Step Inside Jacques Grange's Storied Paris Apartment

Dana Thomas

The celebrated French writer Colette first moved to 9 rue de Beaujolais, overlooking the Palais-Royal garden in Paris, in the 1920s. Her south-facing flat was an entresol—one of the low-ceilinged “lairs huddled under the arches, squeezed between first floor and the shops beneath,” she wrote. Colette loved living on the elegant quad, with its percolating fountains and squealing schoolchildren. But she lusted for the roomier, airier apartment directly above. In the late 1930s—after having moved, and moved again—she declared in an interview her unyielding desire to live on No. 9’s first floor. Its owner read the article and offered her and her husband, the journalist Maurice Goudeket, the flat. It would be Colette’s final and most famous home.

In 1990, more than three decades after Colette’s death, French interior designer and AD100 Hall of Famer Jacques Grange became friendly with Maurice’s second wife (and widow), Sanda; she was a neighbor of Grange’s friends and clients Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in the Norman seaside resort of Deauville. One day, she told Grange that the apartment was available and asked if he would like to rent it. He did, and redecorated it, as he says now, “as respectfully as possible to Colette”—maintaining the floor plan of living room and bedroom on the park and dining room under a drafty painted-glass ceiling, as well as a few bits of Colette ephemera: a small bronze bust of her by Spanish sculptor Apel.les Fenosa; a sketch of her by her friend and neighbor Jean Cocteau; one of her pens, kept in a cup on his night stand; and, most important, her tufted chaise longue. “She received friends on the chaise longue here in this salon,” Grange said on a sunny autumn afternoon. “And she worked in her bedroom, opening the window to hear the children playing in the garden.”

A sculptural spiraling staircase connects Grange’s original flat to the apartment above.

Fifteen years later, after Madame Goudeket had died, Grange was able to purchase the 1,400-square-foot flat from the estate. But like Colette before him, he longed for the roost above; it had an unobstructed view over the squared-off linden trees to the historic Comédie-Française theater. Two years ago, he bought it and made a duplex, with spiral stairs inspired by the curling Man Ray chandelier in his entrance hall. “I’m very proud of the staircase,” he said. “It looks like a sculpture.”

There was other major work to be done. On the lower floor, he replaced the leaky Belle Époque verrière with a new Cubist-style one after the Robert Mallet-Stevens–designed Villa Noailles in Hyères, and converted Colette’s (and his) bedroom into a guest room.

In the guest bedroom, a Maurizio Cattelan painting hangs over an antique French bed.

Upstairs, he reorganized the flow of the 1,000-square-foot space so natural light could sweep through. “To have lightness is so peaceful,” he said. From his beach house in Comporta, Portugal, he traveled throughout the southern Iberian Peninsula to collect neoclassical tiles—some glazed with sponge smears in plum, chestnut, and pine, which he used for the master bath, powder room, and fireplace, and others with classic blue-and-white geometric designs, which now enrobe the entrance hall.

Then he filled the home with art, photography, and furnishings that are meaningful to him—usually by or of people he has known or admired. Like the string of photographs of French arts patron Marie-Laure de Noailles—by Man Ray, Dora Maar, and George Hoyningen-Huene, respectively—above the library sofa (de Noailles was also a friend of Bergé and Saint Laurent), and a soot-tinted tableau of a Paris artist’s atelier by Bernard Buffet, Bergé’s lover before Saint Laurent. It is poised over a sweet still life of buttercups by Grange chum Andy Warhol. “They go very well together, yes?” Grange mused. Next to them is a Marc Newson sculpted-marble console, and in the entrance hall, a pair of “little wire chairs” from Madeleine Castaing’s Chateau de Lèves, near Chartres, that he picked up at her estate sale.

See More of Jacques Grange's Paris Apartment

In the living room, a 19th-century French screen stands behind the sofa.
Another view of the staircase designed by Grange.
In Grange’s office, A suite of Aloys Zötl watercolors hangs above the André Sornay desk. Keith Haring vase (left), Alberto Giacometti lamps. Jean Royère floor lamp.
Azulejo tiles cover the walls of the second entry. 19th-century chairs from Madeleine Castaing; 18th-century ivory cabinet.
A palissandro marble vanity designed by Grange anchors the master bath.
Diego Giacometti chairs flank an Hervé van der Straeten console in the entry. Gilbert and George painting; Man Ray pendant.
Paintings by Robert Motherwell (top) and Carla Accardi brighten a corner of the living room. Shelf by Grange; Thonet chair.
In the library, a banquette is tucked beneath an oak bookcase. Christian Bérard triptych; Man Ray photographs.
Artworks top a marble console by Marc Newson in the dining room.
An antique Viennese cabinet grounds the airy master bedroom.
Plates by Lucio Fontana complete a vignette in the master bedroom. 19th-century Neo-Greek chair; table covered with 18th-century Portuguese tiles.
The living room overlooks the Palais-Royal garden. Francis Jourdain suede armchairs; Jean Royère cocktail table; Jean-Michel Frank sofa.
A sculptural spiraling staircase connects Grange’s original flat to the apartment above.
An English arts and crafts chair in the kitchen.
In the guest bedroom, a Maurizio Cattelan painting hangs over an antique French bed.

Nearby, on the entrance table, sits Theodore Géricault’s painting of a nude young man; it last graced the entrée of Saint Laurent’s Left Bank home. “So, like at Yves’s, we see it when we arrive,” Grange said. On his Louis XVI bureau—previously Count Beistegui’s at the Château de Groussay—stands a 17th-century gold bronze of Jesus Christ from Saint Laurent’s Paris bedroom. In the kitchen, Grange pointed to a charming porcelain cabbage tureen, topped with a songbird; it served as the centerpiece of Bergé’s dining table. “It’s nice to have souvenirs of Yves and Pierre,” Grange said. “It shows their influence—and their circle’s influence—on me. They were my base. My youth.”

Like Colette, when at home Grange works at his desk overlooking the Palais-Royal. “I hear the fountains, and the children playing, too,” he said brightly. He looked out the window to the shaded Allée Colette below. “It’s the Paris one dreams of, isn’t it?”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest