Art is in the spotlight in this newly designed apartment in Paris.
And that’s fitting given its location in the 9th arrondissement in the north of the capital that was once home to many of the elite of the city’s Romantic movement. From writers and actors to musicians and painters, Frederic Chopin, Alexandre Dumas and Claude Monet were among those who called this history-steeped, artistic neighbourhood of Nouvelle Athènes home.
But it’s not just the art that plays a starring role in this apartment. A backdrop befitting the quality of the collection shines behind it courtesy of designers Laurent Champeau and Kelli Wilde, who together run Paris-based architecture and interiors studio Champeau & Wilde.
The design duo were tasked with creating “a sophisticated background to display the owner’s stunning contemporary art collection,” says Kelli of the project’s brief. But in the meantime, there was also a desire to bring the grand 19th century Parisian apartment into the modern day, developing a connection between the stories it could tell and the contemporary art – with works from the likes of Richard Serra, Gilbert & George and Wolfgang Tillmans – it now hosts.
“The style of the project is a new world-old world mix,” says Kelli, who juxtaposed modern design accents with classic furniture choices throughout the apartment. “We felt the apartment needed something more sophisticated and wanted to bring in colours gently. Our intention was, and is, to create a link between past and present.”
The old-school glamour of gild sits alongside chic mirrored and glass surfaces. There are classic furnishings, such as a day bed from French furniture maker Armand-Albert Rateau, minimalist yet sumptuous chairs by French interior designer Jean Michel Frank, and bronze coffee tables dating to the 1930s that were bought at French antique auction house Drouot. These are mixed in a complementary manner with contemporary furnishings that include a striking oval purple cocktail table by Mattia Bonetti, a sleek dining table by Herve Van Der Straeten, and modern pendant lighting in the kitchen from Tom Dixon.
Together, these elements form a distinctive yet understated backdrop for the art collection. “The setting we created really emphasises the art. Our backgrounds are softer, while the artwork is accentuated and the bold colours are propelled from space to space,” says Kelli, whose choices of interior elements nevertheless pick up on the shades and shapes of the art.
Furnishings and fixtures aside, Laurent and Kelli touched more than simply the surface of the flat. The designers overhauled the whole space, which included a transformation of its layout, adding doors and entryways not to mention moving entire rooms.
“The owners entertain a lot and we wanted guests to be able to flow easily from room to room, so we moved the kitchen from the far end of the apartment to the front,” says Kelli. In its new location, the kitchen is closer to the home’s public rooms, which include a stunning double séjour – two living rooms, connected by French Doors. This feature was also subject to a reimagining by Laurent and Kelli, who decided to remove the door in the middle of the room while retaining the door frame. “It was a fantastic choice. Light floods the entire space from the floor-to-ceiling windows,” says Kelli. Meanwhile, the old kitchen, which faces the courtyard, became a bright yet serene guest suite.
The apartment benefits from impressive 11-foot-high ceilings, which provide a wonderful feeling of space. It also boasts original herringbone oak parquet floors, which were retained but stained in a gun-metal grey to help bring the classic 19th century design into the 21st century – a feat achieved by Champeau & Wilde to great effect throughout.
Photography: Xavier Béjot