With eclectic pieces and daring colour choices, designer Sarah Lavoine brought a youthful insouciance to this classical PARIS garden apartment.
With eclectic pieces and daring colour choices, designer Sarah Lavoine brought a youthful insouciance to this classical Paris garden apartment
On a ledge in the main bedroom of this apartment in Paris’s 16th arrondissement is a series of fashion sketches in black, white and flesh tones. They were drawn by the home’s owner, Alix de la Comble, who has a background in couture. In the early 1980s, de la Comble worked in the design studio at Christian Dior under Marc Bohan, and later went on to launch a short-lived swimwear collection. In spite of her past, there was one thing she resolutely wished to avoid: “I didn’t want a fashionable interior.”
That didn’t prevent de la Comble hiring one of Paris’s most stylish designers, Sarah Lavoine, whose work is characterised by stripes, geometric patterns and colour-blocking. She even has a teal-like paint colour named after her — Bleu Sarah — inspired by saris she saw en route between Delhi and Jaipur. “There’s always something youthful to everything she does,” says de la Comble. One of the apartment’s main draws was its private garden — a precious rarity in the French capital. “It gives you the feeling of being in a house,” says de la Comble. “You forget you’re in Paris and that there are people around you.” When she and her husband, Gilles, first spied it, it was in a rather unprepossessing state. There was a “ghastly” large pond, which they concealed with ipé decking, and a steep slope that de la Comble says made you feel “as if you were at the bottom of a hole”. It was remodelled with the aid of landscape designer Pierre-Alexandre Risser, who created a walkway at the front to shield it from the street and integrated as many edible plants as possible, including apple, pear and medlar trees, squashes, strawberries and blackcurrants. “If ever there was a siege, I think we’d be able to survive for some time,” de la Comble quips. The apartment itself was not exactly attractive, either. Lavoine recalls it as being “old-fashioned and banal, with lots of long corridors”. Its layout was completely reconfigured. The kitchen was brought to the front and an enfilade created along the garden façade. The biggest change was to the access, which was completely modifed. Previously reached via the main door of the building, it now features its own separate entrance off the garden. “They completely rethought how to live in the space,” notes Lavoine. “It’s rare to have clients who are willing to take such a leap.”
De la Comble had very specific requests for the interior. She particularly wanted to bring the greens of the garden inside. A tone called Thé de Chine, from Lavoine’s collection for French paint manufacturer Ressource, was used for the entry hall and, for the kitchen cupboards she requested a lacquer to match the verdant tone of one of her velvet gloves. Another reference to the horticultural world comes by way of canework used for drawers and doors in the kitchen and dressing room, and also for the bed’s headboard in the main bedroom. The terrazzo flooring, meanwhile, was inspired by de la Comble’s childhood in Morocco. “I lived in Casablanca, where it’s used almost everywhere,” she recounts. “It’s robust, feels modern and comes in whatever hue you want.” Many of the furnishings have been in de la Comble’s possession for quite some time. A painting signed by the 18th-century artist François Lemoyne, best-known for the ceiling of the Salon d’Hercule at Versailles, has belonged to her family for some 200 years. The Venetian gilt-wood consoles in the entry hall were acquired at an antiques fair in the French town of Bourg-en-Bresse three decades ago. Other items, however, are more contemporary, such as the Vincent Darré rug in the study, which she bought at auction without taking the room’s measurements in advance (it fits almost to the centimetre). The chandelier above the dining table, meanwhile, is by the Madrid-based designer Marta de la Rica, whose work she discovered in a restaurant in southwest France. “There’s a very eclectic spirit to the end result,” says Lavoine, “and a few things that are slightly off-the-wall.” One of the most striking is the huge ant sculpture in the sitting room created by de la Comble’s Moroccan artist friend, Fathiya Tahiri. “It really shakes things up,” Lavoine says. “It’s always good to take a few risks.”
In the living room of a Paris apartment designed by Sarah Lavoine (from left), Jelly Pea sofa, Week End coffee tables (centre) and Vera Cruz yellow table, all by India Mahdavi; family heirloom Louis XV chair; side table from Alison Boardman; candleholders by Jimmy Delatour from Galerie Armel Soyer; boxes on yellow table by Pierre Charpin for Hermès Maison; lamps from Cappellini; vintage Iranian kilim rug; painting (1727) by François Lemoyne; ant sculpture by Moroccan artist Fathiya Tahiri. Details, last pages.
THIS PAGE in the garden designed by landscape architect Pierre-Alexandre Risser, chairs from Dedon; deck made from ipé wood. OPPOSITE PAGE designer Sarah Lavoine in the entry hall, which is painted in Thé de Chine from her collection for Ressource.