Cover A large painting by Gilles Bensimon echoes the hues on the colourful custom velvet sofas and accent cushions

Designed by interior architecture studio Humbert & Poyet, Alexis Mabille’s chic apartment in Paris is an eclectic showcase of styles from some of history’s most influential eras

The co-founders of interior architecture studio Humbert & Poyet are no strangers to the world of high fashion. Paris-based duo Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet tapped into their deep appreciation for womenswear when they designed the Saint Germain des Prés boutique of French fashion designer Alexis Mabille’s eponymous brand in 2014.

Soon after the store’s completion, Mabille approached Humbert & Poyet to decorate his newly purchased apartment in the 9th arrondissement, a bustling district in Paris filled with cultural attractions. For the designers, this project presented them with another opportunity to collaborate with the renowned couturier.

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“Alexis wanted us to recreate the lost grandeur of this once beautiful apartment, which had been completely stripped of its original 19th-century details, by rebuilding it in the directoire style,” say the designers.

In a nod to the directoire style—which dominated the second phase of the neoclassical period of art and culture in the late 18th century—the walls are painted a stark white and accented with rectangular mouldings, acknowledging the period’s revival of ancient Greek architecture. The movement emphasised the Greek architectural philosophy of simplicity, proportion, perspective and harmony.

Alexis wanted us to recreate the lost grandeur of this once beautiful apartment, which had been completely stripped of its original 19th-century details, by rebuilding it in the directoire style.
Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, Humbert & Poyet

With its high ceilings, voluminous rooms and abundance of natural light, the apartment did have desirable qualities, but was a very austere space. “It was challenging as the space was bare and minimal, with no structural elements of decoration,” says Humbert.

“So, we took the opportunity to introduce contemporary elements and recreate structural decorative elements that would connect with the building’s history.”

The repeated rectangular mouldings play on the period’s use of geometry, which are echoed in the square cornices framing the apartment’s lofty ceilings, as well as the herringbone parquet flooring. These subtle details, synonymous with the principles of simplicity and symmetry, create an elegant setting for rich textures and luxurious materials such as velvet and marble.

This seemingly effortless integration of directoire elements was the fruit of substantial planning and research. “We excavated the original floor plans from the 19th century to capture the style of that era in our renovation. As the apartment had been completely stripped of its decorative elements before we started working on it, every single thing had to be redone, apart from one mantelpiece, one door and part of the ceiling,” recall the designers.

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To create a space that would capture Mabille’s iconic style, the studio referenced the couturier’s penchant for cinematic influences, theatrical styling and historical periods such as the Second French Empire—the period of Napoleon III’s Imperial Bonapartist regime from 1852 to 1870.

Coincidentally, these are references that the interior designers also admire; they’re known for their knack for combining modern and historical influences in their projects. For instance, the use of brass finishes and the herringbone flooring are both hallmarks of the studio.

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Although Humbert & Poyet led the project, Mabille was also deeply involved in the creative process, even designing some of the furniture himself. In the living room, the striking velvet sofas are custom pieces by the fashion designer. These modern iterations of the Tudor-style sofa were made from fabric offcuts from his collection of vintage tapestries, sourced from antique markets across France.

A marble coffee table designed by Mabille not only brings these different elements together, it also draws attention to the symmetrical placement of furniture; these include the gilded mirrors positioned on the opposite ends of the room and the Napoleonic chairs flanking both mantelpieces. The room is also furnished with art deco-inspired pieces. These include a set of white lamps by Swiss sculptor Diego Giacometti that are displayed on end tables designed by Mabille.

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Mabille’s propensity for the whimsical transforms the kitchen into a playful space. Displayed above the marbletop counter are Greek-inspired sculptures, chinoiserie-style porcelain and framed works by artists ranging from photographer Adrien Dirand to designer Louis Marie de Castelbajac. More of Mabille’s collection of antiques and family heirlooms, such as Louis XVI furniture, are also showcased throughout the apartment.

This nonchalant mix of personal artefacts creates an inviting and grounded atmosphere. “What I love most about my home is the play of light, proportions and mix of objects that I included, which gives its directoire style a very comfy and elegant mood,” says Mabille.

This story was first published in the June-July 2021 issue of Tatler Homes Singapore, now available on Magzter and newsstands.