Thomas Fournier and Alexander Nino
Famille - Paris

The Successful Renovation of a 50m2 Duplex Designed For Entertaining By the Founder of the Concina Architecture Studio

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Thomas Fournier and Alexander Nino

Thomas Fournier loves a challenge! His taste for challenging residential projects is reflected in the renovation of his own apartment, a 50m2 apartment in an 18th-century town house. It was “love at first sight” for the architect – founder of the Concina studio – and his partner, Alexander Nino. However… Once flamboyant and historically interesting, the property had lost its splendour in 1722 when it was restructured, redistributing its spaces to the detriment of its original structure. The couple felt this was a waste and set about renovating the property by optimising every nook and cranny. Here, “everything has been thought out and carefully designed”, says this former member of the Laura Gonzalez agency. The property has been returned to its former glory after months of work… and the two-storey layout makes the most of its potential. The renovation brought a welcome breath of fresh air to this interior, which features a well-balanced combination of elegant materials. Coloured marble in Burgundy green and Alicante red is used sparingly and carried through from the kitchen to the bathroom. To add comfort, they have warmed up this sophisticated, cool surface with carefully selected textiles.  Emulating interiors by Pierre Frey, Dedar and Jim Thompson, elegant “pops of colour” add a counterpoint to the furniture the duo has collected. Each of these pieces has a story to tell, and most of them were found at flea markets in the foreign cities they enjoy visiting, from Lisbon to Palermo. This mix of genres appeals to them, reflecting their multicultural identity and their inspirations. And who inspires them? They sporadically mention players from the international design scene, from the French Charlotte Perriand to the Italian Gio Ponti. A broad spectrum of influences fed into creating this eclectic apartment, making it the ultimate space for entertaining, unfettered by convention and despite the space constraints!

Salon ouvert chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Table d'appoint chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Vase chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Chaises chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
  • Thomas, Alexander: can you introduce yourselves?
Thomas

I’m from Toulouse and have been in Paris for ten years. I come from an Italian family on my mother’s side and Polish on my father’s side. A fun mix! In January 2020, I set up my own architecture and interior design studio – called Concina – which began with collaborations to which I added individual projects. I’m currently working on various residential projects – mainly in London and Paris – including high-end lounges and co-working spaces. A pretty good start for someone who’s just turned 30!

Alexander

I’m from Caracas in Venezuela and am an architect and photographer by training. I’ve lived in Paris since 2011, a city that’s become my testing ground where I have evolved and developed my professional career. I graduated from the Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, part of the Universidad Central de Venezuela, followed by ENSA Paris-La Villette. I’m an architectural project manager for a well-known agency and a freelance photographer working for direct clients.

  • Can you tell us about your backgrounds?
Thomas

My interest in architecture, decoration and design started early on! Becoming an architect was my vocation. It was an obvious choice to attend a specialist college after completing my International Baccalaureate. I started off at the Toulouse School of Architecture and then did my Master’s degree at the Paris-Belleville School of Architecture. I spent two years studying with Pierre-Louis Faloci (National Grand Prix for Architecture) and also worked with him as I joined his studio during my studies. I stayed there for three years and worked on large public projects (museums, cultural centres), which fired up my passion for the world of interior design and decoration. This led me to join Laura Gonzalez’s agency in 2016, where I could devote all my time to these pursuits. I blossomed there and spent three years working on fantastic projects for shops, restaurants and hotels.

Alexander

I’ve been passionate about drawing and photography since I was little! I can visualise myself as a child, with a notebook in my hand and a disposable camera in my pocket. After my International Baccalaureate, I sat and passed the entry exam for the prestigious school of public architecture in Venezuela. After graduating, I spent a year in Caracas working for an interior design agency: it was the first time I tackled small-scale projects. I then moved to Paris to study French Civilisation at the Sorbonne for two years. I then completed my French degree at the Paris-La Villette School of Architecture before obtaining my DSA in landscaping. Following this, I spent a year working for an architectural firm in Shanghai – an incredible, rewarding experience! When I returned, I joined the IMLC agency in Paris, followed by the prestigious Jean-Louis Deniot agency, for which I spent three years working on the Waldorf Astoria project in New York. Today, I’m working on residential and hotel projects for the Humbert & Poyet agency.

