Joseph Dirand takes us through his elegant Parisian apartment filled with sensuous materials and classical elements to sublime effect.
“Je suis français, français, français,” Joseph Dirand says. “Parisien, parisien, parisien.” The son of Jacques Dirand, the most famous interiors' photographer of his day, is himself one of fashion’s most heavily sought-after architects, Dirand has built a career on incorporating a quintessentially French style of design into otherwise minimalist interiors. In his hands, minimalism becomes the canvas for a portrait of a few classical elements, such as a parquet floor or a gilded bronze doorknob.
Joseph Dirand 's recently renovated an apartment in Paris’s Seventh Arrondissement, is a home that reflects the rhythm of his modern life — something that had a generously proportioned living and dining room for entertaining, and a series of bedrooms to provide ample privacy for a family of four. He settled on a design that is elegant and a little bit louche. “I don’t care about style anymore, in a way I hate style, I hate design,” he says. “It’s about life, and generosity.”
If he does indeed hate style, it is not apparent from his home. Dirand’s apartment could easily be mistaken for one that is miraculously well-preserved, or painstakingly restored. The parquet de Versailles, the elaborate moldings, the bronze doorknobs are all, as the French would say, “corrects”; but they are not old. “I wished to find an apartment with all the details, but I had to create them instead,” he says. Joseph Dirand used the best craftsmen in France to ensure that the details reflect the former glory of the apartment. “I didn’t want anything Haussmann,” he says of the 19th-century plaster detailing often found in buildings of the period in Paris. Instead he sought to replicate the simplicity of Italian interiors of the 17th century from which he borrowed molding details and plain walls adorned with marmorino, a type of pigmented stucco. The slightly irregular walls subtly shift in color throughout the space, creamier in the bedroom and grayer in the entry and kitchen. The only surface that is painted is the millwork. He chose an off-white that “looks like it has darkened over time, with age and dirt — a white that is no longer white.”
The traditional details of Joseph Dirand ’s apartment are balanced with modern elements, particularly in the kitchen and the master bathroom, where he uses large slabs of heavily veined marble, a signature of his work. “I like to look for materials that express a lot of disorder,” he explains. In the kitchen, books, glasses, bottles and cooking utensils accumulate on the open shelf against his minimal impulse. While he doesn’t feel it necessary to hide all signs of real life, Dirand has developed a sleight of hand for those things he finds aesthetically unacceptable. A vent on the counter, for example, is painted faux marble to match the Paonazzetto slab. “I hated that this stainless-steel thing ruined the beauty of this stone,” he says with a grimace. Similarly the flat-screen television in the living room disappears into a cabinet at the touch of a button. Speakers, however, remain in plain sight. “I know all the tricks to hiding things, but sometimes it is better to show it in a nice way,” he says, pointing to two large Wilson Audios that look like robots. “Yes, you can hide them in the wall, but not if you care about how they sound,” he adds, raising the volume on the techno music to demonstrate.
The layout also provides floor-to-ceiling windows that allow light to flood into every single room of the apartment, a photographer’s dream. “I think in pictures, because of my father,” Joseph Dirand says. Every night after dinner, Jacques would look over film that had just come from the lab, selecting his favorite images and sharing them with his family. “Every day was a new place,” he says. Today, Dirand creates highly detailed renderings for his projects complete with furniture and installed art, tweaking the design until the picture is perfect.