Tinterior designer Dorothée Delaye has spent two years researching what she calls “village life in Paris”. She and her family – her husband François and her children Faustine, 11, and Jules, nine – had grown too old for their apartment in the central Marais district. “I really wanted to have a garden, it was my priority,” says Delaye. “A place where my children could invite their friends to play. I also wanted a large entertainment space where my husband and I could get together with friends.
For Delaye, a chance for “village life” presented itself a few kilometers to the east in the 12th arrondissement, at the end of a courtyard that once housed a mirror factory. “I immediately fell in love with its volume and its factory elements,” explains Delaye of the cavernous and open-plan workshop. “It was such an unusual space – the perfect challenge for a designer.”
Delaye’s eponymous design studio specializes in bringing buildings out of hibernation. She has spent more than a decade transforming hotels and restaurants into “places where people come to love, dance, eat, share, reflect and be moved…” (She has just finished the interiors of Mimosa, the last restaurant of Jean-François Piège at the Hôtel de la Marine on Place de la Concorde, as well as the interiors of Sookie, a hotel and café in the Marais that she compares to a visit to a friend’s house.)
“A project begins by immersing itself in a place, in a neighborhood,” explains Delaye. “By listening and interacting… I find that creativity begins to bubble. “
With a self-imposed deadline of just eight months, Delaye restructured the 200 square meter space, creating a large open-plan central living space plus three bedrooms and a home office. One of the two interior garages has been converted into a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom, and a previously covered courtyard garden has been reimagined as an enclosed paved patio, now covered in foliage.
With the entire floor plan, Delaye focused on the fixtures and accessories. “My main decision was to give the space a country feel,” she says. “I didn’t want it to look like a new house, built from the ground up.” Delaye sourced a variety of salvaged materials for the interior. The paneled doors and the herringbone floor come from a Haussmannian apartment in the 16th arrondissement; the red marble fireplace came from a large house in Belgium; and the shutters come from a villa in the south of France. “Each article brings its own story,” explains Delaye. “They give the impression that they have always been there.
Although the apartment is open plan, transitional thresholds were created through the clever use of texture and color. The wall surrounding the fireplace has, for example, been painted in a rich shade of burgundy (Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal). “It was a way of putting the decor around the fireplace in the same tones,” explains Delaye. “It makes the living room warm and – at the same time – very different from the kitchen and the bar. “
The baroque mirror above the mantle was once hung at the Chateau de Chantilly, north of Paris (Delaye was partly inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film Barry Lyndon from 1975), and the weathered pillars were left in place for recall the industrial past of the building. “With each project, I am very attached to the history of a place,” says Delaye. “I like to imagine that time will continue to cross it, to intervene in my work and possibly to appropriate it.
In the kitchen, the lead walls take on the gray finish of the marble splashback, while the change of floor (a marble mosaic designed by Delaye) defines a change in use. Likewise, in her daughter Faustina’s country-style bedroom, various shades of blue on the walls and in the fabrics create layered interest. “I like things that last,” says Delaye. “You can be bold in your color choice without falling for the latest trends. “
The famous Paris flea market, the Marché d’Aligre, is right next to the apartment and Delaye has reflected its vintage eclecticism by mixing second-hand pieces with contemporary furniture. In the living room, a series of chairs – Roly-Poly by Faye Toogood, a classic bentwood Thonet and a pair of 1950s Danish designs – create an inviting scene. “I like to mix eras, styles and materials,” says Delaye. “I think it really warms the house.”
At the start of any project, Delaye asks, “Would I still like this set in five years?” Having lived in the Mirror Factory for five years, she still finds her richly stacked home fresh and functional: a country corner of town that faithfully reflects the people who live there.