Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray
Famille - Paris

In Montmartre, an Apartment-Showroom designed as a Place of Experimentation by the Uchronia Studio.

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Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray

Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray met in London, the capital of creativity and freedom. Two lovers of design who have trained and blossomed in this metropolis, whose range of possibilities seems infinite. Gradually delineating the parameters of a creative agency called Uchronia – a project developed in parallel to his studies in 2016 at the Architectural Association –, Julien has chosen to cross the Channel (in the other direction this time!) to bring his idea to life in Paris. An exciting professional adventure in which his partner, an artistic director, quickly became involved. Made up of people from the four corners of the globe, the agency is distinguished by its uncomplicated operation. Here, everyone is trained on the job and proves themselves through their creative spirit and driving force. For this new successful endeavour, the two designers chose to set up shop at the base of Montmartre Hill, a neighbourhood that seemed obvious to them when it became time to create a little nest for themselves. Except for the bedroom, the interior was conceived as a working space, and the couple instinctively filled it with souvenirs from their travels as well as their own creations. These works highlight their colourful and exuberant style, an aesthetic signature influenced by their time in England. In their apartment-showroom, pieces by illustrious design figures, such as Gaetano Pesce’s Cannaregio sofa or Jean Royère’s Ondulation chair, sit harmoniously alongside the prototypes from their first furniture collection, called “Wave”, a line with a strong graphic identity that explores the leitmotif of the collective: undulation. A movement which embodies the creative energy of these two enthusiasts whose imaginations are in perpetual emulation.

Chaise Uchronia dans le salon
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray
Table Uchronia orange sur tapis bleu chez
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray

Julien, Jonathan: can you introduce yourselves, please?

Jonathan

I am 33 years old, born in Johannesburg. I lived in Sydney, Australia, for almost 20 years before moving to London five years ago, where I met Julien.

Julien

I’m 27 years old, born in Paris. I lived in London for six years, which is where I met Jonathan. We moved to Paris last February and have been a couple for over four years. I am the founder of Uchronia, and Jonathan is the artistic director of Maison Royère.

What is your background? How has it contributed to the development of your taste?

Jonathan

I studied interior design in Sydney, then chose to work in photography and set design. In London, I worked for furniture manufacturer and retailer SCP and The New Craftsman gallery. Between design, craft, travel and photography, I explored patterns, colours and proportions; all those contribute to my understanding of beauty.

Julien

I went to Australia after I graduated. None of the Parisian architecture schools wanted me. The French application system was carried out online without any real test. When I returned to Paris, I went to the specialist school of architecture where I gained my qualification. I travelled a lot during this period. After I qualified, I went to London. I worked in design studios and discovered a new, open and creative world. I went back to the Architectural Association, where I did my architecture degree. This school was the starting point of my career. A new approach to a free and creative world. Those three years taught me a lot. I set up my professional collective, Uchronia, during my two years of study. It is thanks to AA that I am where I am today.

Jonathan et Julien

Taste is a very personal and subjective notion. Personally, we love colour, kinetic art and organic forms. It seems to us that the best education is gained by looking. Taking photos has been very useful to focus on particular combinations of colours, patterns and proportions. This is what allowed us to discover what we found interesting. We must share a hundred a day on WhatsApp! Snapshots of what we’re doing, things we’ve seen, things were looking for… This is what educates us about each other (at least we think it is!). Travel is also educational. Just like exhibitions, taking a walk in the city or simply reading.

Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray
Chaise verte en velours et table d'appoint en verre chez
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray

Personally, we love colour, kinetic art and organic forms. It seems to us that the best education is gained by looking.

Sculpture design et colorée chez
Julien Sebban dans son appartement parisien
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray

Julien, you are the founder of Uchronia, a multidisciplinary collective with a comprehensive artistic approach. Tell us about your project.

Julien

I developed my creative project, Uchronia, in 2016 at the Architectural Association. Uchronia borrows its name from a reflection around fictional time and ephemerality. It started as a student project that I carried on for two years at arm’s length. My lecturers and my circle of friends in London persuaded me to continue it. After graduating, I continue to work without really asking myself any questions, working on projects as different as flats, fashion shows and restaurants with my friend Ségolène. I grew up with her, and our collaborations became more and more frequent! So we expanded our “team”. John, in particular, has joined us, helping us to develop the furniture side of things. Nowadays, the agency has an average of 5 to 7 people. We come from all over the world. I love that; it reminds me of East London. The agency speaks English, but we manufacture in France. We work on some really interesting public projects. For example, Forest, the restaurant in the Museum of Modern Art in Paris and its bookshop/shop, for which we won the tender. Apart from that, we design spaces as different as a nightclub or pieces of furniture: in short, all kinds of things.

Is your philosophy linked to your name, ‘Uchronia’?

