05/16/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Beautiful Boutique Hotels In Paris: If You Can't Go, Consider Stealing The Decorating Ideas

Once you have a kid, you make overnight flights less often. And when you do make them, your destination is not some cushy hotel, it's an apartment -- for less money, you get twice the room, plus a kitchen.

Parisian Hideaways: Exquisite Rooms in Enchanting Hotels is a book of dreams in our house. If we open any of its 30 picture-and-text spreads, off we go into a world far removed from mini-vans and Blackberries and politicians spouting crazy talk. Instead, we're lolling on an exquisite bed, sipping a cocktail at the bar, primping in an unspeakably stylish bathroom. It's enough to make us feel immoral, just for looking -- how can you luxuriate in excess while they're starving and homeless in [fill in the blank]?

Do I feel guilty about enjoying myself -- even in dreams -- while others suffer? Don't ask. But I wouldn't file "Parisian Hideaways" under "hotel porn" so quickly. A book of dreams can also be a book of ideas.

It is the core belief of this site that there is absolutely no reason why we can't live more elegant lives, right here in the US of A. But as Wittgenstein pointed out, the limits of language are the limits of life. If you can't say it, you can't think it. Ditto for images. You can't sketch what you didn't see.

Well, you won't see rooms like this in the decorating displays in Home Depot.

Casey O'Brien Blondes -- who last produced French Country Hideaways: Vacationing At Private Chateaus & Manors in Rural France -- has done the dirty, backbreaking work of visiting every upscale, "boutique" hotel in Paris, culling thirty of them, and interviewing the proprietors. Then Beatrice Amagat swept in and photographed the rooms, lobbies, bars and terraces.

It would be quite the achievement for the text of such a book to be as evocative as the photographs. Ms Blondes, smartly, is not poetic; she just reports and describes. It's enough.

At the Chateaubriand, five antiques dealers were enlisted to find the furniture. An American film executive sends over unreleased DVDs. Breakfast is served on Limoges.

At L'Hotel -- once a faded rose, where Oscar Wilde died -- there's now a dramatic six-story rotunda in the foyer and a private dipping pool and hamman, or Turkish bath.

The owners of Le Placide are obsessed with details. The Post-It notes are translucent, the key rings are bejeweled, the laundry bag is unbleached cotton. There are only eleven rooms, so they can afford, when you leave, to replace your duvet cover with a new, biodegradable one.

Azzedine Alaia created a guest house for "friends and friends of friends." It's 5, rue de Moussy, and if you like polished cement floors (heated, of course) and Havana thongs instead of terrycloth slippers, do try to qualify.

Christian Lacroix did the decorating at Hotel du Petit Moulin, and it's wild. Traditional, yes, but the colors are super-modern. On the wall above the bed, you might find a collage: a star hurtling toward a distant planet. Or women in color-drenched 19th century frocks.

General offers "six supplements from omega-3 to anti-age and bronzing boosters" at breakfast. On the toilet paper roll is a red sticker. The couch pillows might be covered in shag.

I noted with pleasure the bookshelves at Relais Saint-Germain, set next to the owner's trendy restaurant, Le Comptoir. Stay in the hotel, get a reservation -- it's like that.

The book ends with the San Regis. It's just off the Champs Elysees. You'd never know it. Much of the furniture comes from the owner's home. "My father likes to live with things until he decides the right place for them at the hotel," says his son.

Along the way: enough ideas for new bedding, couches and chairs, wall treatments and lighting to fuel half a dozen decorating projects.

Just looking at this book takes you so far from Kansas.

[Cross-posted from]