The ideal recipe for eclectic chic, 21st-century style? Combine the classic details of a Haussmannian apartment with owner Emmanuel de Bayser’s eye for the finest mid-century furniture and design objects – plus a growing collection of contemporary art. Parfait!
Text Robyn Alexander Photographs Greg Cox Production Sven Alberding
When boutique owner and collector Emmanuel de Bayser outgrew his former Paris apartment – a pied-à-terre used mainly when he was in town to attend fashion weeks and select items for The Corner Berlin, his store in Berlin – he and his partner knew they wanted to stay in the same part of the city. “The previous apartment was a bit small since we intended to spend more time in Paris,” Emmanuel explains. “But I liked the Parc Monceau area very much, and it is ideal for our dog, so I was very pleased when I found this apartment – just 200 metres from where we were before.”
The area’s famed parks were not the only attraction, of course. As Emmanuel says, this part of Paris is “pure Haussmannian style” and features many of the hôtels particuliers (grand townhouses) typical of the famous 19th-century city planner’s designs. “This part of the city makes you immediately feel like you’re right in the heart of Paris,” he says, adding that “this Paris, and what it offers – architecture, monuments, museums, galleries, restaurants, shops – is a permanent source of inspiration.”
Situated on the étage nobile, the coveted second floor of a Haussmann-style building, the apartment came complete with three-metre-high ceilings, classic wooden panelling, and beautifully detailed interior mouldings.
The building in which Emmanuel de Bayser’s apartment is situated includes all the classic elements of Parisian structures in the style of 19th-century urban designer Georges-Eugène Haussmann, including the fact that it is constructed of pierre de taille stone and features a beautiful arched carriage entrance that opens into a courtyard, as well as roofs slanted at 45 degrees, plus ornately carved stone and wrought-iron interior staircases. Emmanuel’s apartment is situated on the second floor, and he says, “The fact that you see both architecture and nature – in the form of the park – from [it] is magic.”
Walk up the stone stairway complete with wrought-iron bannisters adorned with carved elements, pass through the doorway of Emmanuel’s apartment into a spacious entrance hall, and you are drawn into a veritable cocoon of elegance. All the original wainscoting and wall panelling, the triple-height interior doors, and the wooden skirtings and cornices are perfectly preserved; all are painted plain white against walls in a slightly warmer, creamier shade, has the effect of subtly emphasising and celebrating their refined visual appeal. Floors are mainly original oak parquet, topped by large natural coir rugs. And similarly, the window coverings are luxurious yet minimal: cream ceiling-to-floor curtains and, where required, plain white semi-transparent window blinds for additional privacy.
So far, so classic – and yet, what takes these interiors to another level is not the urbane appeal of the “bones” of the building or the sublime simplicity of the backdrop created by floors, windows and walls. Rather, it’s the fact that all of this functions as a supremely elegant frame for the eclectic and very chic furniture, objects and contemporary art that catch and hold Emmanuel’s discerning eye.
To a collector, of course, furniture can become less of an attraction than objects and artworks, quite simply because furniture tends to take up a great deal of space! As Emmanuel says, “Once the apartment is furnished, there is very little you can add except objects and artworks. But an apartment should never be finished; it has to live and grow… so in a way, I usually start as a minimalist and with the years end up as a maximalist.”