Online | Interiors

Off Centre

Paris, France

A Parisian pied-a-terre for a gallery owner sees architect Maxime Bousquet deliver a project that is both surprising and sophisticated

It is a fine thing when an interior space is designed around its owner’s art collection, but this Parisian apartment isn’t about huge statement paintings or the grand gesture of a boldly scaled photograph that overpower and draw all the attention when you walk into a room. Instead, the art here is on a smaller scale, allowing the rooms to breathe and create a beautiful balance. You need to look closer to appreciate the detail, whether that is the François Eberl portrait stacked on a ledge above the bed, offset asymmetrically for an idiosyncratic touch; or the mushroom sculpture by Hamish Pearch in the living room, which twists and spills out of its own bespoke wall-nook.

The interiors of this pied-a-terre are the work of architect Maxime Bousquet. Commissioned for the homeowner, a gallery owner, it is a two-floor, one-bedroom space on the Left Bank’s Quai de la Tournelle, facing Notre Dame: the 17th-century building is “very Parisian, and very Rive Gauche” says Bosquet. The space he inherited “lacked grandeur and finesse. We needed to add allure, and tell a story,” he says.

Once an apartment and a studio, Bousquet united the two properties, requiring significant structural works, and stripped the whole place back to a shell, so everything you see today is his work. Now, the ground floor contains the main living areas, with a kitchen-diner-living area and a lushly planted courtyard (the latter backed with a wall of mottled green tiles that cleverly deceive the eye that the greenery goes on ad infinitum).

Up the staircase – a feature in its own right, with a bespoke metal bookcase – is a living room and bedroom. The bookcase continues into the living room, sitting against a bottle-green wall that echoes the colour of Paris’s bouquinistes magazine-sellers’ cabins: the richer palette on the upper level was also inspired by a Georges Braques painting that Bousquet came across in Madrid while the project was on site.

As for the art, Bousquet says that “my client had a big collection to start with; we chose together what we would use for this project. We bought a lot too, from the Puces de Saint Ouen in Paris, and lots of auction houses.” The art includes a piece by Tanja Nis-Hansen, which hangs above a mid-20th-century parchment bar cabinet by Aldo Tura (sourced from the marché Paul Bert Serpette); and a painting by Issy Wood given pride of place above the fireplace, adjacent to those Hamish Pearch mushrooms.

Sometimes, art and functionality combine in delightful ways, such as the tentacle-like custom handles designed by avant-garde design duo Superpoly used in the bedroom and dressing room, and the rock-like floor lamps by André Cazenave in the dining room.

The kitchen is all angular, monolithic travertine and stainless steel, while the dining room’s table and chairs by mid-20th-century Finnish designer Olavi Hanninen have a more modern rustic feel. The bedroom is also softer, encased in oak-edged linen wall panels, while the bathroom is a sensual riot of red tiles and complementary Rouge du Languedoc marble, with bespoke relief panels by Romain Sarrot that bulge out of their wall niches. There is also a great attention to surface materials throughout, from Max Lamb’s engineered marble, Marmoreal, to the oak flooring upstairs that mirrors an exposed-timber beamed ceiling above it.

The main challenge in this project, according to Bousquet, was “was to create fluidity in the different spaces,” but nonetheless he has not been afraid to give different rooms sharply defined – and entirely charming – personalities of their own.