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Elegant country-style retreat in central Paris

Interior designer and art curator Émilie Bonaventure was inspired by nature and the capital’s artistic history

paris home emilie bonaventure library
Asa Liffner

‘We wanted to create a kind of countryside retreat right in the heart of Paris,’ says French interior designer and art curator Émilie Bonaventure, of the plan for this three-storey 18th-century house, which is nestled among the elegant hôtel particuliers and secret gardens of the city’s 9th arrondissement.

‘I live in the neighbourhood,’ she explains, ‘so the client [a Parisian with a passion for collecting art and objets] liked my enthusiasm for the history of the area, which is closely tied to the capital’s 19th-century artistic scene.’

paris home emile bonaventure living room
Asa Liffner

While the building’s roots may be centuries old, unfortunately, inside, there was nothing original left to salvage. ‘It had been used to store motorcycles, old stone and antiques, like a junkyard,’ laments Émilie. To right that wrong, she and her team took time to track down just the right elements that would bring authenticity back to the space.

Roughly knotted late-18th-century wooden floorboards, carved 19th-century panelling (used to divide the kitchen from the living room), vividly veined travertine stone, slubby linens and cupboard doors inset with vetiver or raffia all lend a sense of what the designer calls ‘discreet wow’. ‘I don’t like glossy, show-off design,’ she adds.

paris home emilie bonaventure bedroom
Asa Liffner

The details are historically appropriate, but when it came to the palette for this home, everything centered around the garden, which was landscaped by Atelier Gabriel before Émilie joined the project. Her choice of texturally rich tones – layers of white interjected with notes of cream, gold, caramel, chocolate, and punchy juniper and moss – is a purposeful counterpoint to the ever-changing hues of the linden, walnut, maple and birch trees outside.

Away from the main living area, her inspirations were a little different. The heady days of 90s nightclubbing inspired the lavish media room, while the main bedroom’s elaborate, stage-like curtains nod to the house’s original owner, François-Joseph Talma – a leading light of Paris’s Comédie Française, the world’s oldest active theatre company.

paris home emilie bonaventure garden
Asa Liffner

Providing a link between these spaces is the elegant plaster staircase that was handcrafted on site. Émilie stood alongside the plasterer daily as together they worked out the twists and turns that would allow it to fit within this narrow property.

It is this collaborative spirit that echoes throughout the house. ‘I put together only people that I admire,’ says Émilie of her ‘family’ of art and antiques dealers, craftspeople and fellow designers. ‘That way, everyone puts their best into the project and those happy, positive vibes stay in the space forever.’ be-attitude.net

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration January 2020

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