  • Tell us about your upbringing. What sort of environment did you grow up in and which consequently developed your taste?
Thomas

My mother was passionate about design, in particular, the 1920’s to 1940s. So I grew up surrounded by pieces by Charlotte Perriand and Eileen Gray. My grandfather was also an architecture buff. At the end of the 1930s, he studied Fine Arts in the hope of becoming an architect himself. Unfortunately, World War II prevented him from following his dream, so he took over “Concina”, the family construction business – hence why I chose the name Concina for my architecture and interiors studio. It’s a nod to my origins.

Alexander

I grew up in Venezuela in the 1990s. At that time, the country was rapidly developing, and culture was part of our daily life. I was lucky to be in constant contact with works of art, whether walking down a street, hopping on the subway (monumental works of Jesus Soto or Carlos Cruz-Diez in particular) or by regularly visiting the Sofía Ímber Museum with its impressive collection of contemporary art. This feeling became ever-more present during my architectural studies. I was on a UNESCO-classified campus, where works by Alexandre Calder, Gego, Fernand Léger and Jean Arp stood shoulder to shoulder! The 1940s and 1950s – marked by European immigration – allowed the development of quality modernist architecture in Caracas. For me, it makes me think of Gio Ponti’s Villa Planchart, a complete work of art that is part of the collective imagination of the Caraqueños. My great admiration for this Milanese architect is behind my frequent visits to the capital of Italian design. I love seeking out the must-see addresses there, knocking on doors and trying to take some pictures.

Architectes Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Canapé chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris Livres chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris

I pay particular attention to the choice of materials and fabrics. They make all the difference in a project.

Table basse chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Salle à manger chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
  • Designers, artists: whose work has influenced you and your work?
Thomas

I’m passionate about Italian architects from the 1930s to the 1970s. I particularly love Carlo Mollino and his incredible apartment in Turin that I had the chance to visit. An exceptional moment and an infinite source of inspiration! I’m also a huge fan of Piero Portaluppi and Osvaldo Borsani! We also visit Milan 4 or 5 times a year to get our fill of inspiration!

Alexander

Carlos Cruz-Diez, of course! This larger than life Venezuelan kinetic artist was a genius when it came to colour and perception. I had the chance to collaborate with him on the design of his Parisian workshop, which was undoubtedly the most rewarding project of my career to date. More generally, I am fascinated by the designers from the first half of the 20th century: Jules Leleu, Jean Royère, Jean-Michel Frank… I also love works by Carlo Scarpa, Piero Portaluppi, and Jacques Grange, the sensual curves of the Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, the mobiles by Calder, and the human geography drawings by the Japanese architect Wajirō Kon. Finally, as previously mentioned, I’m a fervent admirer of Gio Ponti. I recently visited the University of Padua and Casa Borletti in Milan. Absolute masterpieces!

  • Tell us about how you came to live in this apartment.
Thomas

I fell in love with the building immediately! It’s a private mansion restructured by Germain Boffrand – the king’s architect and pupil of François Mansart in 1722. I found the main courtyard magnificent with its Louis XVI portal and fluted Doric columns. In the 1980s, the building underwent major restoration work that included a redesign of the living spaces. The apartment had no charm: laminate floor on the lower floor, carpet on the first floor, a massive straight concrete staircase, and a melamine kitchen… a 1980s style housed in a magnificent setting! A total waste! That said, it had a big advantage: its volumes and, in particular, two large 4.2m high windows! Incredible potential and the perfect playground for an architect!

  • What was your vision?
Thomas

I kept the duplex layout of the apartment. Otherwise, it would have required a full-on renovation! The idea was to restore its former nobility, lost over time, partly due to previous work. Firstly, we moved and replaced the existing staircase with a period spiral staircase. It dates from 1900 and was adapted and remodelled especially for us by a Normandy craftsman. It adds bags of character and frees up loads of space. I replaced the laminate with solid glued oak parquet, added cornices, redid the plinths and door frames, and designed a custom bookcase that integrates the sofa. Everything has been thought out and designed, from the general plan to the choice of decorative elements.

  • And “dressed” in a choice of carefully chosen materials and fabrics? 
Thomas

I pay particular attention to the choice of materials and fabrics. They make all the difference in a project. This apartment is, above all, a home where we welcome a lot of guests, and I didn’t want to create some sort of “showroom”. Textiles add a lot of comfort to our duplex. Visitors feel at home here! Our friends love coming over to hang out on rainy Parisian Sundays. Almost all the fabrics come from Pierre Frey, Dedar and Jim Thompson and add splashes of colour around the space. Marble is a material that I particularly like. It is the noble material par excellence. I used it sparingly to avoid being ostentatious. The thresholds are in green Burgundy marble and the kitchen worktop in Sarrancolin marble. The bathroom, which has a full-on Italian feel, combines red Alicante marble with hand-painted Tuscan-style tiling.

