Jean Louis Deniot Paris Match
Designer Jean Louis Deniot employed crisp white moldings, glittering chandeliers, and a small museum’s worth of antique portraits for a Left Bank home. For more than 30 years, a New York couple had dreamed of owning a pied-à-terre in Paris. So when the husband left his job on Wall Street nearly a decade ago, they decided to make it happen. The wish list was short and precise: Left Bank, small historic building, air-conditioning, abundant natural light. They looked off and on for a few years, while visiting Paris on holidays, yet found nothing suitable. Finally they rang French interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot, who had outfitted one of their friends’ homes. He happened to know of a 2,300-square-foot apartment, graced with 15-foot-high ceilings and an unheard-of 21 windows, located in an 18th-century building at the heart of the fashionable Faubourg Saint-Germain.
Though its bones were beautiful, the apartment had been turned into a hodgepodge mess over the years, with mezzanines slicing most of the rooms in half horizontally. Deniot set to work, returning order, light, and scale to the dwelling by ripping out all the mezzanines save one over the kitchen, at the back of the flat which was retained as a sitting room for the guest suite. The structural adjustments reduced the residence to 1,600 square feet.
A crucial element of Deniot’s strategy was to maintain the apartment’s flow while making the entrance hall grander. As the designer explains, ancien régime floor plans are generally more fluid than those in the city’s late-19th-century apartment buildings, where units often have long, dark corridors and ramble this way and that. This particular flat is L-shaped, with north, south, and east exposures and a sunny hall along one side. Deniot widened the latter space to create a gallery—hung with shimmering silk-taffeta curtains and hosting a majestic patinated-plaster bust based on the Ares Borghese in the Louvre—that leads from the front door to the living room. The master bedroom is off the new gallery, through a pair of jib doors; an adjoining chamber became a spacious dressing area and master bath. The designer took the opportunity to modernize the home as well. He introduced central air-conditioning, a rare amenity on the Continent, and a central sound system with speakers concealed within the walls. To reduce the cacophony from the bustling streets below, the Frenchman replaced the thin antique panes in the floor-to-ceiling windows with double glazing. Insulated walls make the master bedroom more peaceful, too.
For the decor, Deniot and his team went confidently classic. “The owners wanted a dramatic apartment,” The swagger of his scheme, the glory days of Victor Grand pierre, a postwar taste maker known for his gutsy interpretations of 18th-century chic. A crisp wallpaper resembling blocks of stone lines the gallery. Most of the other rooms are painted in grays, taupe's, and smoky blues, the shades boldly outlined with chalk-white moldings. In the library the antique mantel, a yellowish marble, received an eye-catching black faux-marble finish, while the double doors are framed by soaring architraves with muscular broken pediments. The baldachin beds soar just as high, bearing sweeping lengths of silken fabrics.
Though the exceptionally sharp atmosphere is the height of style Deniot, incorporated whimsical as well as serious objects that give a room personality rather than just letting it be beautiful. The gallery, for instance, showcases charming 18th-century French engravings of ladies with grand coiffures and chapeaux,etchings and paintings of dandies, demoiselles, officers, and mesdames deployed in nearly every room. A 19th-century Bessarabian carpet with fanciful foliate embroidery sparked the foggy tones of the living room. The master bath required a less-historical feel, paneled walls with framed butterflies and the bath’s bisque-and-gray walls lightheartedness strikes the perfect note for this fantastic home away from home.