This article originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ELLE DECOR. For more stories from our archive, subscribe to ELLE DECOR All Access.
As a traveler soon discovers, every city has its own unique scent, its particular rhythm and energy. But for Brazilian architect and designer Sig Bergamin, a city also expresses itself as an array of colors, patterns, and textures. His Paris, for example, is aubergine velvet and dark-chocolate lacquer, sparkling mirrors, buttery leather, and masses of crimson and burgundy roses—a striking contrast to the juicy hues and luminous surfaces of his native São Paulo. “When I am in Paris, I feel completely different than when I am home,” he says. “I don’t even like the same colors.”
No wonder, then, that he ventured beyond the pale when he set out to decorate his pied-à-terre near the Place Vendôme three years ago. “I dove into a world of darker shades without restrictions,” he says. “In Brazil, I would never do dark purple and brown. But Paris is a sophisticated city. It’s elegant, romantic, and dramatic.”
The palette was also driven by practical considerations. Bergamin and his partner, architect Murilo Lomas, visit Paris only during the cool, high-culture seasons—fall, winter, spring—so the apartment needed to be both cozy and polished. Moreover, with 13-foot-high ceilings, the living room could handle rich, dark colors without feeling like a cave.
Yet while the somber colors are a departure for the designer, the exuberant mixture of furnishings and textiles is signature Bergamin, who is famous for his just-shy-of-reckless juxtapositions of patterns and styles. “I’ve always been fascinated by taking risks,” he says. “I don’t worry about right or wrong.” Silk velvet and wool tapestry rub elbows with chrome, leather, and resin. A Moroccan chair pulls up to a formal inlaid-wood desk from the 1940s. Zebra skins share the space with brocaded Louis XV–style chairs and a prim Victorian cabinet. In every room, the walls sizzle with Pop Art from the 1960s and ’70s and provocative contemporary photography. “All my art is about colors,” says Bergamin. “It’s like Carnaval.”
Adding to the fun-house atmosphere are expansive mirrors, which Bergamin employs throughout the apartment. “I like mirrors, not because I want to take a look at myself all the time,” he says with a laugh, “but because they create a double living space.” He called on their powers to conjure square footage in the gallery, a small, low room that nonetheless serves multiple purposes.
Functioning first as an entry foyer for arriving guests, it also acts as a passage between the apartment’s public rooms and its private spaces—and as a bridge between the 18th and 19th centuries, for Bergamin’s home is actually two linked apartments built a hundred years apart. To bring grandeur to the diminutive gallery, Bergamin lined the ceiling in mirrors and covered the walls in vertical stripes in shades of orange, brown, and cream, creating height and drama. “Everyone, when they first open the door, says, ‘Oh, it’s amazing!’” says Bergamin.
It is this small, potent space that also gets set up as a buffet when Bergamin and Lomas entertain. “Every time we are in Paris, we invite our friends over for drinks and dinner,” says Bergamin. “I like people. And Murilo also loves a party. But we don’t have a proper dining room, so people serve themselves in the ‘stripes’ room and go back to the living room to eat.”
There, of course, they encounter more stripes, in the form of a bold black-and-white zigzag rug laid over the glossy white floor. “I like playing with contrast,” says Bergamin. “When you mix black and white with orange, for example, it pops—it gets shocking! Or as we say in Brazil, it ‘gives good samba.’”
Festive as the apartment appears, for Bergamin it also serves as an oasis of calm. The 19th-century wing—which includes bedrooms, a powder room, and the master bath—overlooks a pedestrian passageway lined with cafés and illuminated with historic streetlights. But even though their address is a stone’s throw from the bustling Place Vendôme, the flat, according to Bergamin, is “quiet, quiet, quiet.”