Since setting up her eponymous interior design studio in Paris almost 10 years ago, Sandra Benhamou has enjoyed creating stylish homes for her clients. When she began work on the interior of her own grand, Haussmanian apartment, however, she was excited to take advantage of the creative freedom and sense of liberty.
‘I wanted,’ she says, ‘to make it a joyful place.’
Originally an office block, the home, which she shares with her husband, Michael, and three children – Mia, 19, Sasha, 17, and Nathaniel, 13 – sits within strolling distance of the French capital’s National Assembly. When she bought it, the place was in a bad state of disrepair, with all of the electrics and plumbing needing to be replaced. This diamond’s shine was not deeply hidden, though.
Straight away Sandra noticed its original wood flooring and ornate mouldings. They are features she coveted but was not willing to be restrained by. ‘I wanted to avoid that bourgeoise feeling,’ she says. ‘My husband and I have a nice collection of art and design, but I really didn’t want my home to feel pretentious, or like a gallery.’
The best way to puncture any potential pomposity was with an injection of colour, and this home’s walls are a confection of pink, pale blues and greens. The inspiration for the scheme came from Le Corbusier’s famous ‘Les Couleurs’ palette. Specifically, Jung’s collection of light switches available in the Swiss architect and designer’s chosen hues.
‘I decided to use a different one of the switches for each space and to choose shades that would balance each one,’ explains Sandra. In the dining room, a red switch is paired with pale blue walls, while in the bedroom, terracotta switches beside the bed suit the mix of blue and pistachio green.
Le Corbusier is not the only design heavyweight to have influenced the look of this home. Italian architect Carlo Scarpa was in the forefront of Sandra’s mind when designing the bespoke handles for the cabinets in the kitchen and her walk-in wardrobe. Their indented shapes recall the geometric nature of his work. ‘I’m really a perfectionist,’ admits Sandra. ‘I pay attention to the things you may not see at first, but that really make the difference.’
This commitment to detail can also be seen in her first collection of furniture, released last year. Named ‘Ginger’, after Sharon Stone’s character in the Martin Scorsese classic Casino, it celebrates the excess of 1970s America with elegant precision. The movies are a natural reference point for Sandra, who started out training, not in interior design but film, moving to New York to work for Miramax before the birth of her children.
She has also lived in London and was impressed by the freedom of expression she witnessed in both cities. ‘There are less stereotypes and people trying to follow trends,’ she says. In her own home, the expected is deftly side-stepped with the emphasis on individuality and positive energy. Because, as Sandra concludes, ‘what’s most important in a house is good vibes.’ sandrabenhamou.com
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration February 2020
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