Studio CMP Reinvents a Once-Tired Parisian Apartment as a Contemporary, Artful Oasis
Charlotte Macaux Perelman normally likes to respect the history of the spaces she transforms. “There’s always a soul, something to preserve,” the French architect and interior designer explains. “I like to take inspiration from what I find.” There is, however, an exception to every rule, and what interested her about a 2,200-square-foot Paris apartment, directly overlooking Parc Monceau, was precisely the fact that there was nothing to salvage. “It was so contorted, I was certain everything had to be demolished,” the principal of Studio CMP recalls.
The former owner had lived there more than four decades, redecorating different rooms at different times, each in the fashion of the specific period. “It was all over the place stylistically,” Macaux Perelman remarks. The master bedroom sported a ’70s-style mezzanine with a large freeform brown leather sofa and huge silver balls. The entry hall was a sort of homage to ’80s Memphis, with a black marble triangle in the middle of the floor and an Egyptian bust posited on a pedestal. The sitting room was covered with coffered panelling, and running throughout the apartment were long, narrow corridors with ceiling trapdoors and retractable ladders for access to a cramped second level above. “It was very strange,” she says. “A little like the movie Being John Malkovich.”
For Macaux Perelman, the project was the biggest demolition job she had ever carried out. “Nothing was left in place,” she reports. “Not a floor, not a wall, not a ceiling.” Well, almost nothing: Demo work exposed a ceiling with majestic moldings that had been hidden behind plain plaster panels. Although the overhead decorative work was painted brown and covered with dirt, Macaux Perelman decided to celebrate it by modifying her original plan, which had included a number of reception rooms. In their place, the designer created a large open living space, tailored specifically to the ceiling’s dimensions. The sitting area at one end is separated from the austerely geometric eat-in kitchen at the other by nothing more than a pair of oak shelving units, each of which incorporates something of a technical marvel: a sliding door that operates without the support of a rail. “An incredibly complex mechanism is hidden inside,” the architect explains. “There are few craftsmen who could have created them.”
For the past 20 years, Macaux Perelman has developed a career on both sides of the Atlantic. She initially worked for Philippe Starck and hospitality guru André Balazs before setting up her own firm in 2005. Three-plus years ago, she was also appointed co-artistic director of the French luxury housewares group Hermès Maison, Puiforcat, and Saint-Louis. “She has a sharp eye and tends toward a very pared-down aesthetic,” notes Hermès overall creative director, Pierre-Alexis Dumas. Her style is certainly quite recognizable. She favors white walls, clean lines, a rigorous architectural approach, and natural materials, especially oak and marble—all in evidence here. “She is the queen of details, which are often imperceptible but make all the difference,” adds the owner of this apartment. “There is a sense of perfection in everything she does.”
The clients are firm fans of art. He is the grandson of an antiques dealer; she formerly worked in the legal department of a well-known art foundation. For Macaux Perelman, the works the couple have in their apartment introduce a form of fantasy. They include photographs by Vik Muniz and Philip-Lorca diCorcia and sculptures by Vassilakis Takis in the living area; a Bernard Frize painting in the entry hall; and two large colorful canvases in the style of Roy Lichtenstein by Russian artist Stepan Krasnov, which “impart vitality and a good spirit,” according to the clients.
In contrast, many of the furnishings are typified by a certain restraint: a pair of Christian Liaigre sofas, an Isamu Noguchi table, India Mahdavi stools, and numerous pieces from the Hermès Maison collections, among them the bronze Aes coffee table designed by Barber & Osgerby and a pair of Rafael Moneo’s Oria chairs. There is one space, however, where Macaux Perelman decided to let loose: In the powder room, the walls are painted in bright-colored, angular geometrics. “I always allow myself a bit of freedom in decorating WCs,” she admits. “It’s somewhere you can have a bit of fun aesthetically.” The intervention may be bold, but the owners would have it no other way. “We love the idea of entering a completely different world,” the wife says. “Our guests always come out with little smiles of wonder on their faces.”
Project Team: Marion Piednoel, Alice Desdoigts, Kim Haddou: Studio CMP. Orégon: Structural Engineer. Moveis Mendes: Woodwork. Entreprise Guimaraes: Marble Contractor. Entreprise Andre: General Contractor.