A designer’s Paris home showcases styles and periods working together | Interiors
‘Mostly my home is about catering to the ‘Aperol hour’,” laughs Samantha Hauvette. “There are comfortable spaces and cushions in the living room where you can sit on the floor and gather friends together and low tables that you can stick snacks on.”
What you will actually find on entering the Paris home she shares with her husband, Swan, and their three children, Achille, May and Gaia, is the richness of Barbara Hepworth-inspired curves – and a paean to Ricardo Boffil’s Brutalist architecture and Donald Judd’s furniture. Hauvette is one half of the French design studio Hauvette & Madani, whose magpie approach to design deftly weaves references from the 1930s and 1970s to create elegant interiors with a patinated modernism.
Her home is a celebration of natural light, raw materials – marble wood, zellige tiles – and a sprinkling of family heirlooms to produce a vernacular that is as sophisticated as it is family friendly.
“It was two years of searching before we finally stumbled upon this house, which had been untouched since the 70s,” says Hauvette. The duplex apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, is housed in a former end of terrace 19th-century townhouse.
“It comprises the ground floor and the first floor and yet it has the feel of a country house. The previous occupants had created a garden, a very beautiful Japanese one, although it wasn’t suitable at all for young children. I knew it would be a lot of work (it took 10 months to transform), but there was already a pleasing family feel when we first went to visit.”
The first floor includes the reception areas, the kitchen made from varnished macassar ebony and lava-stone worktops and a master suite. The lower floor, meanwhile, is dedicated to children and includes a family room, guest room, office and bedrooms. Both floors have direct access to the garden.
To retain an open plan feel, Hauvette installed a system of three arches, two of which feature rotating mirrors to capitalise on any light, given the house’s north-facing aspect.
The living room mixes styles and periods with a reissued Charlotte Perriand “Rio” table by Cassina made from rattan and natural oak, a Bouroullec lamp and an elegant green velvet sofa designed by Hauvette & Madani. Above this hang paintings by Jean Dupuy and Léon Tutundjian, a photo of Jean Arp’s studio by Willy Maywald, and a drawing of Hercules found at the Galerie Française. On the coffee table is a sculpture by her grandmother, Yvette Hauvette, and an India Mahdavi ashtray. Above the dining table is a portrait of a great-great aunt painted by her great-great uncle. Other family pieces include the silver chandelier from her uncle.
It is these more personal objects in her home that remain her favourites. “I grew up in a family with nice objects, no one was a designer, but my grandmother was a sculptor, my uncle was a painter and my mother did houses up beautifully.”
Indeed, the influences of these previous generations blend effortlessly with contemporary furniture and pieces.
She and Lucas Madani, co-founder of Hauvette & Madani, whom she met at the Ecole Camondo design school, have recently created a collection of furniture with a 70s twist. In keeping with the tradition of the decorators of the 1920s and 1930s, each piece is handmade in a limited edition by French master craftsmen.
She thinks many get it wrong when they try to decorate their home by copying a Pinterest board or the home of an interior designer. “I think you need to trust your taste. If it’s yours, you will blend everything together so don’t be scared about going for it, but don’t try to create the space of someone else.”
Light is also important to her. “People don’t always use enough indirect light, so there are lots of low spotlights from the window, the walls; you need to envelop yourself in light.”
Just as meticulously planned are her children’s bedrooms. She liked the idea of her kids sharing “Mary Poppins-style”. The walls are covered in a Trustworth wallpaper that matches the blue carpet and modular USM storage module by Didier Berény and Georges Store.
“I wanted it to be considered, so that they enjoy where they are; also so they don’t invade the sitting room too often upstairs.” She laughs, “or at least that’s the theory. And anyway, who said a home should just be designed for adults?”
Toys and screens are relegated to the family room, which is no less considered and includes a pink Togo sofa, a vintage Plexiglas coffee table and sculpture by Catherine Dix.
Her favourite space is her bedroom, where she spends the most time, even when not attending to a month-old baby. Couleur Chanvre linen and Maison de Vacances cushions cover her bed. The bedside table is her own design, on which sits a lamp by Nocturne Workshop, and above is work by Didier Berény.
“I read and work here. I love the two large windows in front of my bed and that when I wake up: I look out and my view is of two large palm trees. It makes me feel as if I’m on holiday. But also, like the best interiors – and what we always try to create in our work, there’s a timeless quality to this room, it appears as if it’s always been here.”