IN THE FALL of 2019, the architect and designer Sophie Dries, 35, and her partner, the sculptor Marc Leschelier, 37, moved into a two-bedroom Haussmannian apartment in Paris’s 11th Arrondissement, not far from the city’s historic Place des Vosges. For several months, they lived almost entirely without furniture or household comforts, save for a mattress on the bedroom floor — which doubled as a hangout area and home office — and two dinner plates. They had no interest in buying stopgap items and wanted to take time to acquaint themselves with the space before making it their own. “We would completely avoid the living room, though,” Dries says. “It was so empty, it had an echo.”
But the couple weren’t exactly starting with a blank slate. The 1,450-square-foot second-floor apartment is an archetypal 19th-century Parisian home, complete with all the trappings of the era’s refined, decorative architecture. The 10-foot-high ceilings have ornate, botanically themed moldings; the walls are wainscoted; and the floors retain their original geometric two-tone marquetry. At the western end of the 376-square-foot living room, there is an elaborately sculpted marble fireplace inscribed with the year of its creation, 1853, and on the adjacent wall a row of floor-to-ceiling French windows open onto a balcony overlooking the wide, tree-lined boulevard below. The home, in other words, was designed to be a sumptuous backdrop for the gilded commodes and carved-leg bergères of its time. But Dries and Leschelier — who met not long after they both graduated from the architecture program at Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts — had an entirely different vision for it. “We wanted to create a clash between this bourgeois typical Haussmannian home and contemporary furniture and ideas,” says Dries. “We live on the old continent, and we love its sense of history, but we’re young — it’s important to have that paradox.”
SINCE FOUNDING HER namesake architecture and design studio in 2014, Dries has built a portfolio of residential projects in Paris — including a minimalist penthouse on the Rue Saint-Honoré for a pair of art collectors and an elegantly stripped-back two-bedroom near the Canal Saint-Martin for a young couple who work in fashion and tech — that each serve as a deft portrait of their residents while reflecting Dries’s own interests in combining pure lines with rich textures and unusual materials. With his raw large-scale sculptures — often pavilion-esque concrete forms — Leschelier similarly seeks to introduce a sense of spontaneity and experimentation into the architectural process. This shared sensibility, which rejects hierarchies of old and new, form and function, is evident throughout the pair’s home. Beginning in December 2019, they slowly furnished the apartment, which has a traditional circular layout — a living room and a dining room lead off an entryway, and the more private rooms, including the bedroom and a nursery for the couple’s 3-month-old daughter, Daria, flow into one another from there — over a two-year period, mixing pieces by designers such as Philippe Starck and Ettore Sottsass (acquired mostly through Paris-based gallerists, including Paul Bourdet and Yves and Victor Gastou) with Dries’s own handcrafted creations.
Arrangements were often informed by affinities that Dries or Leschelier noticed between seemingly unrelated items. In the living room, for example, the couple paired a dining table with a wavy-edged oval oak top, and tubular rusted steel legs by Dries with a set of Starck’s ’80s-era steel Von Vogelsang chairs for Driade. A 10-by-6 1/2-foot framed print by Ryan McGinley depicting …….