Most open-floor-plan homes don’t look like Stéphane Arriubergé and Massimiliano Iorio’s, and they prefer it that way. For two years the pair sought the perfect Paris apartment in vain, until a friend, designer Matali Crasset, told them about a space coming up for sale on her street.
Situated on the ground floor of a 20th-century building at the back of a courtyard, it was originally a car mechanic’s workshop and a Turkish bath – and in a “very chaotic” state when they went to see it. But Stéphane and Massimiliano were interested in potential and possibility, not a ready-to-go home.
As founders of the French furniture company Moustache, they’ve made a name for themselves bringing unabashedly hip, forward-thinking furnishings and accents to life. It did not take long for them to fall under the spell of the mechanic’s workshop. “There we immediately saw the possibility of organizing all the functions in our ideal house in a single area, entirely open, in which all the functions overlap, all the areas talk to each other, look at each other,” Stéphane says. They’d just have to add a garden, because it didn’t have one.
Matali was then brought on to help bring Stéphane and Massimiliano’s vision to light, and after demolishing all the interior walls they gave her clear instructions how to proceed: “Do not build any wall, organize this large space by imagining light solutions, and choose furniture according to the scale of the architecture rather than walls.” She went for it. A transparent, multi-level “house within a house” was constructed under the 20-foot ceilings to contain the home’s more private functions – bedroom, office, and bath – but not hide them entirely.
You can see clear through the bathroom when you’re standing in the living area. There are several floors, but they’re more like planes darting in and out of the open space. Up one set of stairs you’ll arrive at the kitchen and dining room, up another – which winds ever so stealthily behind a sprawling “Cloud” installation by the Bouroullec brothers for Kvadrat – you’ll pass a library and reach the sleeping nook.
Situated in Paris’s Goncourt district, the home is near to the Saint Martin Canal and the homes of other contemporary creatives like Inga Sempé, whose works Stéphane and Massimiliano have on display in the apartment. “We have been collecting objects for a little more than 20 years,” Stéphane says, though they never buy antiques. “We love the objects that seem to tell us something about their era, the one in which we are rooted, objects that we feel are ‘important’ if they are related to the recent history of manufactured or design objects.” Geometric forms and washes of color make up a cacophony of visual delights: a pink resin floor, some turquoise walls, and kitchen shelving that glows in various shades of fuchsia from within. But the overall feel of the home is bright and light, a refuge in the city. Says Stéphane, “It is a sort of shelter to which it is good to withdraw, in which one can recharge one’s batteries, cut oneself off from the outside world.”
“To move from one area to another, one only has to go up or go down a few steps rather than opening or closing a door,” Stéphane explains. The glossy pink floor gives way to concrete stairs and a splash of tile en route to the kitchen. “This planning in levels enables two viewpoints to be had on the apartment: Wherever you may be in the apartment, the overall volume shows differently.”
Originally, there wasn’t a garden – so they constructed one that can be seen from nearly every vantage point in the home. “The apartment surrounds a small garden and is entirely oriented towards it,” Stéphane says. “There is a banana tree growing there, as well as a Japanese maple, a Californian lilac, and Spanish beans, without any restriction and quite freely.”
The Bouroullecs’ Cloud partition, at once soft and geometric, was brought in as a counter to the “imposing presence” of the interior cabin that Matali designed – and also, conveniently, to hide the home’s main staircase. “As if rising in the space, the clouds create a sort of open and very comfortable refuge,” Stéphane says. “This is a gentle construction and enveloping tool similar to a beautiful blanket.”
The bedroom, situated on the second floor of the cabin, is lit by daylight through its transparent walls. A green curtain is there to block the light when they sleep. Outside the door, an Inga Sempé lamp glows on a table.
Color, Stéphane says, was never an afterthought but in fact one of their first considerations. “We also like to play with the symbolism of colors and try to free ourselves from it,” says Stéphane. “The pink we used for the floor in our project is released from the customary feminine and childish connotations and symbols. Its use for the floor and its association with more frank colors make it almost abstract.”
A ground-floor bahthroom features more open walls and the apartment’s most conspicuous use of color: a super-saturated teal counter.
“Obviously, we have surrounded ourselves with the objects we produce with Moustache,” says Stéphane. They bring in prototypes to test and refine before beginning production. “Living with these objects enables us to perfect our knowledge of them, to judge their way of helping us in our daily life.”
A relatively spare kitchen with Corian counters and a Douglas fir island blends almost into the background beside the more vibrant collective spaces, proof that the kitchen and its inherent functionality need not always be the focal point of a home.
The dining room and the garden beyond it sit one floor up from ground level, with glass doors that give it an indoor-outdoor feel – even when they’re not wide open, as they tend to be in summer.