Parisian architect Manuelle Gautrand first private interior project weaves a distinct-ly feminine thread through the 115m2 duplex apartment in Paris’s Marais district.
The ultimate objective was to maximise the flow of natural light through the space. The walls between rooms were removed and a play of volumes and voids takes full advantage of the windows on the eastern and western facades of a building that predates Haussmanian architecture by 200 years.
It’s a distinctly architectural approach to sculpting interior space. Manuelle Gautrand even drew a corridor of glass in the roof so the suns influence was at constant play throughout the year.
Distinct zones, each with it’s own material qualities make-up the ensemble: from a minimalist zen-like sleeping space under the roof, to a moody wood-panelled entrance.
The living space features a play of colourful relief and volumes that form the staircase and fireplace. An indoor planting cascades down a mezzanine wall underlining the importance of nature and its rhythms.
This is a strong architectural based design scheme aimed at making home in Paris feel more like a sunny vacation.
This colourful renovation of a Parisian apartment space successfully reunites the in-habitants with the rhythms of the day with and interior design scheme that is distinct-y architectural.
In Paris we can easily fall into darkness and a kind of disintegration with the elements of nature” cautions Manuelle Gautrand. “As someone who was raised in Marseille, I am particularly attached to the qualities of colour and natural light”.
Manuelle Gautrand, heads up the multiple award winning Paris based and eponymously named architectural practise with projects on several continents. They recently launched into designing interior spaces and were commissioned to remodel this 115 m2 apartment on the top two floors of one side of a ‘Hotel Particulier’ in Paris’s Marais district- a building that predates Haussmanian architecture by almost 200 years.
Manuelle Gautrand’s clients, a Paris based professional couple had lived in the apartment for many years with their two children who had since left home.
The apartment was heavily partitioned and entire remodel of the interior volume was envisaged, making an open, light filled, stylish space that reflected their passion for modern art and design and making the most of the apartments position at the top of the building. Everyone agreed that when you have the advantage of a visual connection to the sky in Paris, you need make the most of it.
“We wanted to break from the ideas and images of Bourgeois Parisian apartment, and lean more towards something that is more in the order of a holiday house, like a ‘cabane de plage’, those small but colourful shelters from which one steps out to the sun and sky. We wanted to create something that leaned more towards an artistic statement, and not just a historical one. We wanted to use colour and we wanted to sculpt the volumes. There is a kind of ambivalence and diversity of ambiences within the project, which I like” says the owner.
Manuelle Gautrand’s plan arose from two principle pre existing features in the apartment: an East-West perspective, and the fact that it occupied the space under roofline of the building. Besides creating a free flowing, light filled space, the ‘under the roof’ aspect of the project had to exploited to maximum effect.
The pre existing double height windows on eastern and western facades immediately imposed a raised ceiling level in these areas of the main room.
Manuelle Gautrand went all the way designing a mezzanine on the western end of the space which houses a guest bedroom and opens onto the void via atelier style windows.
The kitchen end of the space also opens upward and although not as high (the main bedroom is located above), these variations in volume provide important spatial relief, and practically serve as light wells throughout the day.
By deliberate contrast, the apartments entry is a moody dark wood panelled ante-chamber, inspired by a historical cabinet.
Curiosities, anthropology in masks and photo studies of decorated women feature on the walls, a wink to rituals of dressing for daily sorties perhaps. But it’s intimacy and snugness is accentuated by the decompression and counterpoint of the main room glimpsed beyond
An architectural work of volume, the main room is composed of cascading ceiling that steps between the kitchen, dining and lounge areas. There is a clear flow between these spaces but each is defined by its use of colour and materiality.
The low ceiling over the dining area is conducive
to intimacy but at the extremities of the room, the relatively low ceiling is released towards the higher ceilings and ultimately the roof-line.
This allows the double height windows at each end the height required to open, but it’s also part of the recurring play of varied volumes which is clearing thematic within the space. It’s this abundant light source, and the decompression that the visitor experiences in the double height volumes at either end that gives the interior its the richness.
The kitchen, designed for relaxed conviviality and sharing uses the monumental permanent quality of seamless travertine on an island designed to be moved around fluidly.
Travertine surfaces also define the kitchens perimeter. In the dining area, the icon-c singularity of an elliptical marble form of Saarinen’s Tulip table, and deep comfort of ‘Vik’ chairs by Thibault Desombre constitute a warm invitation surrounded by waist high shelves displaying monographic themed books and souvenirs.
A striking collection of portraits lines one wall; paintings, photos, in multiple styles and eras, the common theme of which is ‘women’- everything from an Inuit to Princess Leia. A small bar table for two is an alternative place to take in the sun by he window, and perhaps marvel at the centrepiece of the entire project a sculptural staircase that not only summits on the second level of the home, but rhythmically extends to the surrounding walls in a play of light colour and shadow.
Capitalising on the daylight asset, on the second floor Manuelle Gautrand drew what she describes as a
‘continuous and uninterrupted corridor of sky” that extends the entire depth of the building. It’s an ever-present reference to something that’s quite rare in Paris homes - the sky. As she says, when you have it , you make the most of it”, and so she did.
“The goal was to create a strip of natural light, through which the suns influence, whether it be cold white winter light or warm summer, could cast its shadow and in-fluence the interior, upstairs and down, throughout the day.
“A traditional staircase would have interfered with the continuity of this strip of sky and so I began playing with the relief that these 20cm thick pieces of cellular concrete would make and the stairs came out of
this. Then I decided to make it even bigger, so that it extended up the wall of the mezzanine and onto the wall under the skylight.
The shadows cast, the reflections and nuance of colour unwind and play their innumerable variations year out. Each days particular qualities of light, from it beginning through the windows to the east and traversing the thin strip of sky in the roof to the windows on the western facade. It’s not alchemy, but a natural element made magical never-the-less. And colour in all of this was key.
Pollock Yellow, “the colour of the sun” as Manuelle Gautrand describes it, ensures whatever the quality of light on any day, the entire apartment is influenced by that lights refraction off the yellow wall. “It’s a kind of artificial sun” she enthuses.
Pink for the steps themselves was inspired from the apartment’s original resin floor in the same colour to which the owners were particularly attached, and almond green is a direct reference to the plants that cascade from the planter box under the mezzanine window.
“We are in a universe where plants are important, and this celadon ensures that the plants stand out. Between the natural light and the plantings, the objective was to bring the outdoors inside as much as possible. Besides, these three colours go very well together” she quips.
Maintaining an element of tension, a sense of surprise and contrast through out the interior was important.
The skylight is mirrored by a high gloss lacquered wood floor that hints at the zen-like simplicity of the sleeping space literally tucked under the roof at the end of it.
By contrast the bathroom, entirely boxed out in brown and white marble (brown for vertical surfaces, and white for horizontal ones) is worthy of an Italian palazzo, the extravagance of the 1970’s light fitting by Mokoto Ishii is an un expected touch in a space that is pure luxury and that Manuelle describes as being like a therme.
Like the Mokoto Ishi lamp, or a spectacular pair of earrings or broach, fine attention to the details make the project complete, but these are hung on what is essentially an architectural treatment of the volume to sculpt the space. “The higher level was always gong to interrupt the lower space but we worked to make it as pleasing as possible.
The synthesis of the work is an apartment that follows the suns daily arc. Its a com-pass to keep the inhabitant in harmony with the hours of the day”