Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Famille - Paris

The Collectors' Apartment in the Unapologetically Eclectic Style the Founder of LA.M Studio

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Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat

“The important thing is that each object we collect triggers an emotion that we don’t want to let go of,” Léonie Alma Mason, founder of LA.M Studio, tells The Socialite Family to define the value of the pieces that surround her. Rare, sentimental and intriguing pieces with a spirit that gracefully permeates the Paris interior she shares with Julien Palengat, her partner, with whom she shares an inveterate love of art. An open-mindedness and curiosity that were awakened by the education provided by her parents. Art historians whose professional activity has given her incredible memories, such as when they lived in the French National Museum of Arts of Africa and Oceania. Extraordinary experiences stimulated by inspiring people have allowed her to develop a “broad imagination” coupled with a vision centred on the arts and travel. This lifestyle was influenced by another influential figure: her grandmother, the French artist Odile Mir. The latter was the cornerstone of her granddaughter’s artistic training and even influenced the decoration of her home. An eclectic and harmonious living space where high-quality materials, handcrafted creations from the four corners of the globe and second-hand furniture come together and rub shoulders with the treasures the architect, designer, and now furniture producer has collected. And family influence is never far away. The proof is LOMM Editions. A design company launched just a year ago to give new life to pieces of furniture originally created in the 1970s by her grandmother. The beginning of a new dialogue between generations that the two women are continuing with a forthcoming exhibition navigating between contemporary photography and design.

Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat

Léonie, Julien: can you introduce yourselves, please?

Léonie Alma
I am Léonie Alma Mason, 34 years old, born in Switzerland; I grew up in Paris then in Germany. I’m an interior architect, a designer, and soon, I will start producing furniture.
Julien
I was born in Pau, and I was lucky enough to grow up in Bearn. I’ve lived in Paris for fifteen years and work in construction project management. I love fine food and drink and the fine things in life, just as Léonie does. We are also collectors and enjoy sharing this passion. I myself am an avid motorsport and rugby fan.
What is your background?
Léonie Alma
After dreaming of being a contortionist, then a dancer at the Crazy Horse, and then taking an interest in sewing when I was 15, I was destined to study literature after taking my Baccalaureate L in Germany. I finally followed my instincts a week before the start of the school year and started a foundation course for art schools (Penninghen & les Ateliers de Sèvres). I got into the famous Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design of London in the “object design” section, but gave it up a week before for love of my boyfriend at the time and stayed in Paris. I spent five years of pure happiness at the Camondo school, which enabled me to find the job that comes to me most naturally: interior designer. By chance, it clicked.
What did you want, and what was your vision when you founded LA.M Studio?
Léonie Alma
The desire to be free but also responsible! I realised quite quickly that it was impossible for me to depend on anyone else. I didn’t necessarily have a vision for the development of the studio, apart from an enormous amount of energy which I put into doing, learning this profession, rubbing shoulders with its realities, meeting the craftspeople, designing lots of different places that could really come to life.
Tell us about your education in aesthetics. How did your ‘taste’ develop?
Léonie Alma
I’m lucky enough to come from a family of particularly erudite, inquisitive and open-minded art historians. Our living spaces already reflected an eclectic mix of contemporary art, stylish furniture and all the kinds of objects that help develop a broad imagination. We even had the opportunity to live for a few years at the National Museum of African and Oceanic Art, where I visited the crocodiles and drew the exotic fish in the aquarium. So travel has played a very important role in my relationship with beauty. The richness of the patterns, marbles and mosaics in Italian churches, the poetry of the ancient ruins on the Turkish border, the wilderness of Morocco where my mother was born, India, Russia, the United States… this open world full of possibilities has nourished me a lot. The influence of my grandmother, the artist Odile Mir. With her, we were able to indulge in wonderful creative activities such as sculpting with salt dough and clay, and drawing, too. It was a more tangible entry, in a way, into the creative world.
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
What about designers and artists: whose work has had a particular influence on you and your work?
Léonie Alma
I grew up partly in a setting designed by Andrée Putman. I didn’t know her personally, but I’ve always loved her unique, very graphic, ultra-modern 1980s style. She is also an example for me in the product design world. With Ecart International, she helped to revive some models with impeccable lines. James Turrell’s works with light have always fascinated me. It’s about how the impalpable and colour become the material for pieces that the visitor/viewer can experience. I dream of going to Roden Crater one day! Christo’s sketches and photos of the Pont-Neuf wrapped up were part of my childhood. I love the way he works on his projects, mixing photographs, drawings, materials and plans on the same preparatory sketch. I was lucky enough to be able to attend The Gates in Central Park with him and also to walk with him on the water on the Lago d’Iseo. Making these extraordinary creations accessible to everyone contributes to the democratisation of art; it’s a great gift. And then, there is Robert Mallet-Stevens, because he represents the quintessence of my profession, namely the art of devising volumes, associating spaces, modelling light, detailing materials and designing beautiful, functional furniture. For me, he was an architect, interior designer and designer at a time when I always liked the aesthetic.
You describe yourself as a collector of “art objects”. What is your relationship with them?
Léonie Alma
I have an extremely natural and relaxed relationship. Without preconceived ideas, apart from the limits of my own tastes, I can love an old ashtray in the shape of a frog just as much as a photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto. The important thing is that every object we collect triggers an emotion that we don’t want to let go.
Do you have an artistic movement or art form that particularly resonates with you?
Léonie Alma
Actually, no. I have a voracious appetite for all forms of art. I can love architecture, design, painting, sculpture or photography as much as opera, contemporary ballet or cinema. All that is what I have missed the most over the last year. On the other hand, I’ve always had a soft spot for the 1970s and 1980s, whether in music, fashion or design.
What works can we find in your home?
Léonie Alma
It’s a collection that has been built up over time. A painting bought by my parents in 1982 that I spent hours looking at and that I received for my 18th birthday, a photograph of cows in the mud by Raymond Depardon that reminds Julien of his childhood, small lithographs by Pierre Mabille that remind us of Greece, a black and white portrait of Patti Smith, of whom I am an absolute fan, taken at the Cartier Foundation in 2008 and bought on a whim at the last Art Paris. Every work or object relates to a memory, to a place, to a time, to someone. It’s a highly personal mix that doesn’t follow any rules.

