There is nothing ostentatious about Charles Zana’s work, and in fact, a certain sense of restraint dominates. For the past 30 years, the AD100 architect has been creating interiors in which every detail conveys elegance, fluidity, and comfort. He applies a similar attitude to his own apartment located in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Paris neighborhood that’s been his favorite since his teen years. Zana set his heart on this pure expression of a Louis XVI apartment: “I love these aristocratic apartments which have a real history. What I also admire are the proportions of the rooms, the enfilades, the high ceilings, the large windows, and the precision to the moldings and the cornices. This isn’t the bourgeois pomp of the 19th century; it was the 18th that was the great century when it comes to laying the foundations of grand French decor.”
Sometimes, spaces that have been modified can still give off the impression of having been there forever, the operative idea being to subtly blend them into, while showing great respect for, an existing setting. “I believe many architects like living in spaces full of history that precedes them and goes a little beyond them.” Here, the preference was to opt for a monochrome look with curtains and white walls to accomplish a form of serenity. It’s a blank page that invites dashes of color. “I find that the very colorful Sottsass ceramics fit quite well in this ambience.” Growing up in a family of collectors, Zana inherited a strong penchant for vintage design and for creating bold associations. A well-rounded aesthete, he knows how to tell the story behind objects and stage them within a space.
Radical Italian design, and the maestros Ettore Sottsass, Carlo Scarpa, Andrea Branzi, Alessandro Mendini, and Carlo Mollino, occupy pride of place in this Paris apartment; positions that are ever evolving as the architect likes to try new combinations and push the line—without ever letting the space feel frozen. “I find it interesting to mix objects and tell a story. I have little desire to lock myself into a style or in an era. I launched my career in the 1980s when the ‘total look’ dominated. Today, though, I like to live in spaces that are a mélange of the sophisticated and the bohemian.”
To all the vintage objects, Zana adds a number of contemporary artworks, as well as several pieces of furniture from his Ithaca collection that he launched a little more than a year ago, including the large bed posed diagonally across his bedroom. Inspired by the swaddling shapes of Jean Royère’s Polar Bear chairs, it fits in perfectly with the oak paneling that was only revealed by chance when the walls were stripped for repainting and their hidden past emerged. It’s a past that today blends harmoniously with the present and breathes a light, timeless atmosphere into this ensemble of measured eclecticism.