LIFE SIZE

There’s noth­ing su­per­flu­ous in this be­spoke Paris apart­ment, where space is sur­passed by charm.

Homestyle New Zealand - - CONTENTS - Philippa WORDS Pren­tice Gaelle PHOTOGR Le Bouli­caut APHY

In this be­spoke Paris apart­ment, space is sur­passed by charm.

DO YOU HEAR THE PEO­PLE SING? A FEW HUN­DRED

years ago, you prob­a­bly could have in the Paris apart­ment Rod Fry, his wife Lau­rence Varga and their son Arlo share – it’s sit­u­ated be­tween Place de la Bastille and Place de la Na­tion; key events of the French Rev­o­lu­tion ac­tu­ally took place in their neigh­bour­hood.

Rod’s own story is also pretty ex­cit­ing. “I grew up in Paku­ranga, Auck­land,” he says, be­fore get­ting to the good bit. “I left New Zealand al­most 24 years ago [and ended up work­ing] in Tai­wan. Two years into my stay, I met my [French] wife Lau­rence, and we later moved to Shang­hai. Then we were faced with the de­ci­sion of whether to go to New Zealand or France – and we opted to try France first.”

In 2004, with a con­firmed soft spot for his adopted coun­try and look­ing for a new way to earn a liv­ing, mar­keter/ de­signer/writer Rod and so­ci­ol­o­gist Lau­rence hit upon an idea. Recog­nis­ing the abun­dant tal­ent of Kiwi de­sign­ers and be­liev­ing there was a place for their work in France, they started the con­ver­sa­tion in Aotearoa, then in 2006 pub­lished

The Long White Book on New Zealand de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture and art, aim­ing to con­tex­tu­alise it for their new Euro­pean mar­ket. They be­gan do­ing de­sign shows and meet­ing with key French jour­nal­ists, ar­chi­tects and show­rooms, and lit­tle by lit­tle, the col­lec­tion took off.

To­day Moa­room dis­trib­utes the work of top Kiwi cre­atives – as well as Rod’s own range of fur­ni­ture, Pi Sys­tem – in France, Bel­gium, Switzer­land and Hol­land. The flag­ship store is just five min­utes’ walk from home. •

Just east of the Marais, home is in the heart of the district where Paris’ fine fur­ni­ture mak­ers his­tor­i­cally lived and worked in a mul­ti­cul­tural maze of streets and al­ley­ways. “I have older friends who re­mem­ber when al­most ev­ery apart­ment build­ing in the area had wood dry­ing in the stair­cases and hall­ways,” says Rod. “Now we’re one of a few young fur­ni­ture firms try­ing to re-es­tab­lish the tra­di­tional soul of the area, although most of our wood-work­ing is done in Nor­mandy and Bour­gogne.”

Wedged be­tween three other build­ings in a one-time ate­lier’s wood-stack­ing area, the apart­ment has a modest foot­print. Rod says its ren­o­va­tion was driven by his de­sire to feel he’d “challenged the sta­tus quo and re­placed some­thing stan­dard with some­thing based on the real way we want to live”. He and Lau­rence de­signed a quiet, easy-care home lit mostly by sky­lights, with the din­ing ta­ble, not the TV, the cen­tre of things – then he did most of the reno work in a sin­gle sum­mer while the rest of the fam­ily hol­i­dayed, sleep­ing in the dust for six weeks.

So, not a lot of room, but plenty of char­ac­ter fea­tures to work with: the pre­vi­ous own­ers had left the orig­i­nal rough-hewn oak beams ex­posed, as well as a huge steel beam with gi­ant Eif­fel Tower-style hot riv­ets. “We added ‘space’,” says Rod. “We put the kitchen along the wall fac­ing the din­ing ta­ble to leave the eat­ing area very airy; we took a bit of the space we gained there by an­gling the couch into it to make that area large enough for the three of us to re­lax in or for our friends to sit in be­fore din­ner. We also stole a bit of the ex­tra space at the other end by an­gling the book­shelf into Arlo’s bed­room; •

I think even ba­sic houses can ben­e­fit from us­ing a few lines di­ag­o­nal to the par­al­lel and per­pen­dic­u­lar ones. We also gained a lot of stor­age space in the back and base of the hol­low couch we made our­selves. It’s a very clean, zen space be­cause there are places to dis­creetly store things built in ev­ery­where.”

Quite: ev­ery inch is used in­tel­li­gently. “I don’t think that a big bed­room where one might only spend an hour of their awake time is nec­es­sar­ily a good use of space, and kids seem to do their home­work bet­ter on the din­ing ta­ble while Mum or Dad work or cook around them. So Arlo has a good-sized room, but I ac­tu­ally use the bot­tom bunk as much as him for read­ing, and when his door is open and the shut­ters are turned out, it feels like a con­tin­u­a­tion of the apart­ment.”

De­scrib­ing the fin­ished home as “func­tional min­i­mal­ism with re­stricted zones of chaos and per­son­al­ity, and a flavour of New Zealand”, Rod says, “I ba­si­cally de­signed and made ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing the fur­ni­ture, but what I’m most proud of is how the ar­chi­tec­tural de­ci­sions re­in­force our good habits – it matches our val­ues. It’s nat­u­ral to eat ev­ery meal around the ta­ble and to pick up a book or lis­ten to mu­sic when you sit on the couch, be­cause it’s a nice, well-lit area and the TV’s for­got­ten about when the cabi­net doors are closed.”

Liv­ing in the heart of one of the world’s most spir­ited cities, you need a haven to re­treat into. Dressed in white, this un­clut­tered, en­closed dwelling has been turned into an oa­sis of calm. It’s com­pact, but Rod and Lau­rence have dis­cov­ered that small can also be prac­ti­cal and wholly so­phis­ti­cated. You might say it’s a French rev­e­la­tion.

TOP LEFT David Trubridge, Jamie McLel­lan, Nat Cheshire, Si­mon James, Bren­dan MacFarlane and Phil Cut­tance are among those rep­re­sented by Moa­room. ABOVE Rod and Lau­rence. “We’re not re­ally into ‘dec­o­rat­ing’,” says Rod. “Apart from the fur­ni­ture we de­signed our­selves, ev­ery­thing in our apart­ment was bought for its own sake, beauty or story long be­fore we bought the apart­ment. We even have a rule that if we find a pot­ter we like, we only buy bowls that we’re go­ing to eat out of.”

TOP LEFT “Lau­rence and I fell in love with this Sofia Tekela-Smith photo at a time when we didn’t re­ally have the money for it – then a year later it was still eat­ing at us, so even though we still didn’t have the money, we bought it.” TOP RIGHT At a for­mer ate­lier, a two-storeyed sec­tion that now in­cludes the apart­ment was built at the back of a wood-stack­ing area. A glass-roofed win­ter­gar­den joins the spa­ces and faces into the light well be­tween the neigh­bour­ing build­ings and onto a court­yard full of plants.

OVER & ABOVE Sit­u­ated on the ground f loor and sur­rounded by five-storey build­ings, the apart­ment’s only real view is of the sky, seen here though the glass ceil­ing above the sofa and in the main bed­room. “Al­most ev­ery house and most rooftop apart­ments in France use these open­ing sky­lights,” says Rod. “They’re in­cred­i­bly well en­gi­neered and per­fectly wa­ter­proof. They re­ally help to reg­u­late the heat in sum­mer.”

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