Project Sheet: Paying Homage

This romantic Parisian home has been given new life through contemporary art and design choices, yet designer Émilie Bonaventure honours its thespian history. Erin Irwin writes.

Hidden away among the extravagance and excitement of Paris’ theatre district, Maison Talma is both a refuge from busy city life and a homage to the legacy of the historic town house. Completely gutted and ready for a new life, it was up to Émilie Bonaventure, part of the design studio be-attitude, to bring this house to life. 

Once owned by François-Joseph Talma, a late 18th century playwright and actor who was known for his emotive performances, this property is emblematic of the historicity that permeates this area of Paris. It is only fitting then that the home’s thespian roots were a key part of the design. 

“I think it is always important that homes reflect the spirit of their surroundings, and with this project, it was particularly important for me to uphold the location’s heritage,” says Bonaventure. In particular, she sought to emulate the atmosphere of New Athens, the 19th Century moniker for the area due to the rapid influx of intellectuals and artists at the time. 

To do so, she blended antique, vintage and contemporary elements together throughout the property. Bonaventure prides herself on intuitively selecting elements and then working them together to form a seamless design, saying “it is something very spontaneous for me, I never need to think about it!” For example, a thoroughly modern kitchen (produced by No Name Kitchen from Bonaventure’s design) is sectioned off from the rest of the living area with a serendipitous find – partitions built from moulded oak dating to the Louis XV period. 

Beyond this, the living area is a light and airy space, with large French doors evoking visions of a traditional country manor. A light palette and antique wooden floors speak to the historic bones of the building, which sit in conversation with more modernist additions such as stools by Michel Boyer for Rouve dating from the 1960s, and a coffee table by Pia Manu from the 1970s. One wall boasts Anna Malagrida’s Rue Balard II, depicting an archway partially obscured behind a barrier of texture and movement. The arch echoes the architecture of the room, whilst its partial abstraction and elevated symbology injects the space with a thoroughly contemporary sensibility.

Bonaventure sourced nearly all the artworks for this project herself, keeping in mind the aesthetic sensibilities of the owner. She commissioned works specifically for the space, including a sculptural piece by Lili Delaroque for the main hallway. The work has a simple palette but possesses an acutely tactile presence, suiting the overall colour scheme of the project while adding drama to what could have been an awkward, overlooked space. 

When acquiring pieces for a client, she states that “I always pay close attention to the space and what artworks are aligned with the vision, while bearing in mind that I am extending their existing collection that will result in a broader overall oeuvre.” Luckily, Bonaventure was very familiar with the client’s preferences, and trusted her own instincts when it came to selecting works that suited her core aesthetic vision. 

Maison Talma is a project that proves that the commixture and consolidation of a range of styles often produces the most striking effect, and by bringing together contemporary and classic design, Bonaventure has created something truly unique. The designer has succeeded in both honouring the historicity of the site, whilst also creating something distinctly modern and exceptionally comfortable. Old and new come together within this Parisian escape to do justice to a building with a long and colourful history, creating a new legacy within this thespian hôtel particulier. 

Featured image: French doors lead into the library with an elegant wallpaper framing the space. Photos: Asa Liffner. Courtesy: Émilie Bonaventure, Paris.

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