The tourists that tread the leafy Rue des Réservoirs outside this 19th-century French townhouse are the first clue to a rather imposing presence across the road: the Palace of Versailles.
‘It must have influenced us, even if it was never a conscious reference,’ says Baptiste Rischmann, one half of Parisian design firm RMGB, who, along with co-founder Guillaume Gibert, was brought in to sensitively reinvent this home.
Though the property’s proportions are somewhat less palatial than its grander neighbour, there was plenty to love beyond its illustrious address. Baptiste and Guillame, who pride themselves on their contact book of seasoned craftspeople, quickly seized upon the classical sensibilities of its three-storey shell.
‘Almost all of the original features were present but in poor condition,’ notes Baptiste. ‘We started with the restoration of its architectural elements: the ceiling mouldings, the joinery, the Hungarian herringbone parquet floor.’
After recently inheriting his childhood home, the new owner was keen to pay respect to the house’s past, yet not fastidiously preserve it. That meant Baptiste and Guillame were granted the liberty to shake things up.
Their deftest trick was enlisting an expert to painstakingly reproduce original mouldings in new positions, allowing them to unite the old kitchen and dining room as one large, open-plan living room. ‘We imagined a brighter and more fluid layout,’ explains Baptiste, who also highlights the graphic custom-designed carpet that radiates like a sunburst from beneath the sofa here. ‘It opens up the perspective, but also invites you to sit down and relax. We wanted it to feel really welcoming.’
The key was emphasising the interior as a series of distinct spaces. ‘We left ourselves more freedom than if we’d looked for a homogeneous continuity between the rooms,’ says Baptiste. ‘Each is an independent entity, in terms of colours and materials.’ It’s this gentle sense of surprise and an attention to detail that wards off any hint of showroom austerity in the face of an exquisite collection of bespoke and vintage pieces, many by renowned French designers.
The layering of old and new is perhaps best displayed in the main bedroom, with a bespoke bed, complete with a Jean Royère-inspired curved headboard, and a wardrobe decorated with traditional marquetry, which doubles as a monolithic room divider.
The duo might be coy when quizzed on the palace over the road, but consider the bathroom clad in black Grigio Carnico marble, or even the textured solid brass handles of the stainless steel kitchen, and Baptiste and Guillaume’s eye for the luxurious is confirmed. ‘We used a limited selection of materials, but we used them as best we could,’ says Baptiste. Few could argue with the results. rmgb.fr
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