Travel has becoming increasingly hectic, mundane, and less of a leisurely joy. The train operator Eurostar had this in mind when it commissioned Softroom to design a new lounge for premium business travelers within the busy Gare du Nord in Paris.
Opened in 1864, Gare du Nord is now the busiest railway station in Europe. Both inside and around its perimeter, the station is teeming with people and activity. Eurostar—operating since 1994 to connect Paris to Brussels, London, and other European
cities—wanted its lounge to be a place of calm respite compared to the station’s overall scene. Working with a portion of the building that was used as a hotel years ago, with small rooms off of a corridor, Softroom opened it up to create a lounge with a variety of seating areas. The inviting, luxurious interior is designed to feel more like a spacious Parisian apartment or hotel lobby than a train station waiting area.
“We wanted to deliver a wow factor with a design that understood customer needs, and considered flow and function as well as ambiance,” says Rachel Casey, the product development manager for Eurostar who worked closely with Softroom on the lounge.
Connected to Paris, yet ready to depart
London-based Softroom, led by Christopher Bagot, created a lounge that enables passengers to still feel connected to the city that they are departing—as opposed to an airport far removed from a city—making the most of views overlooking both Rue de Dunkerque and the trains themselves. “The lounge is designed to give a sense of still being in Paris,” Bagot says.
Bagot and Eurostar understood that passengers—who would quickly want to find food, drink, and a place to sit—needed an intuitive lounge experience. Softroom pulled off a design trick: “The design accommodates a large number of people without feeling crowded; never a sense of too many people or furnishings,” says Bagot.
“Although seating capacity was important, we didn’t want to turn it into a waiting room with rows and rows of seats,” Casey says. “The design understands that no business customer is the same, nor do they have the same needs every time they travel.”
Softroom created 15 different seating areas, allowing customer choice for different moods and times of day, with quieter, private nooks tucked away on the sides compared to the more public central areas. Near the center, a round bar with a black Pyrolave top is both a visual focal point and social hub. The bar itself is sunken about 18 inches under the floor so that bartenders are standing but guests are seated at chairs—Beetle chairs by Gubi—rather than barstools. This way, the bar does not overwhelm the interior.
Crafted with curated classics
Underfoot, a new oak chevron floor is a nod to Parisian apartments. French limestone walls with hints of blue and brass details subtly refer to Eurostar’s blue and yellow brand colors. A long blue velvet sofa was custom-designed by Softroom as a variation on the train station waiting bench. Built-in bench seating—clad in leather or in velvet—allow for many places to sit without being obtrusive. Custom tables were designed with both power and USB outlets, as well as wireless charging. Softroom selected a mix of beautiful chairs, including Tre Pezzi by Cassina and a few classics designed by Jean Prouvé, such as Cité, Salon, and Fauteuil Direction. “[Prouvé’s] approach to engineering and design is appropriate for the station,” says Bagot.
The lighting scheme, designed by London-based Cinimod Studio, features both functional and elegant fixtures—multiple layers of task, ambient, and decorative light—that further the varied, residential feel. While soft, diffuse, and non-directional fittings have been installed to designate areas of stationary use, striking sculptural lighting is used for wayfinding and to portray movement. A series of custom ‘tracks’ of luminaires over the main corridor appear like train tracks on the ceiling.
“Every aspect of the lighting began by considering how the historic location defined the new use, and how we could redefine the context to influence the more bespoke lighting elements,” says Leah Xandora, lighting designer at Cinimod Studio. “It’s re-envisioning what train travel could mean in today’s world, while harkening back to the glamour and luxury of train travel in previous eras.”
who Architect and interior designer: Softroom. Project team: Chistopher Bagot. Local executive architect: Househam Henderson. Lighting designer: Cinimod Studio. Project team: Leah Xandora. Contractor: Ateliers Normand. Consultants: Pt Projects. Engineering: E&M Tecnica. Kitchen: SHW Design.
what Paint: Dulux. Walls: Artisans of Devizes; Strata; Surfaceform; DuPont; Altro; Catnic; Solus Ceramics; Creative Wave. Surfacing: British Gypsum; Gyproc; Still Acoustics; Rockwool; Schluter; Venesta; Original Chapel Parket. Doors: Dupont. Hardware: FSB; Ize; Allgood; Dorma; Mortice; Digi; Rimex. Flooring: Original Chapel Parket; Artisans of Devizes; Altro; Mutina; Schlüter; Gradus. Carpet/carpet tile: Object Carpet.