By Chelsia Tan
July 19, 2021
Designed by interior design studio Humbert & Poyet, Alexis Mabille’s chic Paris apartment is an eclectic showcase of styles from some of history’s most influential eras.
The co-founders of the interior design studio Humbert & Poyet are no strangers to the world of haute couture. Parisian duo Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet drew on their deep appreciation for women’s fashion when they designed the Saint Germain des Prés boutique for the eponymous brand of French fashion designer Alexis Mabille in 2014.
Shortly after the store’s completion, Mabille approached Humbert & Poyet to decorate their newly purchased apartment in the 9th arrondissement, a bustling area of Paris teeming with cultural attractions. For the creators, this project offered them a new opportunity to collaborate with the famous couturier.
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“Alexis wanted us to recreate the lost grandeur of this once beautiful apartment, which had been completely stripped of its original 19th-century details, by reconstructing it in the Directoire style,” the designers explain.
A nod to the Directoire style, which dominated the second phase of the neoclassical period of art and culture at the end of the 18th century, the walls are painted an immaculate white and enhanced with rectangular moldings, thus recognizing the revival of ancient Greek architecture. The movement emphasized the Greek architectural philosophy of simplicity, proportion, perspective and harmony.
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Alexis wanted us to recreate the lost grandeur of this once magnificent apartment, which had been completely stripped of its original 19th century details, by rebuilding it in the Directoire style.
—Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, Humbert & Poyet
With its high ceilings, voluminous rooms and abundance of natural light, the apartment had desirable qualities, but was a very austere space. “It was a challenge because the space was bare and minimal, without structural decorative elements,” explains Humbert.
“We therefore seized the opportunity to introduce contemporary elements and recreate structural decorative elements that would be linked to the history of the building.
The repeated rectangular moldings play on the use of the geometry of the time, which is found in the square cornices framing the high ceilings of the apartment, as well as the herringbone parquet. These subtle details, synonymous with the principles of simplicity and symmetry, create an elegant backdrop for rich textures and luxurious materials such as velvet and marble.
This seemingly effortless integration of management board elements has been the result of substantial planning and research. “We delved into the original 19th century floor plans to capture the style of that era in our renovation. As the apartment had been completely stripped of its decorative elements before we started working on it, everything had to be redone, apart from a fireplace, a door and part of the ceiling, ”recall the designers.
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To create a space that would capture Mabille’s iconic style, the studio referred to the couturier’s penchant for cinematic influences, theatrical style, and historical periods such as the Second French Empire, the period of Napoleon III’s Bonapartist imperial rule. 1852 to 1870.
Coincidentally, these are references that interior designers also admire; they are known for their talent for combining modern and historical influences in their projects. For example, the use of brass finishes and the herringbone floor are the two hallmarks of the studio.
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Although Humbert & Poyet led the project, Mabille was also deeply involved in the creative process, even designing some of the furniture himself. In the living room, the remarkable velvet sofas are tailor-made pieces by the fashion designer. These modern iterations of the Tudor-style sofa were made from fabric scraps from his collection of vintage tapestries, sourced from antique markets across France.
A marble coffee table designed by Mabille not only brings together these different elements, it also draws attention to the symmetrical placement of the furniture; these include the gilded mirrors placed at opposite ends of the room and the Napoleonic chairs flanking the two fireplaces. The room is also furnished with art deco inspired pieces. These include a set of white lamps by Swiss sculptor Diego Giacometti which are displayed on side tables designed by Mabille.
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Mabille’s propensity for the whimsical transforms the kitchen into a playful space. Above the marble counter are Greek-inspired sculptures, Chinoiserie-style porcelain, and framed works by artists ranging from photographer Adrien Dirand to designer Louis Marie de Castelbajac. A larger part of Mabille’s collection of antiques and heirlooms, such as Louis XVI furniture, is also on display throughout the apartment.
This nonchalant mix of personal artifacts creates a welcoming and grounded atmosphere. “What I like the most about my house is the play of light, the proportions and the mixture of objects that I have included, which gives its Directoire style a very comfortable and elegant atmosphere,” explains Mabille.
This story was first published in the June-July 2021 issue of Tatler Homes Singapore, now available at Magzter and newsstands.