Catch her if you can
At the Paris apartment of antiques dealer Florence Lopez, it's here today, gone tomorrow
Judy Fayard -- Interior Design, 3/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Change, thy name is woman. The idea's been immortalized in poetry and song—by Virgil, Giuseppe Verdi, and Ira Gershwin, among others. When it comes to perpetual permutations, however, few can compare to French antiques dealer Florence Lopez. Specializing in 20th-century furniture, Lopez works out of her own Paris apartment, which she completely transforms at least once and sometimes twice a year.
Located in a beautiful 18th-century building in the Sixth Arrondissement, the apartment was once an artist's atelier. Its L-shape layout starts at the main salon—surrounded by tall windows on three exposures—and proceeds through a kitchen, two small bedrooms for Lopez and her son, and finally an office. When she moved in, she installed dark-stained oak parquet floors throughout and designed a simple concrete mantel for the salon. Just about everything else that isn't structural is subject to total transformation.
The current look is "very much in the spirit of the 1930's," Lopez says, although she always mixes periods and styles for pizzazz. Around a window with a pivoting shade adapted from Andrea Palladio, she painted the wall in a black-and-white op art pattern inspired by Josef Albers. Another wall sports a geometric composition based on Theo van Doesburg's constructivist mural at the Villa Noailles, the famed 1933 house by Robert Mallet-Stevens.
Sticking to a color scheme of black, white, gray, and soft yellow, Lopez has mixed a Jugendstil banquette, a Vienna Secession mirrored console, bookshelves by Georges Vantongerloo, and an astonishing Gaveau piano, all 1910 to 1920, with an oversize 19th-century magnifying glass on an iron-and-wood stand, a 1948 tripod table by Osvaldo Borsani, a 1950 Marco Zanuso sofa, and 1970 lamps by Angelo Brotto. A brushed-steel object, the prototype for a 1930 automobile hood ornament, looks more like an origami bird.
In the two bedrooms—separated by just an iron-framed glass partition draped in linen-cotten—Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand beds team up with molded-plastic stools, 'articulated industrial lamps, framed specimens of giant butterflies, and a kitsch photo of an open safe containing a mammoth emerald. A very rare Alvar Aalto bench, designed for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, sits against the partition on the master bedroom side.
Lopez's chameleon mise-en-scènes usually germinate from a single strong piece. In this instance, it was two Mathieu Mategot chairs, 1950's in date but 1930's in curviness. However, her jumping-off point might just as easily be a sofa, table, lamp, or painting. (In one previous incarnation, she started by crowding theatrical drawings edge-to-edge on the wall.) Finding the requisite furniture and objects is always the most time-consuming part, she says, listing her favorite hunting grounds as "Northern Europe, Budapest, Prague—although not as much as before—Moscow, even New York." And she still makes some interesting finds in France.
Once the scavenger hunt is over, she says, the rest "might not take more than a week." The composition remains a work in progress, though, since everything on the premises is for sale. An arrangement inevitably changes with each major purchase, as the rest of the furnishings rotate, like a kaleidoscope, to fill in the blanks. "It's never finished, even when it's done. Even when it's ready to be destroyed. Just now, I found a lamp that would be perfect with this," she says, gesturing at a setting that will be gone by springtime.
Lopez first honed her skills in Paris, working for Etamine, and it was through the fabric house that she first became acquainted with Jacques Garcia. Long afterward, a chance meeting with him led to a seven-year stint at his firm. When she struck out on her own as an antiques dealer in 1992, she gave up interior design as a profession.
She's now taking on a few clients again, but reinventing her gallery-apartment so often, she says, is a "chance to do for myself what I don't really do for others anymore. I like it to be festive and playful and provocative, to amuse my friends. I like it to be pétillante." That's sparkling, as in champagne.
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