In his pied-à-terre, Christopher Noto celebrates the strength of pairings, from vintage and classic French to East and West
By Chiara Corridori - Photos Reto Guntli
A refined cosmopolitan spirit. The work of Christopher Noto, the famous American designer who shares his time between New York, his base, Singapore − where he founded his store Pagoda House − and Paris, the city which has held his heart since he was a boy. Worlds that are polar opposites, and yet synthesised in every project: from the private locations scattered across the planet (under construction are a residence in Hong Kong and a castle in Normandy), to the Elan Atelier furniture line in the United States. A subtle weaving plot of cultures and historical periods, of East and West reunited in a distillate of elegance. This is the leitmotif of this pied-à-terre in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Noto’s chosen retreat during his stays in the French capital. On the pi
ano nobile (the second) of a building which dates back to 1830, between the 6th arrondissement and the extreme eastern end of the 7th, strategically placed amidst tree-lined avenues, galleries and cafés. Relatively modest in size (120 square meters), the home expresses an aesthetic exempt from rules: “I do not allow myself to be conditioned by anything, let alone by fashions. I love having the freedom to create the ideal background to give voice to dreams, while at the same time showing the fascinating stratifications of different eras”, he explains. The result? A unique, highly personal whole, filled with memories, emotions and beloved objects. To frame them, Christopher preserved the original elements as much as possible. In particular, in the living room, the past is very much present in the high ceilings and oak parquet, disassembled, restored and relayed. Many of the fixtures are enchantingly embellished, such as the handles carved with minute motifs, so that they resemble miniature sculptures, while the black and white marble in the entrance hall and guest room comes from an old French estate. For the rest, each detail is the result of a contemporary restyling, with respect for the context. Seen, for example, in the profiles and mouldings added from scratch to the sitting room: they give a classical aura, but the design speaks a current language. A cluster of mirrors covers one of the walls of the living room. “I adore them: they bring character and play with the different sources of light in a cascade of reflections, transporting your mind to the Palace of Versailles”. The decoration emphasises Noto’s talent in bringing together remote eras and moods. Parisian antiques, mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries, dialogue with Chinese statues and panels of the Ming dynasty. Spanning almost three hundred years − from 1368 to 1644, a succession of sixteen emperors, extraordinary promoters of artistic disciplines − and Noto’s favourite era for the purity of its forms, capable of appearing still modern. The décor denotes a preference for vintage and uses a wide range of materials, from natural to the most sumptuous. But Noto uses them subtly, expressing a whispered luxury that does not compromise on comfort. Spherical brass pendant lamps, typically Sixties, illuminate a goat leather coffee table with a parchment effect, some of the designer’s own pieces. The Chesterfield sofa is made cosier by olive velvet upholstery, and the Louis XV style armchairs rest on a casual oversized sisal rug, in chromatic pendant with the crispy silks of the curtains. Harmonious opposites too, in the selection of artworks: the close-ups of photographer Massimo Listri are combined with candid Roman
busts and bronze and silver Buddha statues. In the bedroom, the portrait The Banker, by Mary A. Waters, observes with a veiled mysterious gaze the paintings of Paul Jouve, André Margat and Georges-Lucien Guyot, masters of animal painting in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The layout of furniture and accessories conveys a marked sense of symmetry. “I developed it while working on various projects with Indonesian design guru Jaya Pratomo Ibrahim. These included the Aman Resorts and several GHM hotels, such as the Setai Hotel Miami. The pursuit of balance infuses serenity and harmony; it is something I always seek, but with measure, avoiding the excesses that risk leaving the spaces too cold”, he concludes. There is certainly no risk of that here. Because the voluptuousness of the ornament outlines an enveloping dimension like a warm domestic embrace.