Architect Joseph Dirand has a reputation for designing elegant spaces. His own family apartment, a serene oasis in Paris, has his unique French touch …
Joseph Dirand has been sharpening his eye since childhood, he knows how to see, a rare quality indeed. He sees the space and perspective of a place. His sense for composition comes from his creative family background, he has a scenographer’s eye and frames volume with extreme precision. He is sensitive to the way light plays on relief and flat surfaces, he analyses structure, notices the tiniest of details and observes a material’s abundance of features and appreciates the rightness of a colour.
Dirand is sensitive and visionary. Taking life by the horns the minute he graduated from the Paris-Belleville architecture school, his first commission, a house in India, became his graduate project. He opened his own firm straight away, motivated by the ambition to express himself and the need to get started, “creation was a need”. He evokes his masters: Le Corbusier for his commitment; John Pawson for his minimalism; Peter Zumthor for his timelessness and modesty, Carlo Scarpa for his precision, Eero Saarinen for his global vision. “I love minimalist architecture, the precise, clear vocabulary and the detail,” he says. He plans his projects as both environmental and architecture endeavours.
Joseph Dirand in the entrance hall, sofa by TH Robsjohn-Gibbings. Photograph by Simon Watson.
Dirand’s precise commitment has borne fruit. He works constantly on projects of varying sizes. Architecture and interiors have confirmed his signature style. The quality of his design and his masterful space management have made him stand out from the crowd in France and elsewhere. His “French touch” is highly appreciated in places where an art de vivre is of utmost importance. A number of hotels and restaurants, luxury fashion houses and private residences have been marked with the seal of his elegance.
Within the firm, he draws his plans himself, working on each project with his colleagues, down to the last detail. Each job, regardless of size, takes shape only after a long gestation period, bolstered by research into texture, composition, colour, ambience, context and history. He objectivises this impressionist reflex through bold choices and strong directions
Nothing escapes his eye. He designs furniture and lamps for his architectural spaces to reintroduce beauty and intention to the object and thus participate in the story of the architectural whole.
When it came to designing his own home on Paris’ Right Bank, a 2,600-square-foot space, Dirand knew he’d found what he’d been looking for. He told the New York Times that he set out to replicate the simplicity of the Italian interiors of the 17th century, and revealed to Architectural Digest how he would make the space truly his. “I’ve spent my career putting together settings for others, but rarely do I get to do it for myself,” he said. “So I was very precise about what I wanted. Design for me must always serve its function – a space well studied, delivering a certain quality of life.” He described his approach as “ornamental minimalism”. The overall palette is “natural tints,” with tobacco-hued Versailles parquet and walls and furniture in off-whites, pale greens, and the lightest of greys – a neutral canvas devised to set off his extensive modern, abstract, and art collection.
When interviewed by Vogue, he explained his thinking: “I create space with equilibrium and a classic base.” Yet “there are details and compositions,” he says. As Vogue described it, it is “like mixing marble powder into cement to give it a glistening silkiness, or painting mirrored closet doors with foggy, Turneresque murals, or scorching silver-clad kitchen cabinets to evoke the smoky allure of a Belle Époque bordello”.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SIMON WATSON
The living room, its natural pigmented-stucco walls a serene backdrop for Dirand’s collection of modern art, including a piece by Angel Alonso over the fireplace. A Pierre Jeanneret sofa and chairs surround a cocktail table by Joseph Dirand. The plain wooden box by Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé lights, Dirand says, are a pure expression of function over form. Two Wilson audio speakers feature.
The kitchen is beautifully moody with dark cabinets and the worktop and shelf carved from a hunk of heavily veined Italian marble.
The custom banquette is by Dirand; Eric Schmitt pendant; Ettore Sottsass table. “The kitchen looks very nice by night,” says Dirand.
In the bedroom, a suede Oscar Niemeyer chair and Irving Penn photograph add to the serene luxury of the space reflected in the mirrored closet doors.
On either side of the bed, a pair of Luigi Caccia Dominioni wall sconces designed in 1958 for Azucena.
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