A Light-Infused, Haussmann-Era Apartment In Paris Embraces A New Narrative

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For all its historic charm, for all its impossibly romantic byways, Paris is really a modern city, whipped into shape in the 19th century by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III. The broad boulevards lined with seemingly identical apartment buildings didn’t win rave reviews from every quarter back in the day, but over time, they have come to signify the city as much as Notre Dame and the Louvre. And for many residents, these sober buildings with their wrought-iron balconies are central to the notion of la vie Parisienne.

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Located in the Seventh Arrondissement (home to a slew of landmarks, including the National Assembly and the Eiffel Tower), this property was typical of many relatively untouched Haussmann-era homes when designer Olivia Massimi was engaged to revive it. Impressive but outdated, with a single bathroom and a kitchen never meant for anyone but les domestiques, it demanded an updating.

“The clients wanted a flat with more convenience, but also a more convivial space where it is pleasant to be with the family,” shares Massimi. To satisfy those wishes, she tweaked the home’s layout, bringing the kitchen from the rear of the apartment to a more central location, and incorporated minimalist metal-and-glass doors between the newly constituted kitchen and the salon with its treetops view.

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Throughout the apartment, Massimi sought to respect the history within its walls while making room for a new narrative. Embracing the existing architecture and treating it as support for subtle mediation, Massimi allowed the past and present to speak simultaneously. In the kitchen, for example, she retained (but respectfully redesigned) a wonderful expanse of stained-glass windows and installed a very contemporary island crafted of walnut and marble.

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For the most part, white walls and trim rule here, generating a restful, light-bouncing backdrop. But in the primary bedroom, Massimi opted for a custom treatment from Redfield & Dattner, specialists in creative hand-painted walls. Evocative of sunlight breaking through after a thunderstorm, the atmospheric blue-and-gold image adds a soothing depth to the space.

And while these crisp, uncluttered interiors are far from any decor Haussmann would have known, if he walked these rooms today, he would have no doubt still recognized the abiding style of his time.

Photography by Yann Deret.

For more like this Haussmann-era abode, be sure to check out this revived apartment in the Opera District.

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