Name: Didier Ghislain
Location: Paris, France
Rent or own: Own
Size: 1650 sq/ft
Years lived in: 11
Didier Ghislain is a Belgian graphic artist who does hand-drawn architectural renderings for clients like Jean Nouvel. An architect by training, Didier completely redesigned his home and office, located on the top two floors of a 1898 building in the 1st arrondissement, buying the maid's rooms above the main floor of his apartment and converting the whole space into a contemporary, airy refuge with a strict white-and-black palette that is anything but neutral...
Didier used modest materials throughout -- preserving the original floors but streamlining the lines of the apartment, removing door frames and replacing them with pivoting doors screwed into the ceiling that can be opened or closed at will, building in vast amounts of storage and painting everything the same shade of white. It's a great foil for his collection of objects in black, white, silver and transparent materials, which cast light and throw shadows that play off the blank walls and allow the art that he does display to leap out. Nevertheless, guests sometimes ask him why he doesn't have more color. "I get bored very quickly looking at color," he says. "So I prefer that it is ephemeral -- in small touches." He has a rotating collection of art that he leans against but never hangs on the walls, preferring to rearrange it and swap it out as the spirit moves him.
There are multiple points of light in every room -- from the windows to sculptural lights by Tom Dixon and a light cube side table from Habitat -- but no overhead lights whatsoever. "I prefer that the light comes from the ground up," he says, pointing out that most of his light sources are adjustable, so he can create different moods. Upstairs is his bedroom, bathroom and a living room space with the same white leather Cassina sofas he has on the lower floor. "I love being in an old building with soul," Didier says. "But to have a very contemporary space that isn't very Parisian-looking at all. Once you're inside, you could be in California." That is, if you don't look out the windows, which frame unmistakable views of "vieux Paris" -- Haussmannian rooftops and windows on the courtyard side -- and the Pompidou center from the balcony.
Although Didier is an artist with a huge collection of art books, they are not displayed, but housed behind the closed doors of the storage he has built into the bottom floor, which serves as his office, with space for his assistant, a reception area, dining room and kitchen. "I draw here all day," he says. "So in the evenings, I need a break from drawings, to give myself a bit of serenity and calm. Plus, to me there is so much visual pollution out there that I'm not always happy about -- so home should be a refuge from all that." He says that the built-in storage gives the impression that "everything is very organized -- but when you open the cupboards you can see it's sometimes a bit of a mess inside. Kind of like me!"
For more information about Didier Ghislain, go to his website.
- Kristin Hohenadel blogging from rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France. If you have an idea for a European house tour, please write kristin @ apartmenttherapy . com
Images: Kristin Hohenadel