In Paris, no two buildings, no two courtyards are the same! As Paula Alvarez de Toledo and Antoine Daniel have discovered through their work. The young couple were not particularly seeking to buy a property, but then their lives were turned upside down by a Facebook advert. Blown away by the neo-tropical garden adjoining the plateau where they bought (just twelve hours later!) one of the two lots, the co-founder of the Jaune architectural agency and her husband, head of The Line, didn’t hesitate to move districts.Theirs is now the cosmopolitan area Barbès — Marx Dormoy, where they find themselves protected from noise thanks to a verdant, almost tropical courtyard. Surprising and strangely quiet, their acquisition is a generously auspicious reminder of their native South of France. The light is generous, and Paula’s interior design is bright, natural. No frills. Plants, and light wood. The theme of this project.A material particularly appreciated by Antoine, a former cabinetmaker, who made all the furniture. Here, it takes two to create! It’s a family affair. And perhaps in a few years the latest arrival, Gaston, will also have something to say about it.
Paula, Antoine: what is your background? Your story?
We both come from Marseille and have been living in Paris for about ten years now. In 2015, we each set up our own company. I am one of the two partners in Jaune Architecture, an interior design firm in which I work with my friend Marine Delaloy. Antoine created The Line, a brand that takes a brand new approach to souvenir objects. Gaston joined us in June 2018 and we’re having lots of fun!
What neighbourhood are we in?
We are in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, in a district located on the east side of the Butte Montmartre. It is one of the most cosmopolitan and multicultural parts of the capital and we like it. To be more precise, our apartment is in the former premises of a wholesaler in glass, porcelain and pottery who occupied the premises from the 19th century until the end of the 1920s.
How did you find this apartment? Why did you choose this one?
It was a complete coincidence. We weren’t looking to buy, but I came across a Facebook post from an old acquaintance I hadn’t seen for at least 10 years. She was considering buying a large property and dividing it into two separate lots. The place is really magical, so we went to visit it that very evening. The next morning we made an offer that was accepted an hour later. It all went at an incredible speed and we, who weren’t looking for anything, bought this apartment in less than 12 hours!
What is incredible about this place is that we are in a street that connects Marx Dormoy to Barbès – which are very lively, even noisy neighbourhoods – but when you push the door of the courtyard, you land in a kind of tropical garden, you can hear the birds singing and that is really exceptional. It’s a particularly peaceful and pleasant place to live. And we are living here surrounded by light!
All we need is a view of the Frioul islands!
Paula, you’re half of the Jaune Architecture duo. Have you breathed the spirit of your business into your home?
I think it’s quite unavoidable. I loved working on this apartment. It was a fairly easy exercise. I was my own client and Antoine was heavily involved! It was very different from the type of apartment we deal with at Jaune, but that’s what made it so interesting. That’s what I love about my job. With each project, we can tell another story. If we had to repeat the same designs everywhere, how boring would that be?
Is there a Jaune style? Why do your customers come to you in particular?
I’m not sure there’s actually a Jaune style. First of all, we try to design the lightest possible spaces. And then each project is the result of a meeting, of discussions with our clients. I think that’s the main reason these people come to us. The projects we find most satisfying are those where our customers have pushed us beyond our original ideas and vice versa. We also love the material to make a real contribution, so that it becomes a thread that runs through the project. For example, for an apartment we completed in 2018, we worked with birch plywood, which we dyed. The result is really interesting. It gives a velvety, almost precious aspect to the wood which, before it is treated is quite ordinary.
What are your main inspirations in your work? Do you have a favourite design period? Is there a style that excites you?
I’ve always been very receptive to the work of Joseph Dirand. I learned my trade with him, and I’ve loved working for him. I’m fascinated by Charlotte Perriand’s modern movement, which changed the way of life of the French in the 1950s. I am also extremely attached to our Gras lamp, which was given to us as a wedding present by people we love very much. I love objects like this, which are so simply and beautifully constructed. Here, the light fixture was assembled without screws or welding.
I am a total fan of the DIY movement that was led by Enzo Mari in the 70s (his book Autoprogettazione is a masterpiece), as well as of the simplicity of Donald Judd’s drawings. Closer to home, I follow the work of Piet Hein Eek, which I find very interesting.
Antoine, you founded The Line. Tell us about this crazy adventure.
Before I started The Line, I was a cabinetmaker. I designed and made furniture. I had my workshop and my machines, it was really great! Then, a little over three years ago my father showed me a photograph of Marseille that he had taken off the coast of the Frioul archipelago. I’m not sure why, but I drew the horizon line that the photo showed. At the time, I was working with a supplier who used a laser to cut metal. I asked him to cut out the drawing I had made and sent it to my parents as a bit of fun. They hung it up at home and all their friends wanted it! I produced some more and made a nice box so I could send them by post. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) I produced too many. So I went to see a very nice shop in Marseille, La Maison Marseillaise, to sell the surplus, and the reaction of the customers was instantaneous. I took the idea further by going to Paris and offering it at Le Bon Marché. Then there was such a flood of orders and I had to close my workshop to devote myself to The Line full time! Today we have nearly 50 cities in the collection, and we sell our products in the most beautiful shops in the world, in total more than 600 retail outlets! That happened very swiftly too.
What are your favourite materials – for both of you? What is the most common one in your home and why?
You’ll find there’s a lot of wood in our apartment because I’m the one who made the furniture! Obviously, I have a preference for wood because it’s a material I know how to work.
What’s the most important element in your home?
That would be our metal shelves, which we designed, and which have followed us into our successive apartments. We fill them with the objects we love, that make us laugh.
My answer will seem very gloomy, but the object I care about most is my grandfather’s Pacemaker. When it was replaced, he took huge amusement from making it into a work of art, and having a brass stand made to put it on. That sits on these shelves too. And I’m very proud to own it.
What plans do each of you have for 2019?
To spend time with Gaston and try to understand why he prefers his mother to his father! Otherwise, continuing to develop The Line by expanding the range and accentuating our export growth.
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily