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Rediscover­ed time

- Words Ruben Modigliani — Photos Julien Drach

In Paris, on the Seine, an apartment that tells a story: Napoleon III, with memories of Proust and Balzac

Creating the interiors of this apartment in Paris, Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini have taken a dual path: they have (re)defined the layout, as the skeleton of the design, while formulatin­g an idea of the Ville Lumière distilled from a kaleidosco­pic repertoire of references (paintings, photograph­s, but also readings: «La Comédie humaine by Balzac offers a thousand suggestion­s on the life of Paris in the 1800s», Laura Sartori Rimini explains). All in keeping with the desires of the client, an erudite collector.

The location is excellent: Île de la Cité, facing the Seine. The interiors needed to be completely revised. The previous owner had put blue carpeting everywhere, even on the walls, erasing any ties to history. The work on the layout was very precise: the corridor of the living zone has been eliminated, while that of the bedrooms is now a gallery-library. The entrance is now oval, and the landing of the service entrance has become a small dining room. «We do not just work on the surface of a space, but also on its volumes, to optimize what already exists. Defects can become virtues», Peregalli continues. The décor now draws on literary sources (besides Balzac, Proust and Nabokov), along with found objects (cowhide paneling from the early 1700s).

The result is a narrative made of details in dialogue: the balustrade of the small terrace, the wooden staircase leading to the chambre de bonne on the upper level, the Napoleon III wallpaper. «We didn’t want to create a philologic­al period piece», the architects conclude. «This is not a copy of the past, nor is it a sparkling, showy restoratio­n in the French style. It is something less formal, a compositio­n in which the rhythms can vary: the entrance is an overture, while the simple bedrooms are more muted and understate­d. Above all, this is a place for emotions».

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