Home Tour: This Geneva Apartment Brims With Historic Charm and Modern Art
Located in the old town area of Geneva, Parc des Bastions is a charming park in the heart of the Swiss city and banking hub. There are shady promenades, sculptural monuments, galleries and museums, and an overall relaxed ambience. It is not surprising then that a financier and his art advisor wife fell in love with a historic property in the area’s Cité district.
The couple is passionate about art and wanted their home to reflect that. They flew to Barcelona to meet Chilean-born interior designer Jaime Beriestain, who is known for elegant works worldwide.
His firm has designed luxurious yet understated residences, as well as restaurants and hotels for clients such as Hilton and Waldorf Astoria. Impressed with his portfolio, the couple enlisted Beriestain’s studio to design and renovate their abode, which the firm completed in fourteen months.
The 3,659sqft apartment is located in an 18th-century building, which formerly housed Hôtel Sellon. It has high ceilings, domed windows and decorative mouldings, and looks out to meticulous landscaping. Beriestain’s experience in renovating historic hotels was fully brought to bear in this project.
“We wanted to get back the original soul of the house that had been lost in the last refurbishment thirty years ago,” says the designer. Neutral white, grey and cream tones provide a fitting backdrop for splashes of colour from artworks and furnishings. This palette also pays homage to Geneva’s cloudy skies.
Beriestain and his team restored the damaged floors and decorative mouldings in the living room, master bedroom and dressing room. They then added new oak flooring and streamlined elements to spaces without historic features, instead of replicating the existing moulding designs. Next, the team used the couple’s contemporary art collection as a starting point to layer the soulful shell.
The designer worked closely with the homeowners to discover the best locations to exhibit the artworks. British-based artist Anish Kapoor’s Untitled (Deep Blue) stainless-steel dish, hung on one of the living room’s alabaster walls, is a centrepiece. It sparked the idea of using colour to identify each room. Here, it matches the dual coffee tables by Yves Klein, purchased at Senda Gallery in Barcelona.
Two Maxalto Crono sofas and ashen Jacques armchairs by Minotti encircle these tables. A Sum of One and Two interlocking hanging lamp by Niamh Barry draws attention upwards. Its curved forms mirror the living room’s rounded windows.
“It was important that these views and natural light were noticeable as one enters the room,” says Beriestain, on a sofa’s positioning overlooking the garden. Above the fireplace, a mirror reflects Kapoor’s cobalt piece, perpetuating the room’s play on symmetry.
Each space is compartmentalised following the historic plan, which could not be altered in the conserved building. This heightens the home’s sense of discovery and intimacy. Beriestain created an airy entrance foyer that encourages guests to pause for a look before ambling through the corridors. A textual piece by American artist and poet John Giorno and a vintage wall lamp by Serge Mouille enliven the tranquil space.
The dining room sits in the midst of the apartment’s slightly L-shaped layout, so Beriestain designed a table with an angular shape tracing the room’s irregular form. This allows diners to engage with one another across the table.
While the rest of the house is more understated, Beriestain creating a setting in this room that brings the garden’s liveliness indoors. The botanical wallpaper matches the green Amélie dining chairs from Minotti. Overhead, the multiple semi-circles of a Volta suspension lamp from Estiluz recall natural forms.
“This is a room where you typically spend only a few hours in, so that makes it possible to have this extreme colour and pattern from the customised Zuber & Cie hand-painted wallpaper,” says the designer.
The kitchen is located at the end of one of the corridors, past a study, two guest rooms, and the gym and movie room. “The young couple, especially the husband, enjoy cooking. Therefore the kitchen design is very masculine,” says Beriestain of the black-dyed oak joinery.
The white ceiling, beams and walls, and Neolith Calacatta Gold marble flooring counter the heft of the dark wood elements. On the wall, a crimson-hued art piece by Yago Hortal brightens a breakfast corner.
The master bedroom’s genteel palette is accented with vibrant furniture, such as a burgundy Alcor console from Maxalto and wall stuccos made by artisans in off-white and cream tones for richer tonality. Silk carpets from Stepevi and plush furniture make this space a luxurious cocoon of rest.
Throughout the house, Beriestain managed to replace the old gas lamp installations with electric lights. He could not use downlights in order to preserve the plaster ceilings, so all of the floor, wall, and pendant lamps he chose add to the home’s artistic sensibilities.
“The lighting is soft, warm, low in contrast and placed at eye level,” says the designer. These subtle touches create a home that is contemplative and filled with intellectual and sensual qualities.
This story was first published in the April issue of Tatler Homes Singapore.