Chloé Otton grew up surrounded by “Louis XV chests of drawers, hunting scenes and bronzes of all kinds”, with a landscape gardener mother and an architect father. A family of aesthetes who educated their children’s perception by continually exhorting them to “look how beautiful that is!” which, frequently repeated, had the merit of making them “open their eyes”! So it is not surprising to find her a few years later at the helm of her own agency, Cabana Architecture, where she can express her passion for spaces and objects that tell stories. A pronounced taste for natural materials and voluptuous shapes led her to begin her career at the prestigious Louis Vuitton before embarking – this time alone – on a new adventure. For her studio, which was just opened a year and a half ago, “the renovation of her apartment was a good way to express herself and show her world to her future clients.” Here, the young mother applies her singular approach to the “box”. Achieving a subtle balance between styles and cultures – inspired by the minimalism of figures such as Le Corbusier, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Alvar Aalto – she rejects the total look and focuses on one essential thing: light. Elemental, the architect designed the layout of the apartment she shares with her husband, Benjamin, and their daughter, Maxime, around light. A Haussmannian interior that is constantly evolving, where the rooms – like the living room – are veritable “playgrounds”. A writing desk inherited from her grandmother and wedding gifts designed by Charlotte Perriand and Isamu Noguchi are all intermingled here in a sophisticated setting in the heart of the 9th arrondissement of Paris, all set against the neutral colour palette she has chosen. This entrepreneur’s guarantee of a home that she will never tire of, but which, on the contrary, affords her endless opportunities to play with it!
I am a qualified architect. Benjamin, on the other hand, works in a field quite different from mine, finance. Our little one, Maxime, is a year old. We’re both originally from Lille. I joined Benjamin in Paris about 10 years ago, and we’ve been living in this apartment for just under two years.
I studied architecture at Saint-Luc – Tournai in Belgium then at (ENSA) Paris-Malaquais. I felt very fortunate to be able to experience Parisian life from the premises adjacent to the Beaux-Arts in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. During my studies, I soon felt the need to refocus on interior design, to work on details, materials, layout, and decoration, so when I was asked to join the project team for the next Louis Vuitton boutique in Place Vendôme, it was the perfect opportunity! I then worked for the brand as a Store Planner for four years in Europe. I loved travelling, working with the best craftsmen, the proliferation of different cultures on the building sites, often in buildings with an amazing history. Then there came a point when I wanted to undertake my own projects, which is why I founded Cabana Architecture a year and a half ago.
My mother is a garden designer, and my father is an architect. At home, Louis XV chests of drawers, hunting scenes, bronzes of all kinds – which seemed really modern in the eyes of a child, as you can imagine (laughs) – rubbed shoulders with furniture by the leading architects of the early 20th century. I’d be lying if I said my taste for objects with a history didn’t come from there. We would spend all our holidays in Cap Ferret. At that time, it wasn’t as well known as it is today. I loved the wooden fishermen’s huts, the 44 hectares of wild scrubland and the timeless atmosphere. On the way, my parents wanted us to stop and visit chateaux. To be honest, my brothers and I were a bit irritated by this. But when you’re told from a very early age, “look how beautiful that is”, at some point, you have to open your eyes!
I’m quite restrained in my approach to “the box”; it’s often a white base highlighted with raw materials and black.
There are lots of them! But I have a real penchant for the 30s and the modern movement, so if I had to name a few, I’d say: le Corbusier, Robert Mallet-Stevens, Alvaar Alto, for the purity of lines and subtle opulence. And also the sculptors of this period, including Constantin Brâncusi, Barbara Hepworth, Jean Arp ou Isamu Noguchi, for their relationship with the material and the voluptuousness of the forms. Charlotte Perriand and Italian designers of the second half of the 20th century (such as Giancarlo Pierretti, the Castiglioni brothers and Vico Magistretti) for lighting and furniture.
