Originally published in the November/December issue of Robb Report Home & Style as “Home Tour: Passion in Paris”
Stéphanie Coutas transforms a vintage apartment for herself.
As soon as Stéphanie Coutas finished remodeling a Paris townhouse for her family, she began dreaming of a fresh challenge. The noted interior designer has a passion for collecting, creating, and arranging beautiful things, and all those talents found expression in her new apartment overlooking the Place des États-Unis in Paris. Despite the name, which roughly translates to “United States place,” this is a quintessentially French square: a railed garden surrounded by 19th-century townhouses. From the outside, these elegant buildings have ornate stone facades; the interiors, however, are constantly changing. In 1926, for instance, Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles commissioned Jean-Michel Frank to create modern interiors for their mansion; in 2003, Philippe Starck turned those spaces into a glittering showcase for Baccarat.
Those makeovers inspired Coutas to transform a warren of tiny rooms on the fourth floor of another impressive house to make best use of its high ceilings and the light from large, south-facing windows. “It had a typical French layout, in which everything was tightly enclosed and the kitchen was at the far end,” she recalls. “The trick was to create a gallery that would flow out of the entry foyer, linking the principal rooms, and eliminating corridors. Living, dining, and kitchen [areas] are separate but grouped together and the master suite overlooks the courtyard to the rear where it’s quiet.”
For the entry’s massive double doors, Coutas designed a sunburst pattern that was executed in selenite stone marquetry by the artisan Yann Jallu. She designed hammered white bronze pulls for the hallway doors, and conceived original rug designs—including the living room’s graphic Tai Ping carpet—which lend texture to the solid oak floors. Indeed, the entire apartment is a showcase of her latest creations, a bespoke line named SC Edition. While a few favorite pieces were carried over from her previous residence, the new space is invigorated with Coutas’s originality in materials and presentation: bronze shelves inserted into “new ebony” wall panels in the study; a sleek ensemble of glass, black crocodile, bronze, and chrome on the vanity island in the master bath.
When Coutas designs a home for herself, she finds the process much more complicated than when she’s working for a client. “I have a million ideas and a host of new pieces and finishes that I wouldn’t dare to try out on someone else,” she admits. “It’s an easy temptation to keep adding, but I am always trying to eliminate the inessential and focus on a few key features and materials. I decided to abandon the notion of symmetry and go berserk with the ceilings.”
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Shallow art deco–inspired ceiling moldings link the gallery and living room, and they play off the expansive crystal chandelier that Coutas designed for Baccarat. In the dining room, the moldings are more traditional, evoking the era of Baron Haussmann, the prominent Paris architect of the 19th century. The white plastered walls were left bare for the display of large paintings. Her latest find is an artist who calls himself “The Kid” and creates stylized portraits of imprisoned juveniles as his comment on the American penal system. Crossed through in red, these artworks dominate the living room and introduce a disturbing glimpse of reality. As Coutas observes, “Beauty keeps the world in peace, but you need a reminder of horrible things we should all help to change.” A different kind of edginess lurks in the dining room, where a video installation of a shark by Moving Design glides in and out of lustrous wall panels as though it were emerging from an aquarium. It is a hypnotic presence that offers a frisson of danger. A similar pent-up energy characterizes the line paintings by the Belgian artist Marcel Berlanger.
Guests are enthralled by the juxtaposition of cutting-edge art and sybaritic design, but the mood shifts in the private areas of the apartment. One wall of the master bedroom is covered with a soft relief of nubuck. Like the ceiling moldings, it evokes the geometry of art deco, but its chief purpose is to bring a feeling of warmth and intimacy to the room. A similar wall treatment of padded squares is employed in the daughter’s bedroom, where it plays off chrome-trimmed, white lacquered shelves and storage units. Velvet Loro Piana drapes and Rubelli bed linens envelop the guest bedroom. As Coutas observes, “All of our work is designed to give good vibes and make people happy.”
Coutas’s enthusiasm accounts for her success over the past 10 years. She draws on her experience as the child of a peripatetic family who lived in Vietnam and Hong Kong before returning to France. “I was lucky to be raised in interesting houses, and my mother taught me to do things in a careful way,” she recalls. “I was always designing: first clothes, then interiors, and one day I decided to do it as a job.” She and her staff of 20 are currently working on three large houses in Paris, another in London, a penthouse in Cannes, and a palace in the Middle East, in addition to two Parisian hotels, where her special touch should delight sophisticated travelers.
