Paris Apartment With Eclectic Accents are here! Wood is the material that Parisian interior designers Samantha Hauvette and Lucas Madani like above all others. “Every time we start a new project, we aim to discover a new type,” Madani explains. They have recently developed a special fondness for stained, varnished maple. “It reminds us of walnut burl,” says Hauvette. They are primarily drawn to the unusual shapes of the grain, regardless of variation. “We don’t use many colors or patterns in our work,” she continues, “and wood helps us to create rooms that sing.”
In many respects, this 1,720-square-foot duplex flat in Paris’s affluent 16th arrondissement for repeat clientele, a young family, was a godsend. It is located on the top two floors of a relatively ordinary 1980s building and was designed in a decidedly Art Deco manner by its original owners and is nearly totally encased in wood paneling. The bottom level has not just the communal areas, but also two bedrooms and two baths; upstairs, there is a mezzanine reading area and a parental suite that opens directly into a 215-square-foot patio.
The wood veneer has lost part of its shine as well as its original hue over the years. “The flat itself is quite light and has been bleached by the sun over a roughly 40-year period,” Madani observes. There was no debate among the designers about whether the oak should be preserved. They somehow salvaged all of the panels, sanding and staining them a dark chestnut color. “We want to utilize wood in less evident tones,” Hauvette says.
Few structural alterations were possible due to their desire to keep the paneling. They simply removed a sliding wall that separated the dining area from the kitchen. Most of the architectural components, such as the cursive brass staircase banister, the marble-and-brick fireplace, and the building’s elevator shaft, whose cubelike top rises out next to the mezzanine, predate their involvement as well. The trumeau mirror in the sitting room and a complete renovation of the major bathroom, with its new 1930s-style oak vanity, are among the few changes they made to the internal envelope.
Jean-Michel Frank, the master of Art Deco, is one of the duo’s main design influences. Others include the Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby film High Society and the Seventies vibe. “We don’t necessarily like products made of orange plastic,” Madani observes. “It’s more about the way of life and the freedom that we connect with the decade.” Pierre Paulin, a graduate of Paris’ famous École Camondo, where Hauvette and Madani first met as students, was one designer whose work they were particularly interested to incorporate.
They established their eponymous practice immediately after graduating in 2010. “We love Paulin’s furniture’s curves and his irreverence,” Madani exclaims. “He created forms that had never been seen before.” Shapes that provide a suitable complement to the apartment’s more stiff, rectilinear shell.
The concept of contrast pervades Hauvette and Madani’s work in general. One term that keeps coming up in their conversations is équilibre, which is French for “balance.” They accomplish that balance in part by blending furniture from different eras—not an innovative notion in and of itself, but they execute it with style, generating fascinating juxtapositions and conversations between different pieces. “Sometimes we take elements that don’t seem so fantastic alone, but they really come into their own when mixed in the proper way,” Madani says.
A painted-wood midcentury console by André Sornay converses with Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s angular Facett couch in the sitting room, while an Aldo Tura parchment-clad ’70s cocktail table lies on a traditional Mauritanian reed-and-leather mat. Meanwhile, one of the apartment’s most daring gestures is also one of its most simple: the massive Isamu Noguchi paper pendant over the dining room table. “We tried a number of different things earlier, and they just sort of vanished,” Hauvette says. “We wanted something both enormous and light to avoid clogging the atmosphere.” The wood paneling is already noticeable.”
“They give the impression they’ve been there forever, which is exactly what we were looking for. We hate interiors that look spick-and-span, extremely new. Once we hand over the keys to each of our projects, the goal is for people to imagine, This is how things have always been.”