There are two items that are essential to French interior designer Charlotte Biltgen’s aesthetic: colour and contrast. They’re part of my DNA, she says. I couldn’t imagine an interior without colour and even though I can create softer schemes, there’s always something to shake them up.
For this three-bedroom apartment in Paris, Charlotte initially imagined much brighter hues, proposing vivid green curtains and bright lemon-coloured armchairs in the master bedroom, and a bold carmine red for the kitchen. However, her clients (a Lebanese industrialist and his wife) preferred a calmer, more subdued space.
Though the owners shunned the use of vibrant colours, they weren’t averse to the integration of patterns, from the rhythmic marble floor in the entry hall to the geometric fabric on the dining chairs. It can be interesting to work with more subtle tones, too, notes Charlotte. I ended up opting for a lighter palette in the reception rooms and darker shades in the corridors to create some diversity.
What is a chic Parisian apartment today? How do you move a timeless style forward?
One thing Charlotte and the owners agreed upon was the desire to maintain a quintessentially French character for the 2,600sqft space, which acts as the couple’s Parisian pied-à-terre. Housed in a typical Haussmannian building just a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, it previously belonged to an art dealer and was stylistically all over the place. There was absolutely no coherence, she recalls. Intent on updating the Haussmannian look, she chose to completely gut the space, keeping only the two fireplaces.
I asked myself, ‘What is a chic Parisian apartment today? How do you move a timeless style forward?’ Charlotte’s response came in her approach to the architectural detailing, most notably in the way the skirting boards flow without interruption into the door frames. It’s something that’s not done very often because it leaves no room for error, she says. Charlotte also installed minimalistic wall mouldings in many of the rooms, giving their reliefs a more feminine, rounded form.
Charlotte’s introduction to the decorative arts came at an early age. Her sister’s godmother was the daughter of Armand-Albert Rateau, the Art Deco designer best known as the mastermind behind fashion icon Jeanne Lanvin’s famed Paris mansion. I spent plenty of time at her home on weekends, she remembers. Her father’s sculpted-bronze furniture was absolutely everywhere. By the age of 15, Charlotte was cutting out pages from shelter magazines to create her own trend books. I wish I’d kept them, she says, laughing. They must have been very funny.
She went on to study at the École Camondo before being hired by India Mahdavi in the year 2000. Back then, India really stood out through her use of colour, she says. Her style was very fresh and she was also one of the few women on the French design scene. Since setting up her own practice in 2014, Charlotte’s most significant projects have included the Clover restaurant in Paris for renowned chef Jean-François Piège, as well as a villa on the French Riviera.
Today, it’s not only Charlotte’s distinctive style that makes her so sought after, but also her space-management skills. Here, the most important change she made to the layout was to relocate the kitchen to the back of the apartment, where there had previously only been bedrooms. You don’t shut the door of a kitchen all the time, as you would with a bedroom, she explains. That allows for natural light to flood into the apartment from both sides. Another major modification she instilled was to create an immense master suite out of the former dining room, whose bedhead comes in the form of a velvet-clad partition, behind which is a spacious walk-in dressing room.
Gold and brass tones act as a common thread throughout the apartment. For her, the fluting on the custom kitchen cabinets is a throwback to the Art Deco era. It’s the type of motif you see often on buildings from the ’30s, she says. It also reflects the light perfectly.
For each of the beds, meanwhile, Charlotte created bold throws using the same sunburst fabric from Jim Thompson. I hardly ever use silk, but I love this one, she says. It centres the attention on the bed and really brings a touch of sparkle to a room.
This article originally appears in our December 2018 issue, available on newsstands now.
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