Furniture aficionados move their stellar collection into a Paris apartment by Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marrec
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 3/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
It all started in 1979. Back then, Philippe Jousse was a photographer, his wife, Patricia, a window dresser. Neither had a particular interest in design. Then, in a secondhand shop in Paris, he came across one of Jean Prouvé's tables. Attracted by its pure lines, he bought it along with some documentation about Prouvé. After examining the information, Philippe Jousse says, "I immediately realized that his work was important." Time has certainly proved him right. A pair of Prouvé doors in steel and acrylic sold at auction at Sotheby's for $680,000 in 2004; two and a half years later, rival Christie's sold one of his prefab aluminum- and-steel Maisons Tropicales to hotelier André Balazs for almost $5 million.
Galerie Jousse Entreprise on the Rue de Seine is today one of the world's leading dealers of Prouvé's work. Over the years, the couple has amassed quite an impressive personal collection as well. "We don't change things very often. We're really attached to what we have," Patricia Jousse says. Their collection is currently housed in a 13th-floor penthouse that looks onto the Port de l'Arsenal, a stretch of water that reaches from the Seine to the Place de la Bastille. Beyond the dozens of boats that harbor there lies a remarkable Parisian panorama with the Eiffel Tower clearly visible in the distance. "I don't think I could ever tire of the view," she continues. "The light is never the same."
The 970-square-foot apartment, in an unremarkable '60's building, was previously split into a number of shoe-box spaces with cheap wood-laminate flooring. According to architects Emmanuel Combarel and Dominique Marrec, the place was a catastrophe. The Jousses asked for "something in the spirit of a hotel suite," with just one bedroom and the largest living-dining room possible. Combarel and Marrec imagined fluid, unobstructed spaces to highlight the sight lines from one side of the flat to the other—hence the sliding doors and panels generally left wide open. Emmanuel Combarel Dominique Marrec Architectes amplified the abundant sunshine by adding a skylight above the stairs to the roof. The firm also chose polyurethane resin for the floor and a luminescent stucco for the walls and ceiling. "Stucco reflects a very pure white light, without a yellow cast," Combarel says.
Most important, the flat had to showcase the Jousses' collection. The architects strategically placed spotlighting to set off specific pieces and installed one of Prouvé's famous porthole panels as a sliding partition between the living area and kitchen. Also scattered around are a pair of his high-backed armchairs for a villa in Saint-Clair, France, a wall-mounted swing-arm lamp designed for an Air France building in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville, and the couple's most prized possession, a long dining table. They bought two of the latter in 1987, one to sell and one to keep.
Other designers represented at Galerie Jousse Entreprise are in abundance as well. There are lamps by Serge Mouille and ceramics by Georges Jouve. A sideboard that Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand designed for a scientist in 1945 is one of only two in existence. Also extremely rare, a Jean Royère standing lamp is a mass of metal squiggles. It took Philippe Jousse two years to persuade the former owners to part with it. And that's nothing compared to the 20 years necessary to acquire the furnishings of the Saint-Clair villa—presented at last year's Biennale des Antiquaires. Contemporary design, such as a cocktail table by Ron Arad and a bell of a pendant fixture by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, offsets the vintage mix. Striking artwork includes a drawing by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a photograph of the Italian port of Salerno by Andreas Gursky.
One of the disadvantages of the apartment, the Jousses admit, is that it doesn't have more wall space. They also lack a guest room. At one point, they were hoping to buy the studio next door. For now, they're planning to commission the experimental Atelier Van Lieshout to design a boat, which could be moored on the Port de l'Arsenal and used to house visitors.
Photography by Eric Laignel.
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