Dorothée Delaye, an interior designer, spent two years looking for “a village life in Paris.” Her family, which included her husband François and daughters Faustine, 11, and Jules, nine, had outgrown their Marais apartment.
“I really wanted a garden – it was my top priority,” Delaye explains. “A place where my kids can invite their friends to play.” I also wanted a huge party area where my husband and I could host parties for our guests.”
A possibility for Delaye to experience “village life” appeared a few kilometers east, in the 12th arrondissement, in the rear of a courtyard that used to house a mirror factory. “I fell in love with its volume and factory elements right away,” Delaye says of the open-plan workshop. “It was such an unusual space – the ideal design challenge.”
Delaye’s eponymous design business specializes on reviving dormant structures. She’s spent over a decade turning hotels and restaurants into “places where people come to love, dance, eat, share, reflect, and get emotional…” (She just finished the interiors for Mimosa, Jean-François Piège’s newest restaurant at Hôtel de la Marine in Place de la Concorde, as well as the interiors at Sookie, a Marais hotel and coffee shop she compares to going to a friend’s home.)
“A project begins with immersion in a place, in a neighborhood,” Delaye adds. “I find that by listening and interacting, creativity begins to bubble up.”
Delaye redesigned the 200-square-metre space in only eight months, producing a spacious, open-plan central living area as well as three bedrooms and a home office. A formerly roofed courtyard garden was redesigned as an enclosed paved patio, currently covered with flora, and one of the two internal garages was turned into a master bedroom with en suite.
Delaye concentrated on fixtures and fittings once the blueprint was finalized. “My main decision was to make the space feel like it was in the countryside,” she explains. “I didn’t want it to feel like a brand-new house from the ground up.”
For the inside, Delaye used a range of salvaged materials. The paneled doors and herringbone floor are from a Haussmann apartment in the 16th arrondissement; the red marble fireplace is from a magnificent house in Belgium; and the shutters are from a southern French estate.
“Each item has its own story,” Delaye explains. “They give the impression of being there all the time.”
Despite the fact that the flat is open-plan, transitional thresholds have been established using texture and color. For example, the wall around the fireplace has been painted in a dark burgundy (Farrow & Ball’s Brinjal). Delaye notes, “This was a way of setting the decor around the fireplace in the same tones.” “It warms up the living room while also setting it apart from the kitchen and bar area.”
The baroque mirror over the mantle was originally installed at Château de Chantilly, north of Paris (Delaye was inspired in part by Stanley Kubrick’s 1975 film Barry Lyndon), and the patinated pillars have been kept in place as a reminder of the building’s industrial background. “I become very attached to the history of a place with each project,” Delaye explains. “I like to imagine time passing through it, interfering with my work, and eventually appropriating it.”
The leaden walls of the kitchen pick up the grey finish of the marble backsplash, while the change in flooring (a Delaye marble mosaic) marks a change of usage. Similarly, several hues of blue on the walls and in materials provide layered appeal in her daughter Faustine’s country-style bedroom. Delaye adds, “I like things that last.” “You can be bold with your color choices without succumbing to the latest fashion trends.”
The Marché d’Aligre, Paris’s famed flea market, is just next door, and Delaye has represented its vintage eclecticism by blending secondhand antiques with modern furniture. Faye Toogood’s Roly-Poly, a traditional bentwood Thonet, and a pair of 1950s Danish designs create a welcoming atmosphere in the living room. Delaye explains, “I enjoy mixing periods, styles, and materials.” “I believe it adds a lot of warmth to the house.”
“Would I still like this decor in five years?” Delaye questions at the outset of every project. After five years at the mirror factory, she still finds her beautifully layered house fresh and functional: a country-chic nook of the city that reflects the people who live there.