LE CORBUSIER EFFECT Words ALI MORRIS Photography FREDERIC DUCOUT/LIVING INSIDE Production MARIO DE CASTRO
Inspired by the famous architect’s clever use of built-in furniture, this apartment in Paris makes the most of every square metre
Marie-charlotte Vienne’s Parisian apartment is an architectural gem that is as inspiring and modern today as when it was conceived over five decades ago. It belonged to her father, Swiss engineer Charles Vienne, who bought the 30-square-metre former painting studio in 1961. The building was short on space but full of light and, seeing its potential, Charles sought the counsel of Swiss-french architect Le Corbusier (a good friend of his mother), whose open-plan layouts and space-saving built-in storage, used to great effect in nearby buildings Villa La Roche and Villa Jeanneret (see inspiration on p138), had won great acclaim.
A meeting was set up between the two at the Cité Radieuse (Radiant City), the famous Brutalist housing block in Marseille designed by Le Corbusier in 1935. The rendezvous was fruitful, and Charles was awarded with a letter from Le Corbusier stating that he could use his conceptual ideas in the design of his new home.
One year later, under the guidance of interior architect and designer Janette Laverrière, the apartment came to life, realised in a palette of crisp white, Formica, mahogany and flashes of primary colour. Its C-shaped layout is spread across two floors, with the main living areas occupying a double-height space on the ground level. The lofty ceilings – up to five-metres in the centre of the living room – help to offset the apartment’s small footprint.
The open-plan downstairs accommodates a fireplace mounted on a terracotta-tiled wall and an alcove lined with shelves and drawers, from which a sofa bed slides out when required. Every inch of dead space is given over to storage: the window seat (opposite the sofa bed) conceals cubby holes beneath its Mondrian-inspired leather cushions, and there are cupboards on either side of the windows. On the mezzanine level above, the kitchen is hidden behind mahogany doors and complemented by a dining table that folds out from a cupboard.
‘I am very fond of the design period that my home represents,’ says Marie-charlotte. ‘It’s a time when space was a master preoccupation, when artists, architects and interior designers were working on the L’esprit Nouveau. For me, less is more, and the absence of furniture fits well with my lifestyle.’ ➤
‘FOR ME, LESS IS MORE AND THE LACK OF FURNITURE FITS WELL WITH MY LIFESTYLE’