 

Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat

Without preconceived ideas, apart from the limits of my own tastes, I can love an old ashtray in the shape of a frog just as much as a photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Tell us the story of how you came across this apartment.
Léonie Alma
I’m a child of the 11th arrondissement, I like the diversity and cultural mix, the brothel in the street, but we had to move closer to the west of Paris to set up a place to live for our blended family and the architecture studio. We viewed lots of apartments before finding this one which is quite large, pleasant and bright with its big terrace. From a loft with a very contemporary glass roof, we went to an old Haussmannian classic with parquet floors, mouldings and a broken tile floor. We like change!
How did you plan it? And furnish it?
Léonie Alma

No structural changes; it’s a rental. We slotted ourselves into these spaces naturally to make them our own. In addition to the furniture we already had, I designed several custom-made pieces to go in here, such as a very large oak and blue linen velvet sofa, a chest of drawers whose design was based on a terrazzo table found at Emmaüs, and a long, narrow dining room table to accommodate the dinners we love to organise. We also hunted down a few pieces from flea markets and other places and, of course, chairs and lamps that my grandmother designed in the 1970s. I painted the whole kitchen, which looked like an old cottage, to bring out the colours of the tiles, accessorised the old mosaic bathroom and decided that the toilet would be the room for learning foreign languages. As far as display is concerned, the position of the largest works is self-evident. Then I play with the alignments between them, but also with the existing architectural elements! I make themed arrangements to create conversations between the works. The Gipsies at the Sea by Jean Dieuzaide are facing the Galatea; they are all jumping into the water under the serious gaze of two Indian women. This is an old photo found in Kerala. Nobuyoshi Araki’s Polaroid Lys opens the erotic setting in the bedroom next to a print of a woman making love to an octopus under the aegis of an X by Bram van Velde. The presence of books is also essential for me: a catalogue of a particularly striking exhibition, the whole series of philosophical books illustrated by the French-Swiss Frédéric Pajak, Les Rencontres d’Arles, etc.

Which materials embody this?
Léonie Alma
Luxurious materials without being flashy. The curtains are in pink silk, the same one I used for a traditional Indian sari, the ikat cushions were bought at the bazaar in Istanbul, the blue linen velvet chosen to accompany the colours of a painting, the stained oak to recall the classic vocabulary of this flat, a lava stone table for which I specifically chose the very soft and warm ochre colour, and then lots of mirrors, everywhere, to bring in the light and create new perspectives.
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
What does it say about you?
Léonie Alma
It says that I travel a lot, that I like to learn languages, to meet and welcome people, to combine things that have nothing to do with each other to create very varied, lived-in and lively places!
For you, The Socialite Family is…?
Léonie Alma
A human lifestyle magazine that lets you explore the world of a new generation of families, sensitive to beautiful things and the art of good living.
Where will we see you in the coming months?
Léonie Alma

With LA.M Studio, I will be in Bordeaux for the opening of a new 400 m2 living space/restaurant in the city centre that will be open from early morning until late evening. A cool, friendly place designed for all times of the day.With LOMM Éditions – a new product design house that my grandmother, Odile Mir, and I set up in 2021 – we will bring contemporary photography and design together for a very special exhibition in a Paris gallery.

Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat

We slotted ourselves into these spaces naturally to make them our own.

Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat
Leonie Alma Mason and Julien Palengat

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