02 February 2011

Get Inspired: Ernest Wiart


Space: An apartment balcony in Paris, France

Year: 1936

Client: Called a member of Paris's jeunesse dorée by his friend the pianist Arthur Rubenstein, Georges L. Brocheton was a scion of a Spanish banking family that had settled in Paris around 1860 and whose descendants married into the French nobility as well as the American diplomatic corps. By the 1930s, however, the dashing young heir was a distinguished gentleman nearing retirement, living with his forty-something second wife, Renée, in an elegant limestone apartment building on the Champ de Mars, the fashionable sycamore-shaded park that stretches from the Eiffel Tower to the École Militaire. (The mosque-like building on the other side of the Seine is the original Palais du Trocadéro, a meeting hall from the 1878 World's Fair, which was soon to be demolished.) The neighborhood was, and remains, a bit stuffy, but the pale Beaux-Arts and Art Nouveau façades surrounding the park concealed many stylish residences, including the Brochetons' high-ceilinged flat. At some point the highly social couple came into contact with Ernest Wiart, an interior decorator, and he transformed their rooms into cool, classic, comfortably modern settings sparked with chinoiserie accents. The most inspired touch, to my mind, however, was Wiart's bright-idea treatment of a spacious balcony.

Elements: Through the installation of a glass-paned metal shelf that surely must have been hinged, Wiart gave the Brochetons' balcony a dual character. Shelf down, the balcony served as simple vantage point, a pleasant place to momentarily stand and gaze. Shelf up and locked into place, it became a plein-air entertaining space, a perfect spot to partake of drinks and hors d'oeuvre or enjoy more serious dining. Renée and Georges Brocheton and a couple of guests, all seated comfortably in chairs likely pulled out from the dining room, could sip wine and converse well into the evening, the grey-green sycamore trees, the Eiffel Tower, and a picturesque assortment of spires and rooftops spreading out at their feet and across the horizon. Boxwood planted in terracotta pots and clipped into tall, tidy cones were positioned at each corner of the balcony, making it seem an intimate adjunct to the park below.

Image: Bodorff for British Vogue, 5 August 1936, page 32

14 comments:

townhouseturnaround said...

Does the left-hand side of the balcony also feature a bit of a mirrored wall?

The Swan said...

Stunning...

columnist said...

It's so strange you should just post this, or that I should just read it. We went onto the "balcone" to watch nearby fireworks, (presumably for the Chinese New Year), and I was just remembering that having a couple of higher (high?) chairs with a table/surface onto which one could place drinks etc was once upon a time part of the plan, and discarded because in our case it blighted the view of the Chao Phrya.

That notwithstanding, what is the mosque (?) in the picture? The last time we stayed in Paris it was near the ecole militaire; so infradig!

John J. Tackett said...

This must have been very remarkable for the time as I have not seen another example to this day. Despite that other Paris locations would be more convenient for me, I would love an apartment on the Champ de Mars!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

An ingenius idea. I also love the retractable awning.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

The mosque-like building is the original Palais du Trocadéro, which was demolished later in 1936 and replaced with a neoclassical version, which still stands.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

The replacement for the Palais du Trocadero is the Palais du Chaillot.

Shelley said...

Balconies make no sense in my present part of the world (NE England) where cold and wind reign. I notice they are a major feature in Sydney, Vienna and parts of Salt Lake. I hope one day to have a balcony in my life.

columnist said...

Oh yes, got it. The replacement from where Hitler briefly viewed the city after its conquest, in that iconic photograph.

Penelope Bianchi said...

Give me a break; PLEASE!!

Any readers who do not realize this is "Grad School" in decorating and taste..and innovation!

That is what this is.

Please all write AL and beg him never to have the idea to stop again!
There are way worse things to be addicted to!

Bravo!

ps any chance of restoration? It hurts my feelings (sorry I am such a crybaby) when, at the end of your post, It says......."You might like these"! Click. not there. The message says. Call me greedy. It is OK!

HOBAC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
HOBAC said...

Filing this away. Hopefully to be used at some future date.

Reggie Darling said...

Brilliant, and what a gorgeous photo. Ah, to be sitting on that balcony in balmy weather, taking a meal and watching the world go by... Reggie

amourette said...

stunning!