Designers and Client
Le Atelier Architects is a design practice with over ten years of experience that has made a name in working with budgets of all sizes. Their signature approach is based on seeing any constraint as an opportunity. Their most recent endeavour, however, stands out for the out-and-out well-heeled atmosphere enhanced by a selection of impressive furniture and smart design thinking.
The architects were approached by a client with an important collection of contemporary design works. She had bought a house with the intention of turning it into a total art object. “The lady is a collector and connoisseur, a sensible person who loves design and can easily afford limited edition pieces by Estudio Campana,” — Le Atelier Architects say. “We treat every space as an independent artwork, and this strategy appeals to the client,” say the architects.
The client bought a shell construction and left all the interior planning to Le Atelier’s team. The ground floor is an open space embracing the living room, fireplace area, kitchen dining room, and study. There are no dividing walls: instead, there is a smooth transition from one functional area to another. The top floor hosts three bedrooms, a terrace, and an accessible roof with its own elevator. In the basement, there is enough space for utility rooms as well as the home cinema and massage room.
The architects altered the façade, but there was no need for serious interventions, so Le Atelier could hardly sign the entire building. The interior, however, is a different story.
The client knew from the outset that she needed a place to showcase her collection of design objects. The task could have been tricky, since cherished design items can easily clash with the overarching narrative of an architectural project. But this house was a different story: the selection at hand was truly remarkable. The collection features lighting by Olga Engel and Italian-made furniture by MOGG and Edra, a company that provided exhibits for museum collections across the globe.
The suburban villa is not the only residence of the client: she has an apartment, which is “quite spectacular,” according to Le Atelier. However, a three-floor house offers more opportunities for spatial intrigue. Therefore, several interventions were envisaged to transform a functional home into a livable sculpture.
The most striking one is the staircase between the ground floor and the basement, which is a splendid sight and an engineering feat. Attached to the ground floor slab, it touches ground only with the tip of the lowest tread. While designing the structure, the architects had no particular material in mind, but he knew that the framework had to be as light as possible in order for the building to stand the load. In the end, he opted for a sandwich of 2 mm metal sheets with honeycomb filling that could cut out the shape without imposing an extra load on the construction. The architect was not sure the framework was not going to collapse until the installation was over.
The staircase between the two upper floors is technically less spectacular, but still eye-catching. It is made of concrete, with glassy steps in the lower part and a balustrade echoing the pattern of an Edra mirror by Fernando and Umberto Capana. The undulating wall of the massage room with its indirect ceiling lighting is yet another forte of the design narrative. According to Le Atelier, the client’s taste for the extraordinary in this high-end project enabled the team to add complexity and test innovative solutions.
Le Atelier’s projects normally feature custom-made furniture. In this case, there was no need for additional centrepieces, and yet the signature toothed console, desk, and fireplace mantel speak volumes of Le Atelier style.
For the master bedroom, the architects proposed a distorted tile pattern grid suggestive of loose stitches, and in the guest bathroom large-format ceramic tiles are cut in thin lines with slight surges, as if the hand tracing the lines occasionally slipped.
“When we first entered the place, I appreciated the combination of concrete walls and the oakwood window frames. There was nothing more to add to this natural coupling,” say architects. In previous projects, Le Atelier often used concrete walls against bright, vivid, “childlike” colours ranging from pink to emerald green. In this case, it was all about concrete. The original surfaces did not have the right quality, so they had to be covered in layers of grey paint of three different shades to highlight the sculptural volumes of the space.
In Le Atelier Architects’s words, “this is not a typical countryside getaway to enjoy the sauna in peace, but rather a total artwork.” The rough concrete frame suggests a monumental austerity, which is just the feel that the client aimed for.