Updated on Decemeber 21, 2020: Auction paddles at the ready! Christie’s will be hosting a series of sales net month highlighting the furniture and objets d’art which once decorated Mr. and Mrs. John H. Gutfreund’s New York apartment on Fifth Avenue. Design lovers are invited to discover the cherished dinner services, storied jewels from the House of Chanel, and fine English furniture through in-person and online auctions taking place January 14–29.
In 2011, Susan Gutfreund opened the doors of her chic Paris apartment to VERANDA. Read on for a glimpse of Gutfreund’s impeccable taste and decorative eye.
After Louis XIV moved the French royal court to Versailles in 1682, the noblesse of Paris deserted the Marais district and built glorious mansions in the Faubourg Saint-Germain on what was then the western edge of the city. In one of these eighteenth-century architectural gems, the Left Bank landmark Hôtel de Bauffremont, American financier John Gutfreund and his wife, Susan, transformed a wing into the ultimate Parisian pied-à-terre in what is now the Seventh Arrondissement, still the city’s most aristocratic neighborhood.
From the street, heavy wooden doors open onto a gravel courtyard leading to the building’s foyer. A grand stone staircase sweeps up to the apartment’s entrance on the second floor, the European étage noble. In her second collaboration with the late, legendary French decorator Henri Samuel—who had transformed the couple’s New York duplex—Susan Gutfreund created a five-floor, townhouse-style residence with some of the most alluring interiors in all of Paris.
First came a renovation by architect Alain Raynaudthat raised the ceiling of the master suite, reconfigured bedrooms, and added baths, a modern kitchen, and an elevator. Then Samuel suggested a lighter, late-eighteenth-century decorative theme to meld with Gutfreund’s desire for a more countrified ambience.
The living room is irresistible: light-streamed with lofty ceilings, windows dressed in silk taffeta and boi-series in a creamy palette that varies from pure white in bright sunlight to the palest Trianon gray on a cloudy day. This space is furnished with elegantly comfort-able seating and decorated with objects ranging from a black lacquered Chinese scholar’s table to an embroidered silk wall hanging reputedly made for Versailles
Like the entire apartment, it demonstrates Samuel’sconcept of a quality base mixed with his client’s passion for collecting and decorative joie de vivre. Gutfreund compares Samuel’s concept to an “haute couture little black dress. You add the accessories and make it personal. But the black dress has to be perfect: curtains, soft goods and upholstery perfectly made, paint perfectly done, boiseries perfectly installed, so if the room were empty, you’d see the perfect detailing.”
She recalls how Samuel would sit in the rooms at different times of day to judge the custom paint color in changing light. His techniques were honed over a seventy-year career that included restoring Grand Tri-anon rooms at Versailles, designing the Wrightsmangalleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and taking on commissions including Rothschild châteaux.
“Working with Henri was a master class,” says Gutfreund, now a decorator with her own clients.“He was like the opera star who has sung all the bestarias in all the best opera houses.” She interprets the lessons learned: “Lightening up by dressing down, making silk patterns in cotton and using slipcovers to unify a room and change the mood for the season.”
From the library’s trompe l’oeil bookshelves, made by Tony Duquette for the Duchess of Windsor, to a sofa inspired by a model for Louis XIV’s brother, as well as antique fabrics from Gutfreund’s own trove, the apartment sizzles with her unique collections.
“I don’t think a room works unless some things are a little off. If everything is prescribed, it doesn’t have the same charm or level of comfort. Henri showed me never to be afraid of adding personal touches.”
This feature originally appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of VERANDA. Interior design by Henri Samuel and Susan Gutfreund; Architectural renovation by Alain Rayaud; Photography by Alexandre Bailhache; Produced by Carolyn Englefield; Text by Jean Bond Rafferty.
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