PHILIPPE RAPIN AND SYLVIE DE CHIRÉE
“I often say this apartment is like a theater, where the objects are our actors and we’re the directors,” says Sylvie de Chirée, editorial director of ELLE DECORATION France. “We dream up new scenarios and have fun moving them around.” One evening at midnight, she and her husband, furniture dealer Philippe Rapin, decided that a large crystal chandelier didn’t look right in the small salon off the main sitting room. Other couples would have dealt with it the next day. Not them. In the early hours, they dismantled the light fixture and moved it into the master bedroom, where it hangs today.
Located on the Right Bank, close to the Seine, the apartment is housed in a typical Parisian building from 1910. It was initially inhabited by one of the building’s architects, Paul Marozeau, who earmarked the 2,700-square-foot unit for himself and his family. De Chirée had the chance to meet his daughter, who said she had “vague memories of being very young and seeing the wall decoration in the small salon being painted.”
Rapin and De Chirée at home.
Those artful walls are not the only element that has remained intact. The master bath still flaunts its original black-and-white marble mosaics, and the living room retains the elegant ornamental columns and wall paneling installed in the 1950s by the legendary French decorating firm Maison Jansen.
In a sitting room of the Paris apartment that ELLE DECORATION France editor Sylvie de Chirée shares with her husband, furniture dealer Philippe Rapin, a circa-1970 Marc Cavell mobile hangs above a 1968 sofa by Archizoom; the 1930 floor lamp at left is attributed to Jules Leleu, the other is by Pietro Chiesa for FontanaArte, the cabinet doors were painted by José Maria Sert, the painting is by Gérard Drouillet, and the 19th-century rug came from a French monastery; the marble columns and painted walls are original.
De Chirée has lived there since the 1990s, and the place used to be decorated in a style she describes as “more feminine.” Think velvet sofas and traditional English wallpaper. That was before she met Rapin at a London design fair in 2011. At the time, he was commuting between Brussels and London as a dealer of choice 20th-century furniture. When she proposed he move in with her, he accepted, but on one condition. “I said, ‘I’ll come, but only if I can bring my furniture,'” Rapin recalls. He showed De Chirée photos of a few pieces, but otherwise, she had no idea what to expect—certainly not a sofa that resembles a hot tub, upholstered in panther-print velvet. “I only discovered what he had when we opened the crates,” she says with a smile.
In the living room, armchairs by Harvey Probber flank cocktail tables by Janette Laverrière, the shelves are custom made, and the artworks are by Marc Cavell; the wall decoration by Maison Jansen dates to the 1950s, and the marble fireplace is original.
Before being appointed to the helm of ELLE DECORATION in 2007, De Chirée worked for years on fashion magazines. Rapin’s vocation, meanwhile, was born at an early age. As a child, he would accompany his grandmother to auctions in his native Burgundy and acquire objects for himself, such as an early-19th-century pistol and a pair of Voltaire chairs covered in a tartan fabric. He opened his first antiques shop at the age of 23, originally specializing in French earthenware, and later in curios. Today he operates three European branches of the 88 Gallery with his partner, Erik Müllendorff.
Chairs by Asiatides surround a table by Marcel Wanders in the kitchen; the paper pendants are by Paola Navone, the framed circa-1958 metal plates are by Piero Fornasetti, and the tile flooring dates to 1960.
Among the treasures Rapin brought to the apartment are that unusual sofa—a 1968 design by Archizoom—an Ado Chale aluminum dining table of the same vintage, and a series of zinc plates used by Piero Fornasetti to print his whimsical motifs. There is also a floor lamp attributed to Jules Leleu, which Rapin unearthed in the French countryside decades ago. “The base was in the trash, and the shade was being used for chicken feed,” he says, laughing. Other favorites include several works by an English artist of Jewish origin named Marc Cavell. “He arrived in France in 1940. For a Jew, there were perhaps better places to be.”
An Eero Saarinen table and Kartell chairs in the entry; sculptures by François Pompon hang above a 1930 console by FontanaArte.
To make way for Rapin’s treasures, De Chirée moved most of her possessions to her country house in the south of France. Several of her things, however, remain. They include a boldly patterned 19th-century rug she retrieved from a former monastery in Avignon owned by her brother, and a papier-mâché bust of Plato—evidence that her approach to decorating is marked by a sense of fun. “Both Philippe and I are very joyful and a little eccentric by nature,” she explains.
The circa-1970 dining table is by Ado Chale, the 19th-century armchair is covered with a Zimmer + Rohde fabric, and the ceramic column is Italian.
The master bedroom features a mirror and side table by Asiatides, and an Art Deco desk with a 1930 armchair covered in a Pierre Frey velvet.
She loves gadgets and has several small plastic statues of Queen Elizabeth, whose right arm waves when placed near a lightbulb. De Chirée is also a big fan of the DIY movement. She revamped a vintage chest in the master bedroom by covering it with panels of Fornasetti wallpaper and hung a set of plastic plates embellished with circa-1900 Viennese portraits above the kitchen range. “It’s part of the spirit of ELLE DECORATION,” she maintains. “We like to be creative in our own homes.”
An Art Deco cabinet in the bedroom is covered with a Fornasetti wallpaper, and the crystal chandelier is 18th century.
Whatever alterations the couple make, one constant is the unparalleled view. From the master bedroom, the Eiffel Tower looks as if it’s been planted in the front yard. “The best thing about living here is that you can see it from the bed,” Rapin says. “Whenever I’m lying there and see it sparkle, I go, ‘Wow!’ ”
The marble mosaic tiles on the walls and floor of the master bath are original to the apartment; the 19th-century Chinese-style light fixture was found at a flea market in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
ORIGINAL TEXT BY HéLèNE DUMONT. Originally published in ELLE DECORATION France.