only reluctantly did I move to prepare for dinner.

I need not have worried: the refined sumptuousness carried through into the Italian marble bathrooms, where I indulged in a long, luxurious bath – filled via a waterfall tap and smelling of Chopard bath salts – before stepping into the giant shower. The fittings, co-designed by Lalique and THG Paris, echo the suite's motif.

Downstairs, we stopped in the piece de resistance of the main lounge – a magnificent black lacquer bar decorated with a Masque de Femme cabochon. Pride of place goes to a sparkling display cabinet filled with Lalique carafes produced in tandem with the likes of such renowned distilleries such as The Macallan, Hardy, De La Tour and Patron. I imagine Jay Gatsby had a similar display in his own home.

However, it pales compared to the outstanding Mario Botta-designed wine cellar, featuring forests of Vosges oak and a pristine granite floor to ensure the right temperature for its 20,000 bottles, prices rising to €28,000 (£24,000). In charge of them all is Romain Iltis, a former Meilleur Sommelier de France and the Meilleur Ouvrier de France for 2015. There is a rich harvest of Alsatian wines and we sipped on a majestic, noble riesling and a pinot noir filled with fruit and charm. We were also introduced to the jewel in the crown of Alsace's high-quality sparking wines: the Cremant d'Alsace, a fresh, crisp, elegant fizz that is eminently quaffable (much more, to my mind, than its upstart rival, prosecco).

With these delights still dancing on our tastebuds, we were taken along a glass walkway to the modern part of the hotel, the flagship restaurant which seats 40 diners, a haven of calm also designed by Botta. But this is no carbuncle: a plant-covered roof and four glazed walls pay homage to Lalique's fauna muse and celebrate the beauty of the surroundings. Lalique crystal and crockery shine, accentuated with stylish touches such as Christophe serviette rings, while a dazzling display of Windfall chandeliers, each a hundred individually hung pieces of Lalique crystal, add a majestic Belle Epoque feel, aided by the music of Erik Satie in the background. Even handbags and manbags are given their own stools to sit on.

Here, chef Jean-Georges Klein presides over a two Michelin-star menu of culinary genius. We were treated to the Creation menu, a well-executed eight-course riot of colours and tastes. Of particular note was the sole roasted in beurre noisette, with a spruce bud vinaigrette and a compote of citron and kumquat – if I had been at home, I would have picked up the plate and licked it – and the soft, succulent brioche-crusted roe deer loin.

After a night spent in crisp linen sheets, I built up an appetite for breakfast with a walk in the woodland, birdsong breaking through the quiet stillness, before enjoying delicate pastries in the small, intimate dining room by the lounge.

Driving back to the airport, I took a last look at the villa in its fairytale forest setting and its beautiful crystal and glass designs. She knew a thing or two about style and luxury, did Cinderella.

Villa Rene Lalique, 18 Rue Bellevue, 67290 Wingen-sur-Moder, France. Weekend prices for rooms start from €380 (£330) per night for two people. Chateau Hochberg, 2 Rue du Château Teutsch, 67290 Wingen-sur-Moder, France. Rooms start from €140 per night for two people at the weekend.

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