Everything is Illuminated pix
Matteo Messervy lights up his three-story Parisian loft
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
The loft's second and third floors are encased behind slatted screens of piquiá, a Brazilian wood. The swelling curve resembles the hull of a boat.
The translucent glass set in the living area's piquiá parquet floor allows light into Messervy's studio below. Messervy hangs light installations from the ceiling on his custom steel-and-aluminum grid.
Skylights punctuate the living area's 40-foot-high ceiling; Messervy mixes his own designs, the custom armchairs, and the stools of turned sucupira, with the Restoration daybed and the Empire chest.
Messervy in his third-floor bedroom. The curtains are laser-cut Trevira CS, a synthetic fabric.
Messervy's incandescent-and-LED Cocoon light fixture illuminates a corner of the living area. The table and chairs are Restoration era, the Piero Lissoni sofa purely contemporary.
A PVC-wrapped fluorescent tube illuminates the staircase of epoxy-coated wood.
Messervy's bathroom, on the third floor, is clad in piquiá slats. A prototype for his Ice Cream pendant hangs over the sink, which is fitted with an Arne Jacobsen faucet.
In his adjoining bedroom, the ceiling pendants and the chair are flea-market finds. The mirror dates to the Directoire period.
A 1930's Murano-glass chandelier appoints the kitchen and dining area on the second floor. Recessed fiber-optic spotlights in the ceiling project images of marine creatures around the room. Messervy designed the table and bench, both made of bleached sucupira.
"My passion is to tell stories," says lighting designer Matteo Messervy. Take the luminous, 102-foot-long sculpture he created last year for the northern French industrial town of Roubaix. Its bulbous form was inspired by the city's past as an important textile center. "The idea for the sculpture's shape came from the balls of cotton once found in Roubaix's historic mills," he explains.
The story of the 34-year-old Messervy's own apartment in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil is also linked to the fabric industry. It stands on the site of a 1930's textile factory that burned to the ground in 1999. "There was absolutely nothing left," he recalls, "just a rectangle of earth and the open sky."
In its place, Messervy has built a vertiginous 6,500-square-foot loft apartment. The unique plan encompasses a triple-height living area with a 40-foot-high ceiling composing the entire ground floor. "If there's one thing that's a luxury in Paris, it's height," he says. The perimeter of the second and third floors is made up of stacked, balcony-like volumes housing the kitchen and dining area on one floor, Messervy's bedroom and bath on the other.
The volumes overlook the living area to create a courtyard-like effect, an architectural inspiration Messervy borrowed from southern Spain. He added a Scandinavian spin by situating each volume behind a slatted screen of Brazilian wood called piquiá. "The slats act like a veil," Messervy notes. For clearer views, he punched the screens with large, lozenge-shaped openings. The material of the screens, their design, and even their shape—one is bowed outward—create an atmosphere that's at once nautical, tropical, and utterly modern.
Messervy brought all the exotic wood used in the loft back with him from a trip to Brazil in 2000. The slats as well as the kitchen countertops and the parquet flooring are piquiá; the custom dining table and the living area's small turned-wood stools, all of his design, are bleached sucupira, another tropical hardwood. "Wood symbolizes heat and fire," he asserts. The high-gloss paint he applied to the walls represents "coldness, cleanliness, the atmosphere of a hospital." The finish also does away with the need for paintings. "Whatever's going on in the apartment is reflected in the glossy surfaces."
Messervy, who says the goal of his work is "to hypnotize people," collaborated with Jean-Paul Gaultier on a light sculpture for the Museu Nacional d'Art de 'Catalunyain Barcelona, Spain, and created a pair of luminous installations for the Jean-Michel Wilmotte–designed MK2 Bibliothèque movie complex in Paris. So it's fitting that he has conjured numerous mesmeric lighting effects for his loft.
His Cocoon—a mixed incandescent and LED light fixture cloaked in a shade of synthetic fabric called Trevira CS—illuminates a corner of the living area. Ice Cream, the prototype of one of his latest fixtures, hangs over the bathroom sink. In the dining area, Messervy encased blue and pink incandescent tubes behind a 28-foot-long PVC panel. "Its pink glow makes people look better," he explains. The most beguiling lighting effect, though, comes from the recessed fiber-optic spotlights above the dining table. Fitted with slides depicting marine life, the spots project iridescent sea creatures around the space—sea horses on the walls, fish on the place settings. "Even when guests have finished their meal, they still have something left on their plate," quips the designer.
A number of the apartment's astonishments are not luminous, however. A square of translucent glass set into the living area's floor allows daylight into Messervy's design studio below. In the stairwell, a wall painted deep violet creates a mystical element—it's "the color of popes," says Messervy. His bedroom's Trevira CS curtains, laser-cut in a lacy pattern of interlocking S's, look like "angel's wings."
But perhaps the most surprising feature in the architecturally avant-garde loft is the abundance of antique furniture. Mixed in with purebred contemporary sofas and armchairs in the living area is a Restoration daybed, an Empire chest of drawers, and a Louis XIII desk. Upstairs, there's a large Directoire mirror leaning against the wall in the bedroom. "It's the furniture I really love," says Messervy. "Modern places are often quite sterile if there's nothing old in them. It's important that there be some sort of attachment to history."
Just like those balls of cotton in Roubaix.