Picture this : two years ago, I received a message from Jamie asking me "Would you ever consider painting apartment walls in the style of your paintings?" Without hesitation, I hit respond with an enthusiastic "yes!" Little did I know that this first exchange would lead us down an incredible design adventure unlike anything I’ve experienced. After months of keeping this project under wraps, I am thrilled to finally share the whole story of this epic interior design collaboration.
While I got introduce to Jamie’s home project two years ago, I only
truly got on board last October after my first visit to the apartment. Despite the renovation still being in its early stages, with walls being torn down and debris everywhere I felt in love the minute I entered the place. Big windows, high ceilings, tomettes and ornate crow mouldings...not to mention the natural light flooding the entire space! While the apartment still boasted most of the original architectural details and even some original patinas, the walls had unfortunately been repainted decades ago in what was likely a trendy colour at the time. I remember Jamie and I standing in the living-room, in front of the vast 20 square meter wall that would become « my wall », discussing about its untapped potential and how amazing it would be to transform it to a true-to-life ancient patinated wall. For a minute we fantasised over the idea of turning all the walls into patinated artworks but we quickly settled down for one wall only. A statement piece. And there, at that moment my creative juice started to flow.
Texture and Structure
While I always bring my own ideas to the table, my ultimate goal is to understand and interpret my client's vision. Jamie wanted a wall that appeared authentic and naturally aged, one that exuded the allure of the past without the artificiality that so often comes with modern finishes. It is a common misconception to think that a few layers of paint can replicate the decades of patina and wear that give an old wall its character. The true beauty of a wall stripped back to a mix of plasters can only be recreated by actually stripping the wall back to a mix of plasters. This belief is what drives my design process and the reason why I approach my work as a sculptor rather than a painter, carving lime plaster layers upon layers to achieve a three-dimensional effect.
I have always been fascinated by the way century-old walls can appear like larger-than-life abstract artworks. It all boils down to the way architectural elements and accidents come together to structure the composition with negative space and beautiful areas. I like to draw inspiration from Italian palazzi, where scrapped layers and accidents form around structural elements like old bricked-up doors or removed chimneys. For months we’ve exchanged dozens of inspirations, swooning over every single details and building up our vision. Fortunately, Jamie's wall displayed a breathtaking fireplace in its center that I could use as key element to structure the rest of the surface. I reinterpreted the wall's history by incorporating the remnants of an old chimney flue above the fireplace. This not only created a visual anchor for the eye but also highlighted the bourgeois heritage of the place.
For me, texture and structure go hand in hand and should always work in perfect harmony. Whether the structure takes the spotlight or the texture is more intricate and complex, they must complement each other seamlessly. One of my favourite hack to see if the result is balanced is to take a photo of my work. Seeing through a lens can reveal subtle imbalances that might not be apparent to the naked eye!
The colour palette
I have a very symbiotic approach to colours. I can spend hours sitting in silence, contemplating colour samples until it feels « right », until I get an
« eureka » moment. For this project I immersed myself in the world of pigments, exploring and experimenting with traditional ochres and umbers found throughout the sun-drenched south of Europe. Jamie's deep connection to Provence, through her life story and the location of the apartment, asked for a colour palette that truly embodied the spirit of the region. After weeks of researches, weighing, scaling and mixing, I finally settled down for a blend of 5 different earthy pigments. It is a range of earthy tones with a dominance of natural umber and touches of light yellow ocher and green earth to break up the tonal monotony. The result is an elegant blend that varies in appearance depending on the light, unveiling stunning shades of taupe and tans. A beautiful and ever-changing palette!
When Jamie and I talked about colours, it was an absolute joy. We had an instant connection and a shared vision. This rare understanding actually led her to trust me with the task of selecting all the colours for her entire home. It was an exciting challenge considering the multitude of elements that needed painting - walls, ceilings, wainscoting and other old-world decor ornaments like mouldings and plinths - this kicked me into high gear! I spent days obsessively searching and deliberating over every detail, determine to find the perfect colour scheme for each room. Eventually we designed a unique range of colours specifically tailored for the apartment. I came up with every single pigment blends that would create the final colours and we asked the local pigment shop to blend the lime paints for us.
One of my personal favourite colour story is the salon. The colour choice for the entire room was based on a mirror with a green trumeau that Jamie found at a French Antique. The result is the most perfect enveloping olive green tone that complements the mirror while still standing out on its own. It is absolutely wonderful and I am quite sure that « what is the colour green on your wall ? » will become a much asked question to Jamie! Let me tell you that the story behind the green pigment we used to create this colour is as captivating as the room itself! It is named "vert wagon" in tribute to the green train wagons that transported ocher and merchandise throughout the region in the past century. Isn’t that amazing?
Celebrating the beauty of imperfection is what united Jamie and I in the renovation of her new home. Together, we were able to imagine and bring to life the stories her century-old walls had to say. Renovating an ancient apartment is balancing act between the desire to honour its heritage while infusing a sense of modernity. The transformation of Jamie's home is a testament to the power of creativity and imagination. It shows that with the right tools and a clear vision, you can achieve an unparalleled level of authenticity and charm that will inspire for years to come.