Julien

I have a bold, free-spirited style, which I acquired during my time in the UK. That’s also where I discovered the concept of uchronia. I applied it to the hectic pace of my school, living only at night and sleeping in three-hour cycles. I will always have a taste for colour and lighting, essential tools for awakening the senses and living to the full. Uchronia is my way of expressing myself. A tool that allows me to do what I want, and to express myself in all areas. With Uchronia, anything is possible. A restaurant, a lamp, a plate, a piece of jewellery or even door handles. I have a strong desire to work with local expertise and skills because it allows us to develop our approach by visiting the craftspeople themselves.

Acting and functioning as a collective in the creative field, what value(s) and message(s) does this bring, and how does it influence you today?

Julien

If I decide to become a yoga teacher tomorrow, Uchronia can exist without me. I don’t want to impose my name on a creation. Uchronia carries the values of the group. We feel included, belongs to everyone. When not working for me, Julien, but for Uchronia. Our style is free from anyone else’s codes. Most of the people in my team have no professional experience. We train for working life through Uchronia. We make mistakes and have fun doing so! When we like shapes and colours, we try to produce them. Every project is different, but Uchronia’s style is colourful and joyful. I don’t know how other studios work, but I like our world with its lack of boundaries.

Chaise ondulation et bibliothèque chez
Piles de livres chez
Julien Sebban & Jonathan Wray dans leur bureau à Paris
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray
Julien Sebban and Jonathan Wray

What are the inspirations that feed you – and therefore your style – on an everyday basis?

Julien

I like to research different design periods, mainly finding artists and movements through looking at auctions, old magazines and books. I’m inspired by craftsmanship and handmade work in all its forms. From the English Arts and Crafts movement to the French Art Nouveau, I like Verner Panton’s work in plastic and Australian artists, fashion and pattern designers like Ken Done, Desert Designs and Bruce Gould.

Here we are in your home. How have you arranged your space?

Jonathan & Julien

Apart from our bedroom, the entire apartment functions as a workspace during the day. We move around freely within it, cook together and share lunch on the round table. The office is our library at the weekend. And we entertain a lot of friends, clients and family. The fridge is always full, and we share lots of ideas over a meal. And what’s more, our ceramic collection always lets us create interesting and amusing table settings!

How did you furnish your home? What objects do you like to have around you?

Jonathan & Julien

This apartment covers about a hundred square metres and is very colourful. It is a real place for experimentation where we gather our self-published collections, our designer pieces and the pieces of furniture that John and I are continually finding. We are passionate about vintage and auctions. So we put it all together to create an original living space that pays tribute to French savoir-faire. It’s the place where we live, but first and foremost, it is the Uchronia showroom! It means we can wander about amongst objects or furniture that we have collected or designed for various projects, such as these prototype chairs that we designed for the MAM restaurant or the coffee tables for an installation at Galeries Lafayette. We also find a lot of “waves”. That is the agency’s leitmotif! The “snaking” runs from room to room, filling the space with its organic forms; it’s a real invitation to move forward, and to the freedom one dreamed of in Acapulco or Rio in the 1970s. The living room is invigorating with the Cannaregio sofa by Gaetano Pesce, and the Wave carpet and coffee tables, Uchronia’s first furniture collection, and then there’s the bedroom with the Ondulation chair by decorator Jean Royère.

Jonathan

I love auctions, and I run with our favourite designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsass. We also have some new pieces from Dirk Vander Kooij, who makes beautiful, colourful marbled plastic furniture from recycled plastic.

Julien

I’m obsessed with lamps and lighting! So I spend lots of time playing with where they are placed to create the best possible combination of softness and warmth.

You live in the 18th arrondissement, a vibrant neighbourhood where a multitude of cultures come together. What are your favourite places for enjoying its different facets!

Julien

Seven years ago when I moved from Paris, I was still living with my parents. When we made the decision to come back here, there was no other place to go: it was Montmartre or nothing. I wanted to live in an area full of character that would remind us of our own London: Dalston, Hackney. We live in the most complete social mix, alongside Jules Joffrin and Simplon. We live in Square de Clignancourt, an incredible place where different cultures live in complete harmony. Our favourite addresses are Au Bon Coin and Le Maquis, where we love to go at the weekend. During the week, I take my clients to Subaco, a small Japanese restaurant. We shop exclusively in local shops, buying fish, fruit, vegetables, and so on loose, without any packaging.

What projects will you be working on in the coming months?

Julien

At Forest, the restaurant we have created for the Museum of Modern Art and later working on the boutique bookshop. This is a big step for the agency. A public place dedicated to art books; we couldn’t have imagined anything better.

Chambre avec draps en lin et sérigraphies au dessus du lit chez
Table de chever en bois avec lampe à poser verte dans la chambre de
Fenêtre avec lierre de la chambre de
Table en bois avec pierre énergisantes chez  Table de chevet en bois chez

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