Attention, all French poodles—Matali Crasset has just completed a dog-grooming parlor in Nice
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Named designer of the year at the 2006 Salon du Meuble in Paris, Matali Crasset first won attention for her colorful, economical solutions to life's little quandaries. Take the witty When Jim Comes to Paris, a roll-out mattress equipped with a built-in reading lamp and alarm clock. So Crasset was intrigued when Carole Heleine, an energetic young entrepreneur of modest means, phoned with a new small-scale challenge: Could the designer find a way to incorporate both a professional dog-grooming business and a vibrant living space in one long, narrow 430-square-foot storefront in the southern city of Nice? Crasset also has her quirky moments—she prefers her name written entirely in lowercase, like e.e. cummings—and she couldn't resist adding a pooch parlor to the portfolio of Matali Crasset Productions. On a more serious note, she says, "I like working on the logic of space and the best ways to articulate it."
Heleine had seen one of Crasset's most high-profile projects, Nice's boldly contemporary Hi Hotel—it's filled with simple modular furnishings and quirky details, such as pixel-patterned walls, table-height beds, shelving made from woven chestnut branches, and bathtubs with canopies. "That hotel was a revelation for me," Heleine says. She'd taken over a dog-grooming salon two years earlier, without touching a thing, and she lived elsewhere. But she'd been thinking for quite a while about changing the framework of her life. When she saw the Hi, she says, "I recognized what I had been looking for. So I called Matali."
Their collaboration resulted in a colorful little shop called Tout'ouvert, meaning wide open. And wide open it is, with a glass front door and a picture window. Completely visible from the street, the grooming station is a steel-framed glass enclosure, so customers and passersby can watch as Heleine scrubs, clips, trims, and coifs her canine clientele. "It was important that the enclosure have a certain serenity to it, because the dogs are often anxious when they're brought in. They're sensitive to the atmosphere," Crasset explains. Anxiety is almost an impossibility amid her palette of sunny yellow, deep purple, sky blue, and acid green. "I have many of the same dogs as I did before," Heleine says, "but now they're more relaxed."
Heleine's living space starts behind the grooming station. The yellow galley kitchen is separated by an island from a narrow living area furnished with little more than an assortment of Crasset's modular cushions covered in pink and purple faux leather. The pieces can be assembled as a sofa or chair or used on their own as a stool or an occasional table—like oversize children's blocks. (The design is actually based on the shopping bags from a Paris discount store, hence the strap handles.) At the very back of the space stands a two-level enclosure. Up top is a sleeping loft; the bottom holds a bathroom with a green ivy pattern climbing the window.
"We weren't afraid of color," Crasset says. "There's not enough of it in most places—it brings joie de vivre." Heleine's 200,000-watt smile proves the point. "Now everything is in harmony. My work, my life. In the morning, I just naturally wake up in a good mood," she says. "The colors are happy—there's music." In fact, her real love is not design but electronica. During parties, she converts the grooming station into a DJ booth, complete with double turntables.