All circumstances have been considered
One of the oldest known maps of Havana hangs in the entry hall of a grand apartment on Paris’s Left Bank. The map dates from 1723 and once belonged to Sir Thomas Phillipps, considered by many to be the greatest book collector of all time. Phillipps amassed some 40,000 volumes and 60,000 manuscripts, and coined the term vellomaniac to describe his fixation with vellum manuscripts. The term could just as easily apply to this home’s owner. “It’s an apartment made by a man who very much likes books,” his close friend, the English antiques dealer Piers von Westenholz, says with understatement. “His home is really a series of libraries.” Indeed, about the only place you won’t find a bookcase is in the bathroom.
In the library of an apartment designed by Francois-Joseph Graf, in Paris’s 7th arrondissement, the 18th-century desk is English, the armchair is from Westenholz Antiques, the ottomans are upholstered in kente cloth, and the desk lamp was made from a Ming vase; the Italian mirror dates to the early 1700s, the Japanese wood deity is from the Heian period, and the curtains are of a Ralph Lauren Home striped cotton.
Mexican casta paintings, depicting mixed-race families, flank an 18th-century gilt-wood mirror by Matthias Lock in the sitting room; the Chinese Chippendale chairs against the wall date from 1768, a custom-made ottoman serves as a cocktail table, and the rug is by Roger Oates.
The interiors initially were far less elegant. “The rooms had been badly thought out—there were lots of things that were really awkward,” says French designer François-Joseph Graf, who has fashioned high-style spaces for clients like Henry Kravis and Valentino. Graf met the owner at the apartment in the early 1990s, when Graf sold him some objets from his Rue de Lille gallery. “I went to deliver them myself, saw the place, and told him it was ugly,” Graf recalls.
Antique maps of Cuba hang in the entry hall, and the Irish table was displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Hyde Park.
That forthright approach led to Graf being hired to renovate much of the apartment’s architecture. He created the master bath and a small office, installed wainscoting and cornices, and decorated the doors and baseboards with trompe l’oeil motifs of wood and agate. “He brought in these painters, and, I’m not exaggerating, there’s one fellow who spent about a year in the house,” recounts the homeowner.
The garden’s boxwood hedges were inspired by the garden at Florence’s Villa Capponi
The apartment also has something of a world-traveler vibe. The sitting room walls hold a series of 18th-century Mexican casta paintings, depicting mixed-race families. In the adjoining den are William Daniell prints of India, while the master bath features 17th-century Portuguese tiles. One of the most striking objects is a Japanese wood deity in the library, which dates from the Heian period. “It’s been through fire and chopped up and eaten by bugs,” the homeowner explains. “But its profile is seriously cool.”
The guest room is lined with books from the homeowner’s vast collection.