This is the story of a young man who, in order to continue the family connection, decided to give his grandmother’s apartment a...
Christmas comes in colours in Alexandra Diez de Rivera’s home! With her Anglo-Spanish accent, Alexandra seems to have stepped right out of an old film. She’s a woman of the world with the looks of a fashion model, and she told me about her life as a busy mother with astonishing composure. The whole family is together in her Hausmannian living room. Against a background of rock music, toys fly from one room to another, while her younger son, Félix, plays the guitar, Constantin, the latest addition to the family, squabbles with Ouzo, the family’s dog. The quiet force that is Alexandra, seems unfazed by it all and she manages her lively family life with a masterly hand and a smile on her face. To this photographer, with a penchant for quirky and sophisticated portraits, life is all about enjoyment. This attitude is reflected in her home, where the furniture tells of far-off countries, old rugs are scattered here and there and references to her travels and other pieces from a life on the move abound. You can’t take yourself too seriously here. So, let’s follow her mantra to the letter in the new year, while we wait for Christmas !!
Alexandra, could you present yourself ? What are you doing in your life ?
I am half Spanish, half Argentine and was brought up in Britain. My life took a turn eight years ago when I moved to Shanghai, China, and started my career as a photographer. I now live in Paris and specialise in portrait photography but still enjoy quite a bit of travelling thanks to my work. I love art, theatre and cinema and live in a house full of boys; 1 husband, 3 sons, and a dog called Ouzo.
What was it that first attracted you to this apartment ?
When I discovered this flat we were about to buy another in the 6th arrondissement, my favourite neighbourhood in Paris. To be honest, the first thing I could not ignore about this apartment in the 8th was the fact it was so much bigger than the one in the 6th, yet similarly priced. With three boys and a dog, my dreams of the 6eme and La Grande Epicerie had to go. But I’m making it sound like it’s only about the space, the flat is breathtaking with its 4 metre ceiling height and ravishing Haussmann molding. It is a privilege to be able to own such an apartment.
Where do you spend your time in your house? Your best place ?
When I’m not on location I work from home so I spend most of my time in my little office, which I love. My favourite household pastime is watching movies in bed with the boys though.
Did you do the decorating ? Where did you get your inspiration ?
I did the decorating myself but it took me a while to decide what kind of style to go for… to find our apartment’s “personality”… Luckily, with four men in the house, I realised I had a preference for quite masculine interiors, colours and materials (black, brown, leather, wood). I was most inspired by Swedish interior decorator, Marie Olsson Nylander. I wanted to do everything exactly like her but realised it was impossible to copy someone else’s style, and get it right. You end up having to make so many of your own decisions and ultimately follow your own instinct. I wouldn’t say I’m 100% satisfied with every corner of every room right now but that’s part of the fun, knowing we can keep improving our home, this is a life-time job!
Did your husband join in and give his opinions ?
No, Jean- Sebastien was quite happy to leave me to my own devices, which was both fun and challenging as you have all the freedom… but you better get it right ! The architect we took for the apartment is a good friend, Claudia Urvois, and she was great helping me shape my ideas for the flat.
How would you describe yourself in three words ?
I’m sitting next to my ten year old son, Gaspard, in the train right now… I’ll let him answer that one! “Nice, always the coolest, but so impatient”.
How do you reconcile family life with attractive interior ?
Our dining room table doubles up as a ping-pong table and the leather sofa actually looks more beautiful with every scratch, spill and tear.
What is your current interior design must have ?
I am very happy with the original movie posters from the 60’s and 70’s I found on www.affiche-cine.com for my sons’ bedrooms. They are a “must- have” for me as it isn’t always easy agreeing with one’s children on what to put up on their wall… and they love these just as much as I do!
What would you regard as the worst kind of bad taste and to be avoided ?
Haha, this is a good one, ummm… I’m not a big fan of overly “practical”/ purposeful things… I’d rather see a television set on a stack of books than on a tv stand… I like bathrooms that look more like regular rooms with a sink and a bath tub (even if I wasn’t able to pull this off in my own home!). I like seeing art up in the kitchen, etc. I think any space can get away with any style as long as it has a soul though, like with people’s personalities, authenticity always works.
2-3 restaurants to recommend us in Paris and London?
I discovered “Polpo” in London yesterday – fantastic little Venetian joint in a character-filled, cosy tavern. All very “authentic”, my favourite
I also love Le Bistrologist 16 Avenue de Friedland, 75008 Paris +33 1 53 53 02 02, down the street from my home in Paris.
Do you have a new project ?
I’m spoiling myself this Christmas and getting two new cameras; a vintage Polaroid and a Leica M9… so we’ll see where they take me! I will of course continue my portrait work with the Hasselblad but am looking forward to having some fun with these new babies! Will be putting pics up on Instagram @alexandradiezderivera
The best holidays with your family when you have three kids ?
We rent a house in the Baleares every summer – Mallorca/ Ibiza/ Formentera, love them all. Good food, good friends, no homework… the sea, the sun, and my native Spain!
photos : Constance Gennari