Corbeille à fruits chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Chandelier chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Lampe à poser chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Cuisine bleue chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino
Vase chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Placard cuisine chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
  • Almost all of the furniture was bargain-hunted. Did you have specific ideas about what you wanted for your home?
Thomas

It was all love at first sight! The great thing about personal projects is that, apart from financial constraints, you’re free to do as you please. It took a little while to get it fully furnished: almost every object has a story, all were carefully selected!

Alexander

One of my hobbies – even it’s not the first thing I do when visiting a city – is finding the flea markets. I love to bring back antique objects from my travels, especially ceramics. My latest purchases: a hand-painted plate set from the Palermo flea market and a collection of azulejos ceramics by the famous Portuguese brand Viuva Lamego which I found at the Lisbon flea market.

  • Which bargain-hunted item takes pride of place?
Thomas

There are two! Or rather four: my two Vico Magistretti armchairs bought from an online auction site and a pair of Jean-Michel Franck-style plaster lamps from the Blanchetti gallery in Paris.

Alexander

First of all, the collection of ceramics by my friend Barbara Billoud who produces stunning raku work – a Japanese enamelling technique – with pieces ranging from a vase to an actual sculpture! I also adore the two works by Nicolas Lefebvre – statues on the radiator cover in the living room and the bedroom – which are exquisitely poetic. And also a lithograph by Jesus Soto, by way of a nod to my roots.

  • What does your home say about you?
Thomas

This apartment is designed first and foremost to welcome people. It may only measure 50m2, but we can easily fit 12 around our dining table. An Italian piece from the 1970s, placed at a higher level and which visitors love to photograph! It’s not only a home, but also a workspace that we want to be welcoming and warm for our friends – many of whom come from the artistic world. This apartment is like a meeting place! It’s the meeting point for our loved ones. People feel at home here, and that makes us really happy.

Alexander

An eclectic place where each object represents a meeting or a trip. A place to hang out with friends, listen to music and sometimes, if I’m lucky, find a decent dance partner (laughs). I need to surround myself with people who have positive energy, beautiful things, elegant clothes, and, above all, to visually travel. Every object that I have, every person in my life, every item of clothing that I wear is there for a reason: a memory, a special bond…

Escaliers en bois chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Chambre verte chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Thomas Fournier and Alexander Nino
Sculptures chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
  • You live in the Haut Marais district. What are your favourite places in the city?
Thomas

Le Progrès which is on rue de Bretagne! An institution where I often meet my former colleagues for a drink and unwind after a day’s work! Le Sancerre – also on rue de Bretagne – and the Café de la Poste on rue de Turenne – perfect for a morning coffee before a site meeting. For lunch, I go to the Chez Omar restaurant on rue de Bretagne or the Enfants Rouge covered market, which is a kind of home-from-home. Finally, fashion-wise, my go-to store is Tom Greyhound on rue de Saintonge which has a fantastic selection of men’s and women’s clothing. A little further on, you can pop into Officine Bully and its Grand Café Tortoni. An adorable team and an incredible place!

Alexander

I in turn recommend the new Bully boutique on rue Vieille du Temple! The wood and marble facade is superb. Otherwise, I recommend the Yvon Lambert bookstore and gallery on rue des Filles-du-Calvaire for its excellent selection of photographic books. The Archives 18-20 boutique near the town hall is also worth visiting, thanks to an impressive selection of books. Finally, the National Archives garden, right next door, where I regularly go to recharge my batteries during my lunch break!

  • For you, The Socialite Family is?
Thomas

A source of inspiration! I love the way it highlights the art of living.

Alexander

The joy of discovering a wealth of inviting places.

  • Where will we see you in the coming months?
Thomas

Around a table for lunch, in the sun… in a holiday home in Italy, with any luck!

Alexander

Travelling, camera in hand and my sketchbook in my pocket! Next destination: Mexico in December to tuck into some Pozole!

Tableau chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Placard dans la chambre de Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris
Chambre verte chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino
Salon chez Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino
Chambre vert cher Thomas Fournier et Alexander Nino à Paris

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