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Adventures in Design: I Love Paris Part 3

The Astier de Villate shipment from my summer trip to Paris has finally arrived and we're unpacking as quickly as we can!

Seeing these beautiful dishes called to mind so many wonderful experiences in Paris - especially an amazing afternoon at the home of Juan Pablo Molyneux -  so I wanted to share some photos and memories of that day with you.

Juan Pablo Molyneux is an internationally recognized architect and designer and a member of the board of American Friends of Versailles (see my earlier post for more info on AFV). I've admired his work for years and was absolutely thrilled when he and his wife, Pilar, invited our AFV group to a garden luncheon at their beautiful home in Paris.

I think I've always admired him obviously for his work, but also because I felt like I knew him. Although I'd never met him I felt we looked at things the same way. He gets great joy out of every little thing.
He loves life, just the way the French do and lives it with gusto. He's happy wherever he goes, noticing every little detail - look at that facade, that parapet, that marvelous staircase. It's in the way he wears his clothes, entertains his friends and colleagues, designs his tabletops. He had such fun showing us his home. It wasn't like some stilted celebrity giving us the grand tour; it was an artist passionate about sharing his work - which is his life.

For me, it's the same. This isn't a job. I don't work. I love what i do. This is my life.

Like me, Molyneux never stops thinking about design.
 From his comments in this Architectural Digest article, I could tell we were soul mates:

It's so much a part of my life that it has become a constant in my thoughts and actions," he explains. When working on a project, he says, he finds he can visualize the result even before he has begun. "It's as if we designers and architects have read the last page of the novel."

When I'm working on a project, the conceptual part of my brain already sees the room. After I've worked on it long enough and seen it in my dreams (literally), I don't need to see the finished project to know what it looks like. There have been several times in my career when I haven't been able to see an installed job. I don't need to. I already know what it looks like.

Once I have an initial interview  with the client and have her wish list, I then go to work on creating an environment that is harmonious with its surroundings. I always look at the setting, inside and out, and gather the information I need to create the balance and harmony in the finished interior. Through the process of layering with color, pattern and texture, correct scale and proportion, and good lighting we work toward achieving a happy client.

When I walked into Molyneux's home, I could see he does the same and that we were both schooled in the classics of design. As he said in the AD article, the perfect project has "proportion, harmony, historical and contemporary reference."

Molyneux's home is the Hotel Claude Passart in the Marais, the oldest area of Paris. In this case, "hotel" means town house. In another article in Architectural Digest, this is how he describes his home:

"I went totally out of control doing this place," admits the designer. "It expresses the sum total of my knowledge. Everything I love is here: a historic setting; modern paintings; the most sophisticated Russian, Chinese, French and Italian furniture. This is the way I live - with a 52-inch plasma TV, the biggest I could find, hung against 16th-century boiseries. Listening to Louis Armstrong in a nearly 400-year-old listed building in Paris - it's fantastic. Whoever walks into this house knows me. This is me."

I was so excited to see this famous designer's home I would have gone to Paris just for this experience alone! And given that statement about how he lives, who wouldn't?

The building was constructed during the 17th century - a time of opulence and grand salons - and many of the pieces in the home today are from that time. Furniture from this Baroque period was characterized by its large scale, gilded finishes, the use of granite and marble, and decorative carvings and parquetry in fine woods like ebony and mahogany. Pure luxury for the Sun King!

Yet I do have to admit that as we approached the house on a narrow, rather boarded-up-looking street, I asked myself "Where in the world are we going?" 
Would you think you were going to a palatial home if the taxi dropped you off in this tiny alley?

My first clue that we were on the right track?  We opened these huge teal "garage doors" on the street, walked under 
beautiful groin-vaulted ceilings in the entryway and were instantly transported from a modest alley to an elegant exterior courtyard. The craftsmanship in the ceilings is spectacular; look close and you can see the individual quarried stones. These are the original stones from the 17th century carefully refurbished by modern-day artisans.

How thrilling it was to discover that behind many of the seemingly innocuous doors in this neighborhood are magnificent homes! 

This is the view looking back from Molyneux's exterior courtyard toward the alley.

A closer view of Molyneux's main entry doorway. Look at those trees in the Versailles planter boxes and old stone pavers.

The luncheon itself was creative genius. Rather than a formal sit down meal, they invited us to dine at our leisure and wander around the house and grounds. How generous and gracious of this wonderful couple to open their home to us.

And Molyneux's jacket was as stylish and cultured as he is. He's the only person I know who could pull off an orange linen Tyrolean-style jacket so impeccably.

The atmosphere was magical, with music like I'd never heard before filling the air - sort of a like an organ, but different. After a little investigation, I learned the instrument producing that intriguing sound was a Cristal baschet, invented in France and made of glass rods which the musician rubs with moistened fingers to create vibrations. Kind of like rubbing your finger around the rim of a wine glass. No electricity was used to create or amplify it, yet it was a resounding sound.