The starting point for the creative process is the triangle of ‘building – location – inhabitants’. Then there are different layers to consider in terms of light, circulation, perspectives and scenography. I’m quite restrained in my approach to “the box”; it’s often a white base highlighted with raw materials and black. In particular, because I ask myself the question: would I get tired of it in five years? Then I try to find the right combination to tell a personal story by mixing objects from different periods, styles and cultures. It’s all about balance, a bit like fashion. I’ve never found the total look very elegant; I prefer subtlety. For me, a successful composition combines the simple, the timeless and the cool. An old sofa covered with a large old white sheet, a rustic craftsman-made table, a designer chair, and a striking 70s Italian lamp always make an impact. Just like a man’s shirt, with old jeans and nice boots, accessorised with a pair of sunglasses.
Lots of things! First of all: Paris, for all the layers of history that exist in the city, but also travel. The St Ouen flea market where I try to go as often as possible. The stalls are a designer’s dream, and they have new stock all the time. I love the style of Stéphanie Pol, Aurélien Serre and Maison jaune, for example. I’ve also discovered the incredible work done by Maison Mère, a second-hand shop in the Perche region with an ultra-specialised selection. But I’m also inspired by beautiful places, hotels and restaurants decorated by fashionable interior designers – when it comes to city projects. As far as my work elsewhere is concerned, I would definitely say I’m influenced by the natural surroundings.
I based the plan on the light – which I wanted to flood the place as much as possible – and on the viewpoints that would allow me to create small scenes featuring objects that I like.
We live in a charming Haussmanian apartment. So it was important to let the place speak for itself, without adding too much artifice. I based the plan on the light – which I wanted to flood the place as much as possible – and on the viewpoints that would allow me to create small scenes featuring objects that I like. The bedrooms are understated and calming, with a few pictures of the people and places we love. The living room is my playground. If you’d visited us a month ago, the furniture wouldn’t have been in the same place as it is now! I often move things around, and I try out different arrangements all the time. The kitchen is in the entrance for reasons of space. So it’s very uncluttered; all the appliances are hidden (oven, microwave, toaster and so on), and there are no handles, which gives pride of place to the pieces I like on a long shelf.
It was love at first sight! The building dates from 1810, there were large windows with charming interior shutters, the beautiful proportions and mouldings gave it lots of character, and the whole layout needed to be restructured (a single person was living here, and we were planning to move in with children, so we needed several rooms). That was two years ago, and at that time, I was thinking of setting up my own business. Starting with the renovation of my apartment was a good way to express myself and show my world to prospective clients.
Mainly furniture and objects found on Selency, Le Bon Coin and at flea markets or from family members. Things like the Mauritanian mat that belonged to my grandfather, the William Katavolos chairs that were in my father’s office, and my great-grandmother’s little writing desk. And some designer lights that we got as wedding gifts: the Akari floor lamp by Isamu Nogushi and the Charlotte Perriand sconces. As far as artworks are concerned, there are also sculptures by my artist sister-in-law Agathe Prouvost and collages, sketches and paintings that I’ve found or made myself while we’re waiting to be able to afford the ones we dream of owning!
The living room is my playground. If you’d visited us a month ago, the furniture wouldn’t have been in the same place as it is now!
Do you ever think, “I’d like to be a fly on the wall and see what it’s like in their home”? ». That’s The Socialite Family for me. I think it’s a great medium because it allows us to enter into the intimacy of highly personal living spaces. It is an amazing source of inspiration! The strong, compact design of the product range works well with the scale of Parisian apartments. I often use the catalogue to suggest The Socialite Family pieces to my clients.
Being in the IXth arrondissement, I’m going to tell you about restaurants and bistros! So I’ll say Da Graziella for the pizzas, Coopérative Cisternino for burratta freshly delivered from Puglia every week, Richer for their short menu, Racines for the old-fashioned atmosphere, Chez Marlette to grab a coffee on the way to work or to have a snack with the kids and Petits Gros to enjoy a beer in the sun. I also often pop into an antique shop on rue Condorcet which has a nice selection, or Matière Noire, just next door.
Ideally, sitting around a big table in Cap-Ferret eating oysters with my friends! But, on a more serious note, dividing my time between an apartment in Paris, a guest house near the Loire and perhaps a family home in the north.
Photographies : Valerio Geraci – Text : Juliette Bruneau @thesocialitefamily