Jacques Hervouet Interiors Radically Remakes a Classic Paris Apartment
When the owner of this three-bedroom apartment on Paris’s Left Bank hired Jacques Hervouet to redecorate it, she avowed a profound desire for change. “She wanted it to be radically different, with nothing that reminded her of how it was before,” Hervouet recalls. He certainly took the client at her word: The 2,475-square-foot space had previously been designed in typical Napoleon III style, with chevron parquet, elaborate moldings, and little in the way of decorating flair. Hervouet recalls a traditional bathroom wrapped in Carrara marble, and
sofas “a little in the style of Christian Liaigre.”
With the help of architect Odile Burnod, Hervouet removed all the florid touches, re-dimensioned doorways, and merged the kitchen and dining room into one. As for the interior design, he devised some rather audacious schemes, the most intrepid of which was the entry hall,
its almost futuristic aesthetic inspired by the iconic sets of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Lacquered wall panels inscribed with large diamonds and fitted with vertical LED strips meet crisscross-motif wall-to-wall carpet, creating an effect that’s highly kinetic. “There’s something quasi-mystical about the result,” Hervouet asserts. “You feel almost as if you’re in a chapel.”
Despite her desire for wholesale reinvention, the client, a businesswoman and former doctor, did
request one anachronism. She
insisted Hervouet integrate a family heirloom into the new design: a
mahogany square piano dating from 1795. Hervouet, who found a spot for it in the entry, liked the idea of mixing something classical into such an avant-garde environment. The request also appealed to his love of music. He started playing the piano at age five and once considered embarking on a professional career. “In some ways, I regret not having done so, because I love
being constantly bathed in music,” Hervouet says. “But I’m also quite happy I didn’t, because I get terrible stage fright.”
Hervouet’s life took a different path. He worked in advertising for a decade, during which time he rubbed shoulders with Charles Saatchi and worked on Kodak campaigns with photographers Jean-Paul Goude and Jean-Baptiste Mondino. Then, in 2005, he opened a decorative arts gallery on Paris’s Rue de l’Université, which specializes in the work of
Maison Jansen, midcentury Italian masters such as Gio Ponti and Ico Parisi, and French designers Paul Dupré-Lafon, Line Vautrin, and Marie-Claude de Fouquières, among others. Galerie Hervouet ultimately spawned a parallel decorating practice.
The interiors Hervouet creates generally have a number of commonalities—all in evidence here.
For one, he tends to avoid using curtains. “I hate them,” he declares. “In the best-case scenario, they’re acceptable and in the worst, they’re absolutely horrible. They’re never straight, and they absorb all the natural light.” Hervouet also prefers neutral-toned sitting rooms—“the places where you spend most of your time should not inspire visual fatigue”—but introduces bright pops of color in secondary spaces. And he loves integrating curves,
as witnessed by the living room’s vintage red-lacquered coffee table, custom sorcière mirror, and Federico Munari armchairs, not to mention the round motifs in the master bathroom. “For me, the circle represents completeness, softness, and perpetual renewal,” Hervouet says.
His inspiration for the opalescent master bath came from two sources. The first is a pair of bathrooms in the French Foreign Ministry—one in gold mosaic, the other in silver—
created in 1938 for a state visit by the British king and queen. The second is, quite simply, Japan. “The circle is central to Japanese cosmology, and I also wanted to reproduce the iridescence of the moon—a recurrent element in traditional etchings,” Hervouet explains. Another nod to Asia comes in the TV room, where he installed a panoramic wallpaper depicting China’s Yunnan mountains in India ink.
One of Hervouet’s constants is
to test the limits of good taste. “For me, true elegance implies a sense
of freedom,” he explains. Here, he papered the walls of the powder room with an oversized panther
motif, and there are humorous touches elsewhere. “In every room there should be something a little incongruous, to show you don’t take yourself too seriously,” he says. The living room’s Hubert Le Gall floor lamp, with its base in the form of
an elongated bird, certainly conjures a smile. In the master bedroom, meanwhile, an anthropomorphic Olivier Mourgue chaise longue reposes in close proximity to a drawing of a naked John Lennon viewed from behind.
The late pop star appears to be looking over his shoulder toward the bed, which sits on a freeform sky-blue rug and sports a cover whose tropical motif evokes Gauguin paintings. Above it a
Royère Liane light fixture, reminiscent of a climbing plant, clings to the wall. “I wanted my client to
feel as if she was in the sky or on
a Pacific Island,” Hervouet notes. Wherever she’s transported when she lies down to rest, one thing is for sure: It’s a world away from the apartment she knew before.
Project Team: Sarah de Beaumont: Stylist; Odile Burnod Architectes: Architect.