Paris-based Rodolphe Parente, the designer of this 350m² apartment in – possibly – the most photographed area in the world (it is sandwiched between the Seine river, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe), has been responsible for the interior fit-out of various retail spaces for the likes of Dior, Oscar Ono, and Armani.
Much of his work references art deco, re-imagining the style away from its heavy and imposing 1920s’ airport feel and into somewhere between bohemian Paris and the photogenic Aesop store aesthetic.
For this apartment, the much-sought-after interior designer continued his theme with added subtlety imposed on him by his client’s requirements and the heritage structure in which this home resides.
Parente was commissioned by a couple in their 30s, who, along with their three children and art and furniture collection, needed an abode that “didn’t feel like a museum”.
“We decided to place together the masterpieces of their collection with the idea of creating a friendly atmosphere, and also to engender surprise in discovering the pieces from another point of view,” says Parente. The designer built upon the original interior detailing: intricate, ornamental mouldings based on floral and geometric motifs; Chinese-inspired pediments; parquet flooring; tall windows and enviable natural light.
Parente: “We didn’t want to destroy the historical mouldings and wall panelling so we changed the main flow and used these spaces to hide basic functionalities.”
So, along the way, the designer placed the cooking facilities behind bespoke cabinetry. A kitchen counter was designed to act as a focal point. It is built in three layers, all using various materials like marble and brushed copper. The dishwasher, storage cupboards and electronics are hidden there creating what Parente calls a “functional sculpture” – full of lines, materials and motifs repeated throughout the apartment.
Marble has been used throughout,“the walls and ceilings are painted in a way that they make you think about raw porcelain biscuit… the china cabinet in stained brushed walnut, the headboard of the bed in natural silk, the shelves for the bathroom furniture are also based on this harmony of materials”, and are all made-to-measure pieces of furniture designed by Parente.
The apartment has moments of classical beauty, such as in the bathroom. “I tried to design a hotel suite for the master bedroom. The bathroom is connected with a large dressing table for madame and monsieur with invisible shelves. But I keep the same materials I have chosen in the rest of the apartment to express the same atmosphere,” says Parente. There are marble surfaces, some with brass veins, to reflect the natural light that streams in from a silk-curtained window.
Likewise, there are contemporary spaces, such as in the library and main living room, where a colour scheme goes from grape to pink to grey and drives a more forward-thinking concept.
The strength of this apartment is as much in its detailing and materiality as it is in its chaos. The designer claims that an attempt to create comfort meant restraint from over-designing and allowing natural textures (on couches and velvet on bedroom walls) to complement the more regal materials used elsewhere.
The modern and old elements here, with muted materials and strong furnishings, all create a delightful tension.
“I tried to create a dialogue between made-to-measure furniture, masterpieces, art gallery pieces and catalogue pieces. It’s my job!” says Parente.