Where is it? On a quiet corner in the artsy old quarter of Le Marais, Paris, a few steps from the neighbour-hood's bars, cafes, art galleries and shops, the pretty Place des Vosges and the Picasso and Carnavalet museums, the latter illustrating the history of Paris. It was the Marais' mixture of old and new that attracted French haute couturier Christian Lacroix to take on the design of this boutique hotel, which is decorated with his signature flamboyance. If it's in France it must have a history, right? More than history, this 17th-century building has a story. It was built on the site of a bakery, said to be the oldest in Paris, and legend has it author Victor Hugo used to buy his bread there. The facade is preserved as a monument and the adjoining building that now forms the other half of the hotel has graced more than a few sepia-tinted postcards. Contemporary or traditional? One could say both, although the unusual decor almost defies classification. The interiors are slightly crooked, with off-kilter perspectives; the layout of each floor is labyrinthine and Lacroix has described the rooms as 'foetal-style refuges'. Vestiges of the 17th century include a natural wooden staircase offset by white, pebble-dashed walls. Tell us more. Lacroix's penchant for mixing eras and styles in his fashion collections comes into full, exhilarating bloom in what is the first hotel project of his career (he has signed on to decorate two more). In keeping with the designer's bold vision, the hotel is a kaleidoscope of colours (above right), textures and moods, each room radically different from the next, yet all sharing a look that screams, 'This isn't the Holiday Inn!' So the rooms must be beyond luxe? In tribute to the paradoxes of the Marais - the quarter houses everything from contemporary art to vintage fashion, from ancient maisons particuliers to slick cafes - Lacroix decided to use each of the hotel's 17 rooms to reflect the many moods of the area. Each is personalised by the view it affords, the height of its ceiling and its location within the hotel. Lacroix finished the rooms with everything from antique and panoramic wallpapers to brocade, velvet, damask, leather and fur; floors are wooden, tiled or carpeted, with colours ranging from gold to fluorescent green. The artwork is equally graphic: baroque, rococo, op art, zen ... it's all here. Not even the hotel's public areas have been spared Lacroix's exuberance: the almond-green reception looks like an old cake shop and the salon is lacquered in aubergine. What's on the menu? Unfortunately the hotel does not have a restaurant. There is, however, a private bar decorated to look like a period street cafe (above left). With its zinc counter, yellow and pink Edwardian-meets-60s furnishings and Mondrian wall panel, the bar is unique. Anything else? The hotel offers all the modern comforts you'd expect in a four-star property: air-conditioning, LCD flat-screen TV, mini-bar and wireless internet connection - which you'll need to e-mail friends with the photographs you'll take of your spectacular room. And the bottom line? Comfort rooms cost Euro180 ($1,800) a night; superior rooms Euro250; junior suites Euro280; deluxe rooms Euro350. L'Hotel du Petit Moulin, 29 rue de Poitou, 75003, Paris, tel: 33 1 4274 1010. See www.hoteldupetitmoulin.com .