We know what you’re thinking – dream digs! – but nobody lives in this house. Rather, it’s an immaculately designed art gallery that just happens to have a dining room, kitchen, and sleeping quarters.
“By allowing visitors to imagine themselves living in real time with the objects on display, it makes art and design just a little bit more accessible,” explains Marie Farman in a profile of the space on Sight Unseen. That is, making your gallery look like a home makes visitors a little more likely to buy something.
Called Zeuxis, the concept was brought to life by curator Amélie du Chalard, who purchased the building – a centuries-old townhouse located in Paris’ uber-chic 9th arrondissement – after losing a previous gallery space to the city. It wasn’t in terrible shape, but there was stained wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the upstairs and lots of closed-off rooms, so the renovation, led by Rebecca Benichou of Batiik Studio, would need to be a gut.
Downstairs, a street-facing gallery space was connected to the back courtyard through a narrow doorway, so Rebecca added a rounded oak railing to disguise the stairs but also guide visitors to them.
To make the building function as a gallery, the front and back rooms downstairs needed connecting – both to each other and also to the upstairs apartment. Out with the clunky wood flourishes that had been tacked on over the years, out with a lot of unnecessary walls, and in with a lot of white gallery paint and Amélie’s contemporary furnishings. Oh, yes, and in with the art collection she’s been amassing for the past four years in her work as a budding curator. Here’s how they transformed the dated space into a gleaming gallery-home called Zeuxis, where Amélie can now host events and dinners as well as take visitors on private tours of the killer collection.
Before: At the back of the top floor, a sitting room remained dark despite two small windows due to it being sectioned off from the front of the house.
After: In order to brighten the room, Rebecca came up with a custom glass door. “It’s difficult to know where we started to design this door,” she says, “because we like arches, but here, it was going to be very fancy.” Once she settled on a glass-and-wood design, Amélie approved it right away.
Before: A small room off to the side of the living room turned bedroom originally housed a bed.
After: And since they’d turned the living room into a bedroom, this room was freed up to act as a bath. “Amélie wanted to have a very open space, because no one ever uses the bathroom,” Rebecca laughs. It’s big enough for someone to shower without needing a curtain, featuring one terrazzo wall and concrete surfaces on the rest.
Before: Wedged into the middle of the top floor, the kitchen had no source of natural light, coupled with a lot of seemingly random, dated components.
After: The critical design element that integrates the kitchen with the dining room is a counter-height wood block where the wall used to be. “There is a different level between the kitchen and the main room, and we had to do something about it,” Rebecca says. “We didn’t want the kitchen to be really open to the living/dining room, so we made this wooden piece that’s really high when you’re in the kitchen, but on the other side it’s small enough to look like a cupboard.” In the kitchen, it’s the right height to use as a counter.
After: But when viewed from the dining room, Rebecca points out, it looks like a piece of furniture. Plus, “it hides the other part of the kitchen that’s aluminum, which is more looking like something technical.” If Amélie is hosting a dinner up here, the food can be prepared on one side and then set atop the counter to act as a buffet.
Before: “The thing that was really old school was that there was carpet on every floor, even the hall,” says Rebecca. Also, platforms with unclear purposes and cheesy railings underneath the building’s gorgeous original wood ceiling beams.
After: Up came the carpet and down went a coat of paint, as the wood floors underneath weren’t in perfect condition. This corner now acts as the sitting room, open as it is to the dining table and kitchen.
After: In place of the dowdy railing went a slender steel staircase painted white to blend in with the walls. “We wanted to have something very thin, white, light. We just chose to do it in steel, because in wood it would have been too big.” At the top, a sculpture is placed just so to keep you from stepping through the open railings.
After: “Everything was supposed to be white and clean but no colors,” she recalls, but then they saw a photo of a floor designed out of marble remnants. “Amélie was like, wow, it’s so cool. We didn’t really know what we were doing but we figured out how to do it.” They picked out discarded pieces of marble from a stone yard and decided to leave them in their irregular shapes, then had those pieces set into terrazzo.
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