This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of ELLE DECOR. For more stories from our archive, subscribe to ELLE DECOR All Access.
The Middle Eastern princess knew she wanted something elegant in Paris’s posh 16th arrondissement as her starter apartment. But the place also had to reflect her contemporary taste and modern lifestyle. Once she bought the 5,000-square-foot apartment, housed in a late-19th-century building, she perused the ELLE DECOR website in search of a designer to oversee its much-needed renovation. She landed on the work of Jean-Louis Deniot. “I fell in love with his design aesthetic, his attention to details, and his ability to create an artistic atmosphere in the spaces he designs,” she says. “He mixes vintage pieces with modern elements, soft with strong, feminine and masculine. I knew then he was the right interior designer for my Paris apartment.”
For Deniot, who is based in the city, the three-year-long project was a dream assignment. “The client wanted a grand French apartment without falling into the basic Haussmannian cliché,” he says. “At the same time, she was only 25 years old, so she was looking for something fresh, eclectic, and playful.” As she puts it, “I wanted it to feel homey but luxurious and artistic at the same time.”
Deniot proposed a neoclassical theme with “clean lines and moldings and cornices that are more sober” than those of a typical Haussmann-era flat. She approved wholeheartedly.
Since the apartment had never been renovated in its 125-year existence, the layout was “obsolete,” Deniot says. In old Paris homes, “the kitchens were systematically badly placed because the owners all had staff. We needed to adapt the plan to today’s life: big bathrooms, walk-in closets, air-conditioning, and a modern kitchen. So we demolished everything inside and started from scratch. Nothing in the apartment is original except a door or two that we kept as a reference.”
Once the new floor plan—with two suites and three other bedrooms—was finalized, Deniot met with the owner to figure out the palette. He proposed tones of blue “with a touch of green, like spring water,” accented with matte gold. “Everyone likes blue,” he says. “It’s very calming. And it’s easy to work with.” He chose gold, he adds, “to make the decor somewhat precious, like a gem, and to add a touch of femininity—like a spark. Gold makes things more exciting.”
The client’s main request was for an oak-clad kitchen because, Deniot says, “she wanted the kitchen to feel warm. She is taking cooking lessons in Paris and plans to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making meals for friends.” He dressed up the wood with mirrored cabinets and polished nickel trim, so it wouldn’t look like a country kitchen. The result, he says, “is like the Hall of Mirrors. It looks like a ballroom.”
For the adjacent breakfast nook, Deniot brought in a painter to create a trompe l’oeil mural inspired by the marble atop the kitchen’s 15-foot-long island. In the dining room, which carries on the same natural oak hues, Deniot had the traditional striped wallpaper installed at a variety of angles, resulting in a giant geometric pattern similar to the marble flooring. In the sweeping living room, he asked the plasterers to create a ceiling molding that echoed the rug design.
Much of the furnishings and lighting came from the United States—including vintage William Haines chairs and bronze lamps by Paul Evans in the living room and a Tony Duquette chandelier in the primary bath—because, Deniot explains, “American houses are so much bigger than everywhere else, so the scale is large. When you do a big apartment like this, you need generous proportions.” He also mixed in European pieces, such as Louis XVI armchairs and Wedgwood bibelots, to add a Continental flair.
Deniot relied heavily on European artisans to produce site-specific work, such as the marble-and-bronze console in the entrance hall, a bronze-and-opaline dining table that seats 24, an aluminum patina on the dining room ceiling to reflect the light, and the hammered-silver cabinetry in the primary bath. For the chartreuse-accented media room, he hid the flat-screen television behind a one-way mirror over the fireplace, so the room looks like a traditional French sitting room when the television is off. “That’s a Deniot creation!” he exclaims proudly.
Since the young homeowner didn’t have an art collection—everything was purchased for the apartment—Deniot decided to use tableaux and sculpture as decorative elements. One of his favorite acquisitions is a series of gold nuggets (actually gilded resin) by artist Romain Sarrot in the primary bedroom. “It’s a work normally put on the floor, but I think it looks better on the wall—it’s like 24-karat-gold popcorn,” he observes. The client was thrilled with the final result. “It was the first project we did together,” Deniot continues, “but I don’t think it will be the last.”
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE