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A very french taste : An Art Deco penthouse


by Marion Bley

Housed in a gorgeous Art Deco building, this apartment is the encounter, intimate and erudite, of an original decor of 1948 and a very personal collection of furniture and objects.

It is one of the finest apartments in Paris. Its location is perfect, which offers an unprecedented view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower ; it is located on the top floors of a historic building, signed by a big name in the twentieth century architecture ; and , in the same way the fact that it passed into the hands of some collectors brings a surplus of value, the history of its owners haloes this place an additional aura. The building, therefore, is impressive. Built between 1929 and 1931 by Michel Roux-Spitz for customers belonging to the bourgeoisie, it is one of seven of the "white series" of the architect, about which they easily identify pure lines fluidized by large bow-windows. They locate from far away the huge plate glass window of the penthouse on the top floor, under the roof-terrace bloomed like a garden. They say the British fashion designer Edward Molyneux was one of the first occupants - if not the first - the apartment ; in 1935 appeared in the magazine Plaisir de France a story about this place that he himself set in the Art Deco style. Amusing detail, he planted a cedar in his all-white living room.

In 1948, a painter buys the apartment abandoned by "Captain" Molyneux who returned to England during the war. He separates from the sixth floor, retaining only the seventh (and terrace). He asks the Maison Jansen to decorate, and set up his studio overlooking the Seine. Deep green lacquered walls, painted black wooden floor, libraries and light wood paneling hiding bar and racks behind trompe l'oeil books, the decor is both innovative and incredibly typical of the Jansen's french style.
The achievement is of a rare quality that has defied the years : when the apartment is taken by a cousin of the painter and his family in 1988, the gloss paint of the studio has not taken a crack, it just needs a refreshment. Operating a bit like archeologists, these new residents decide to look for the place, separating unnecessary additions that have been made over the years (carpets, fabrics ...) to "keep only what is beautiful."
Found in the chamber under a wall fabric, a patina which is redone. They unearthed fragments of wallpaper that allow to reconstruct the pattern, and retapisser a small office. The door frames are of incredible cabinetry work, which they emphasize, adding here and there the necessary cupboards, but carefully hidden behind paneling or a screen.

To refurnish this place with beautiful proportions - including the former studio now living - the choice of major parts is necessary. Starting from an Ernest Boiceau pad for which they had a thunderbolt in the merchant Eric Philippe's store, the new inhabitants draw their decor. In their bank in the Place Vendome, they admire for years a set of sofa and comfortable chairs ; without hesitation, they offer the agency to buy them ! And are performed on the same model two additional chairs. The chandeliers ? Plexiglas, they come as the two lights of the room, from the Bon Marché corner of a stylist in the 1930s.
And so, following the threads of this unique place, the family weaves his masterpiece. It goes to the mother, icing on the cake, to design the the roof terrace with wisteria, her maple trees and fragrant peonies. She transformed the place into a second living room, where the family likes to take a morning coffee or a drink in the evening, as the sun slowly sets behind the Parisian rooftops. A last time gathered here, since they separate from this apartment today, and its furniture that will be auctioned by Christie's to move to other decorative adventures.


In the large living room, the walls were painted green with gloss in 1948. 

On the mantelpiece surmounted by an Italian rococo mirror from the middle eighteenth century, two vases " Etruscans and lions ' in Sèvres porcelain , circa 1800 , and a pair of silver-plated bronze candelabras, glass and crystal pendants , mid twentieth century surround a woman with bun in bronze by René Iché.

On the small table, two glass vases " corroso " by Carlo Scarpa, 1940, for Venini and a plaster woman's head by Henri Waroquier , 1934.

On the right column , a woman's head by A. Seval.

In reflection in the mirrors, the living room of the apartment and its parquet dyed black by Maison Jansen in 1948.

The chandeliers, a set of four, are made in plexiglas and are derived from the couture salon of Juliette Verneuil at Bon Marché, designed in the years 1935-1940 by Jean Dunand.

At the end of the room, behind a oak table ca.1940s , a cavalry officer by René George Gautier, 1927, seems to contemplate the piece from its battlefield.

Leather saddle stitched table and shade parchment lamp by Paul Dupré-Lafon for Hermes, 1930. On the right, an English-style red armchair, from a pair.

The heart of the living-room is the Cornely stitch carpet " The Parrots " by Ernest Boiceau dating from 1927.

Around it, a suede covered living room furniture, complemented by a pair of armchairs upholstered in cotton.

On the left, on low tables, a pair of lamps by Paul Dupré-Lafon. On the left, " Apollo and Daphne ", painted by Jacques-Louis David's studio, facing the view of Paris.

In an adjoining room, Maison Jansen designed in 1948, a bookcase which one of the shelves hides, behind a row of fake books, a secret bar.

It is flanked by a rare pair of plaster models by Francisque Joseph Duret, 1844, of glass vases from the nineteenth century with corolla collar and, underneath, a pair of chinese porcelain dishes, circa 1750.

In the small living room, the light is filtered through suede curtains from a setting of Jean-Michel Frank. Around a parchment and stained wood pedestal table by Carlo Borsani, 1940, an Egyptian chair limed oak by Marc du Plantier, 1935, a small velvet sofa, around 1940, and a paintedwood Madonna and child, Germany, second half of the fifteenth century.

Carpet " Composition grise " after Serge Poliakoff.

In the small guest room, a small wooden cabinet and metal Yvroud for the Cité Universitaire at Antony, around 1955, is framed by fireside chairs in foal and limed oak, under a picture of Saint-Francis receiving the stigmata of Christ, "probably by Hermann Goebel."

On the stand, a patinated plaster seated woman, twentieth century.

In the bedroom, the walls lined with faux parchment were inspired by the smoking room of Noailles (Jean-Michel Frank) in their mansion of the place des Etats-unis in Paris. On either side of the fireplace, shelves together a collection of picture books for years 1940-1950, with an ivory paper as the patina of walls.

Above, a plaster bas-relief, anonymous, ca.1930.

At the foot of the bed, a coffee table in stained wood and shagreen by Jean-Michel Frank, 1930, and a silver candlestick by Koch & Bergfeld, 1900.

By the window, a chaise longue in wrought iron and cloth by Maison Dominique that belonged to Madeleine Castaing, 1937, a nickel-plated steel lamppost Desny, 1930, and a screen with 3 leaf mirrors and blackened wood, around 1940.

Fireside limed oak by Paul Dupré-Lafon, around 1940. The curtains are made of raw linen.

(source : AD Décoration)

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