The top of the Neoclassical Hôtel d'Hallwyll in Paris hides a compelling secret: a 1990s apartment by the late Andrée Putman that’s been given a new lease of life by designer Marie-Anne Derville
Paris’ Le Marais district is a model of urban gentrification, but when interior decorator and creative director Marie-Anne Derville’s uncle bought the Hôtel d’Hallwyll at the tail end of the 1980s, the neighbourhood was still on the threadbare side. He had a passion for restoring abandoned 18th-century hôtels particuliers, though, and made the top-floor apartment of Hallwyll his home; more than 30 years later, he has entrusted it to Derville as her own place to live.
The designer, who worked under Pierre Yovanovitch for seven years before launching her own studio, had some fairly big shoes to fill: Derville’s uncle had employed his friend, the late, legendary French interior designer Andrée Putman, to oversee the decor of the apartment in the 1990s, and Derville had inherited a beautiful yet idiosyncratic one-bedroom home.
“It’s such a playful space, full of architectural surprises, totally anti-conformist,” says Derville, who admits that she was “overwhelmed” by taking on the project. She left alone Putman’s interventions – from the long metal mezzanine walkway that serves as a library to the cabin-like timber kitchen that opens on to a huge roof terrace. Putman’s bath, which sits on monumental ball feet under the steep eaves of the attic, was obviously going nowhere either.
“It would have been a crime to change the space itself,” says Derville. “The interior architecture is a piece of art, so there was nothing to change; I just added my things, and did my personal interior curation with art and furniture that matched perfectly the space – at least from my point of view.”
Some of her interventions include 1930s furniture by André Groult in the living room, sourced from the gallery of her friend Maxime Flatry; two 1990s chairs by Pierre Staudenmeyer from Ketabi Bourdet; and a photograph in the bedroom by another friend, Youssef Nabil, from Galerie Nathalie Obadia. Unsurprisingly the apartment has grown into something of a salon, where creative friends – gallery owners, decorators, designers, artists, publishers and writers – can get together.
Putman’s design can be quite high-low in its approach, marrying ‘ordinary’ honest materials and more luxurious touches, like the monumental dark chocolate-coloured marble fireplace here, flanked by a symmetrical pair of sloping architect’s desks. In this apartment it’s all made more extraordinary by the architecture of the Neoclassical building itself, which such as the gorgeous wrought-iron and stone staircase that leads up to the apartment. Derville feels that her personal style also has a contrasting approach: “I would say it’s a mix of classicism and modernity. It’s an extension of my personality. A sharp elegance with a twist of edge, of ‘rock’.
“It’s this dialogue between the past and today that interests me. It is fundamental for me to confront pieces of various times; this is my vision of style, the art of assembly, and of eclecticism.”
Would Putman approve of what she has done? “It’s a difficult question. Firstly I guess she would have smiled a lot to see how each person that comes into the space is fascinated by her architecture. I am full of admiration for her elegance and her visionary ability. About what I’ve done myself, as a scenographer, I guess she would have looked at the pieces with a lot of interest – because she was curious about everything. Most of all I feel very lucky to have been able to make my taste and my eye grow in such a fantastic architectural environment.”