Stéphanie Coutas, +33.1.8129 3190,
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ENTRY: Custom Stéphanie Coutas–designed selenite stone marquetry door crafted by Yann Jallu (yannjallu.net); Gandhi portrait by Thierry Michelet, known as Joseph, through Galerie des Lices (galeriedeslices.com); Fabrice Hyber artwork through Art Medioni (art-medioni.fr); Arik Levy blue sculpture (ariklevy.fr); Marc Petit bronze sculpture (marc-petit.com).
LIVING ROOM: Baccarat chandelier designed by Stéphanie Coutas (baccarat.fr); Tai Ping Carpets Versailles rug designed by Stéphanie Coutas (taipingcarpets.com); custom B&B Italia sofas designed by Stéphanie Coutas (bebitalia.com); Holland & Sherry sofa embroidery (hollandsherry.com); Minotti fabric on sofas (minotti.com); Stéphanie Coutas dark wood console (stephaniecoutas.com); Peter Lane lamp, through Chahan Gallery (chahan.com); Robert Combas and Hervé Télémaque limited-edition ceramic boxes, through Art Medioni (art-medioni.fr); Chahan Gallery wooden coffee table (chahan.com); Finimetal heater (finimetal.fr); Hervé Langlais Rythm Selettes side tables, through Galerie Negropontes (negropontes-galerie.com); Orsenigo Fujiyama chairs (orsenigo.com); artwork by The Kid (thekid.fr).
HALLWAY: SC Edition ceiling, sharkskin cabinets, and bronze handles (stephaniecoutas.com); Galerie Negropontes Muse mirror and Libra console (negropontes-galerie.com); Arik Levy tiles in background and Marcel Wanders King of the Forest vase for Baccarat (baccarat.fr); Faye Toogood blue bronze bowl, through Gallery Fumi (galleryfumi.com).
DINING ROOM: Custom mirrored walls and installation by Moving Design (movingdesign.fr); Sabina Fay Braxton curtain fabric, through Jules & Jim (julesetjim.fr); Chivasso sheers (chivasso.com); Mikado dining table custom-designed by Stéphanie Coutas, crafted with Les Marbreries de la Seine (lesmarbreriesdelaseine.com); Minotti Aston armchairs (minotti.com); Baccarat tableware (baccarat.fr); Martin Schoeller photo, through Camera Work (camerawork.de).
STUDY: Custom Stéphanie Coutas “new ebony” wall panels and bronze shelves (stephaniecoutas.com); Sabina Fay Braxton curtain fabric (sabinafaybraxton.com); vintage oak desk through Chahan Gallery (chahan.com); Gallotti&Radice WGS stool (gallottiradice.it); Minotti Jensen armchair (minotti.com); André Willequet sculpture, through Karry Gallery (karry-gallery.com).
LOUNGE: Phillip Jeffries It’s Greek to Me wall covering (phillipjeffries.com); Arti Parquets solid oak flooring (arti-parquets.fr); Stéphanie Coutas sofa, Radiance coffee table, and Pierre Médioni vase stand (stephaniecoutas.com); Ebru Dynasty rug (ebru.nl); Dedar curtain fabric (dedar.com); Pedro Reyes sculpture and steel stand, through Lisson Gallery (lissongallery.com).
MASTER BATHROOM: Custom mirrors, sink unit, and tub designed by Stéphanie Coutas, crafted with Les Marbreries de la Seine (lesmarbreriesdelaseine.com); custom vanity island and drawers designed by Stéphanie Coutas, PilotAg joinery and mirror work (pilotag.com); SC Edition chandelier by Atelier Alain Ellouz (atelier-alain-ellouz.com).
GUEST BEDROOM: Epeda bed (epeda.fr); Rubelli bed linens (rubelli.com); Loro Piana curtain fabric (loropiana.com); Chivasso blinds (chivasso.com); Eichholtz rug (eichholtz.com); Élitis stool (elitis.fr); Samuel Zuder artwork, through Lumas (lumas.com).
MASTER BEDROOM: Bomat carpet (bomat.be); Elite bed (elitebeds.ch); Andrew Martin bed linens (andrewmartin.co.uk); Cilindros gold-plated table, through Garrido Gallery (garridogallery.com); Hervé Langlais Boreale lamps, through Galerie Negropontes (negropontes-galerie.com); Christofle trays and tableware (us.christofle.com); Minotti Kirk bench (minotti.com); Albert Féraud sculpture, through Futur Antérieur (+32.2.512.72.65).