It is not often we discover a top-quality new house in densely built central Paris. Maison Escalier, designed by Moussafir Architectes, is one of those rare finds, which is why commandeered the striking residence to shoot pieces from Fendi's latest furniture collaboration with Maria Pergay for our December issue (see W*177).
A neglected 19th-century residential building and garden were discovered by Eric de Rugy, founder of the Red Guy creative agency, who enlisted Jacques Moussafir and his team to transform the property into a modern home and office space. 'I had always wanted to build my own house, but I never dreamed it would be at the heart of Paris, in an area where I had spent most of my childhood,' says de Rugy. 'I had three main demands: my new home had to be widely open, so that anyone, anywhere in the house could easily connect with one another. It also had to be environmentally friendly and largely automated.'
While its location in the 6th arrondissement is one of Paris' chicest addresses, before the refurbishment the building was in poor condition. 'Almost the entire structure, including its south-facing façade, had to be demolished,' recalls the architect. 'The north and east facades were considered of heritage value and were refurbished, so the size and shape of window openings was left intact.'
A central core supports the cantilevered floors of the new steel structure, but what is especially striking about the design is that, per the owner's brief, it features very few internal partitions. A generous sense of space and natural light were central to the design solution and an open plan effortlessly leads from one room - and level - to the next. Organised like a giant open staircase, the house was nicknamed Maison Escalier (Staircase House).
The striking exterior features a huge expanse of glass, protected by perforated shutters. Those steel screens are laser-cut in a pattern inspired by the foliage around the house. Two large light wells, plus a smaller one in the bedroom, bring further light into the rear of the house.
The basement contains a projection room, while a few stairs lead up to various open levels housing the interconnected dining and living areas. Fine woodwork, courtesy of specialist Austrian firm Tischlerei Bereuter, features in the parquet-panelled walls and floors. Only the top-floor master bedroom and bathroom were designed to offer a sense of privacy.
Views through rooms and across levels keep the rest of the house visually linked. 'The living room is one of my two favourite spots in the house. It's connected with every other space and the laser-cut shutters allow a very distinctive link with the outside world,' says de Rugy. 'The second one is my bathroom, with its huge window overlooking the terrace and garden. It's such an unprecedented privilege in Paris.'