Even more importantly, the Cristal player was tucked under an ivory tent with a blue screen-printed design and TO-DIE-FOR scalloped edging. The blue decorative motif was done on both sides of the tent fabric so you could enjoy it at ground level and from upstairs inside the house. The pattern could have been a Moroccan stencil. This tent was by far my favorite design inspiration on the entire Paris trip. Adore and covet it.

We had unlimited access to their home and they were happy to answer questions about the rooms and the countless, magnificent elements throughout. So kind and so willing to share.

This is the garden side of the town house.

In the gardens, I adore the mix of the formal boxiness of the hedges combined with the wild, untamed plantings inside. So French!

The library was one of the first rooms we entered. The maps on the wall are from the 17th century. He even had an old map of Paris blown up to 10' x 8' with an arrow pointing to where we were.

The floral arrangements alone were enough to keep me happy all day!

As you know I LOVE animals and animal prints. These chairs and ottomans are such a welcoming, whimsical touch in this opulent room. The fabric was no doubt Boussac cut velvet. Many other favorite French fabrics were used - the linen print is Pierre Frey.

Please look closely at the cocktail table and its magnificent stone top. Nature never ceases to amaze me. Molyneux keeps a large leather portfolio on the table.

I love that they actually LIVE in their space, which you can easily forget given the grand scale of the place. Look at the desk - it may be hundreds of years old (Louis XVI) but it's working in the modern world complete with laptop and printer!

Here's a little unexpected surprise - a secret doorway from the library into the master bedroom!

And what a bedroom it is! The headboard is hand-tooled leather.

On his bedside table are personal mementos, including a framed poster promoting his book "Molyneux."

The hand-tooled leather on the wardrobe matches that on the bed. You can see the intricate detail in the work.

A view of the exterior courtyard from upstairs.

Here his juxtaposition of a simple, casual arrangement atop a formal antique pedestal is sublime. It is perfectly framed with the embroidered drapery treatment. Down to the tiebacks, every detail was correct.

A Chinoiserie influence was found throughout the house. The Chinese coromandel screen could have belonged to Coco Chanel (she had several in her Rue Cambon apartment)!

Molyneux left no detail untouched, whether floor, door or wall.

Whimsical hand-painted panels (depicting Molyneux and his wife as monkeys) surround this dining room with its serious Russian tables and chairs.

How stunning is this single palm frond in a cobalt blue vase?

Those floors are spectacular - and I want those shoes!

I can't get enough of clean, white lilies in cachepots and I love these white, shell-covered ones.

The four-poster bed in this room was Italian in shape and - not to miss - the green color is actually velvet adhered to every surface of the bed, complete with nailhead trim! Throw some vintage Fortuny fabrics on for a bed cover and voila - pure luxury for a welcomed guest's quarters!

Look at this lamp detail!

There is always something so warm about a white bathroom with accents of gold and black!

I'm determined to find a chandelier like this at the Paris markets!

I love the tight design of this guest powder room and the handsome wood cabinetry with fabulous black lacquered floor and trim with a splash of red.

Hand-painted Roman coins on linen Roman shades in the kitchen.

The back stairs run up the entire height of the house and are original to the period when the house was built. I love the simplicity of form and use of iron and wood. It was magic to my eyes!

These are the doors to the Chinese room. I love geometric shapes and had a hard time leaving this spot. The pattern is genius - it all begins with one square.

ote how the gorgeous lacquer work on the door panels above reflects the octagonal shape of the staircase windows.

Finally coming full circle, we reach the living room just across from the library where we started our tour. The room features the same overall color scheme as the library, including the toile de Jouy window treatments. The low Italian glass-top tables by Giacometti, the famous iron master, were completely unexpected yet work beautifully.

Look at this bold use of color - red and yellow all over creates a warm cozy setting. A Beauvais tapestry hangs on the far wall.

The front staircase (running two stories) features limestone and iron scroll work.

This lantern in the stair well is fabulous, as is the hand-painted ceiling.

This arrangement is composed of a variety of types hydrangeas.

Perfectly pink peonies with m
ore Giacometti iron and glass tables in the salon.

So ends our tour of this magnificent home. Please go out and explore more of  Molyneux's work on his website and beyond. Drink in the brilliantly bold and discriminating homes, palaces and hotels he has graced with his elegant touch.

Juan Pablo and Pilar, I can't thank you enough for such a wonderful, wonderful afternoon of a lifetime.

You may also enjoy seeing other entries in the I Love Paris adventure series:

I Love Paris Part 1: Astier de Villate
I Love Paris Part 2: American Friends of Versailles

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Cindy's Blog

I'm Cindy Galvin, owner of MAZE Home Store and Bardes Interiors. In my blog I hope to inform, inspire and entertain you with lessons I’ve learned, insights on the beautiful things all around us, and stories from my adventures in design. I hope you'll join me on my journey through the world of design!

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