WORDS Steve Smith PRODUCTION Laurence Dougier PHOTOS Nicolas Mathéus
A double-volume apartment in Paris’s 9th Arrondissement takes the Avant-Garde art movement of Dadaism as its interior-design inspiration, resulting in a space that is bold and audacious.
Sign up any interior design firm that cites Dadaism as its primary influence, and you are pretty much guaranteed something a little left of centre. The early 20th century avant-garde art movement was born out of a response to the savagery of World War I, with its proponents questioning every aspect of a society capable of starting and then prolonging it – including its art.
The Dadaists fervently crumpled up traditional values and launched a three-pointer into the bin. So a brave choice, then, for the owner of this Parisian duplex to hire Thomas Dariel and Maison Dada. On the plus side, Delphine Moreau did have some insider info on her choice of interior designer – she’s a partner in the business. And that means that playful and quirky forms, as well as contrasting colour combinations, were always on the cards.
Founded in 2016, Maison Dada was based on a wild dream to inject a dose of Dadaism into everyday life, creating furniture, lighting and decorative accessories in what they saw as the realm that bridged dreams and reality. In the words of Monsieur Dariel, “Dadaism is the foundation of contemporary design, contemporary art and a contemporary way of thinking. Dada is a state of mind. That freedom is part of my signature. Maison Dada’s collection is a reflection of that – of an unrestrained imagination that brings life to objects.”
Much like the world’s acceptance of the early Dadaists, this renovation got off to something of a rocky start. The project was initially delayed by a year when the structure of the six-metre- tall duplex had to be reconfigured. “Initially, there was only the atelier, a small kitchen, the bathroom, two small bedrooms and another room adjoining the mezzanine,” recalls Thomas. “We broke everything down to create a new narrative, with a living room and a staircase placed to the side to let light in. This way, the ceiling height is experienced in its full grandeur.”
In the Dadaist tradition of mismatch, Thomas cites his influences as early 20th century Vienna, Italian design of the 1960s, and ancient Asian decorative arts. These common threads are expressed in the apartment with a “sense of the unexpected”. The living room’s strong vertical, horizontal and oblique lines, two-tone paint treatment, windows, chandelier and staircase have as a counterpoint soft curved sofas and armchairs. It’s an unusual colour palette too – shades of pink link arms with the blue side of the colour wheel in teals, navies and skies, all tied together by Maison Dada’s Jardin de Rocaille rug that recalls mineral extracts, stone flakes and marble patterns, along with leaves, flowers, petals and berries.
Blue also dominates in the kitchen, set under the mezzanine, with the cupboards painted in a Moroccan- inspired hue that pays homage to Fes – a city that’s often referred to as the country’s cultural capital. Here, again, shades of pink act as a contrast in the wall tiles, and in the ceramic vase that sits atop a brushed copper bar on a polished rosewood plinth.
It’s from the space above that you can truly appreciate Thomas’s love of contrast and of the unexpected. The mezzanine’s tranquil white, spacious workspace offers a beautiful view of the riot of colour and shapes of both the living area below and the iconic city’s 9th Arrondissement.