Where Architects Live | Felix De Montesquiou

The minimalist kitchen is designed as a backdrop to the living space and conceals all of the ‘technical elements’. The oak kitchen joinery is repeated throughout the flat to create spaces with ‘strong rationality and regularity’.

Architect Felix De Montesquiou’s Paris home reflects his affinity for natural light, industrial scale and integrated design elements.

A custom-made table and lighting by DAS Studio, 1960s Wengé dining chairs by Gerard Geytenbeek produced by AZS Meubelen and photographs by Daidō Moriyama. 

Your ‘Bichat’ home isn’t a typical heritage apartment in Paris. What drew you to this building to make it your home – did you immediately see the potential?

I was excited about the volume when I first came into the flat. It’s rare in Paris to find a flat in an industrial building that isn’t on the ground floor, and this one had a fantastic luminosity.

I also gravitated to the orientation. The main facade faces southeast; I knew we would have great light all through the morning.

The exposed brick ceiling and industrial bones reveal an interesting past life. What was the building before it became your home?

It was a factory, but it’s unclear what was manufactured last; we have been told it was a sewing machine factory. I also know a developer converted the building into housing in the 1990s.

How did you respond decoratively to the industrial interior elements, such as the brick ceiling and steel columns?

Although the living room had a double height when I bought the place, the spaces were much more divided. It’s easier to project your lifestyle into a space of your own. I knew we wanted as much living space as possible because this is where we spend most of our time, so I tried to confine all of the technical elements in hidden spaces to keep the volume as simple as possible.

We love cooking, but we rarely have the time. I wanted a kitchen that wouldn’t visually invade the living space but had all the necessary elements. It was also important for me to create spaces with strong rationality and regularity in proportions so that the rhythm of the oak kitchen doors is repeated throughout the flat.

As in all of my work, I use many existing decorative elements. The steel beams were cleaned, and we applied a patina to darken them. We used the same patina on the steel and glass structure on the mezzanine to keep everything homogeneous. The ceiling was a no-brainer; the bricks warmed the space up.

Tacchini Costela Armchair
San Selmo Reclaimed

The double-height living space features a pair of vintage Costela chairs by Brazilian designers Carlo Hauner and Martin Eisler – one of Felix’s all-time favourite designs. A pair of vintage Katavolos, Kelley, and Littell for Laverne chairs, a Model Kontiki sofa by Arne Norell and a concrete coffee table by DAS Studio are also pictured.

Working within an existing building poses spatial challenges. What are some of the unique spatial solutions you created?

As I knew we would enjoy the living space the most, I tried to integrate the technical elements such as the bathrooms, storage and fridge behind oak doors to keep the space as visually simple as possible. It’s hard to tell what opens and what doesn’t.

The bedrooms on the level mezzanine are small, cosy volumes, but they can open completely to the living space. As they were compact, I integrated lighting into the furniture to avoid complicating the space. All the storage is also tucked away, englobing the existing structure when I didn’t feel like revealing it. I also designed a new light to occupy the whole volume but remain discreet and underline the collection of Daido Moriyama photographs in the dining room.

Your home features a mezzanine level enclosed in glass. How have you pulled natural light into different areas?

The rooms on the mezzanine open completely to the living room. During the day, we keep everything open to enjoy the great light from this space.

How do the custom details reflect how you live in your home?

I like spaces to be simple and clean; having minimal oak doors to conceal elements allows me to keep a soothing environment.

I rarely work from home but do when I need maximum concentration and quietness, as my office can be busy and loud. I keep a sketchbook and some pens at home and work on the dining table where I have wonderful light.

The use of marble in the bathroom feels simple but monumental – what effect did you want to achieve here?

I wanted something that would contrast with the industrial feel of the main floor. I sourced this Italian marble with a very strong pattern because I knew I couldn’t have decorative elements in the bathroom but wanted something warm and precious.

The tub is custom-made in stainless steel, but I have covered the most visible side with a piece of marble for the same reason. The design of these elements enhances the pattern of the marble.

“I like spaces to be simple and clean; having minimal oak doors to conceal elements allows me to keep a soothing environment.”

– felix de montesquiou

The mezzanine level features the home’s private areas. The rooms are wrapped in glass and open onto the living area, allowing light to enter throughout the day.

Your home features a curation of art and vintage pieces. Could you share the story behind sourcing a couple of pieces and why they are personal to you?

I compulsively buy furniture in galleries in Paris and throughout the world, most of the time without knowing where I will install them. None of the pieces were bought, especially for my Paris flat, but I tried to include furniture in my house that was most inspiring to me.

The two Katavolos chairs come from a gallery in Amsterdam and are very sculptural and minimal. I love that they look uncomfortable and unstable, but as soon as you sit in them, you realise they are the opposite. I have had the Arne Norell sofa for a while. My dogs love it; it’s extraordinary light and is an amazing system that is completely dismountable with no screws; the leather straps tie everything together. The coffee table is a concrete square mounted on wheels that we produce in my studio. It looks heavy, but it’s quite easy to move around as it’s hollow. It’s a rough element but well-sanded, so it is very soft to touch. It’s also great for kids who love climbing and standing on it. The Costella chairs are one of my all-time favourite designs. So when I found an affordable pair from a gallery in Brazil, I didn’t hesitate to purchase them.

Now, living in a home of your own design, is there anything that has surprised you about how you and your family use the space?

My son is a year and a half old and enjoys running in the living room. He learned to stand and climb on the concrete table I created, although it wasn’t my intention! He spends most of his time around it, which is quite surprising as there are other areas to explore.

I remember hesitating to dedicate so much space to the kitchen, but it’s what we use the most, and we absolutely love being completely integrated in the living space.

This feature originally appeared in est magazine issue 51: Design Voices. 

The Italian marble in the bathroom was selected to contrast the industrial feeling of the floor below. The bathroom also features a custom-made bathtub in stainless steel, clad with marble; a design feature that enhances the marble’s strong patterning.

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