Once upon a time on the Mediterranean seafront in the lavish Larvotto area of Monaco, two apartments became one. In the city-state where living space is limited to one vertiginous square mile and where square footage comes at a premium steeper than on the island of Manhattan, this larger-than-life project was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—and it landed on the desk of two young French architects, Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, like a river of diamonds on a silver platter. Eager to tackle the challenge, the principals of the firm Humbert & Poyet set out to create a space that would reflect both the rich history and the picturesque geographic location of the building. While the now-expanded family home retains very little vestiges from its previous life, the expansive space echoes its '70s roots on the Mediterranean sea.
Inspired by scenes of the Riviera lifestyle taken by the iconic photographer Slim Aarons, the talented interior designers were able to re-create the essence of the original space in a way that paid homage to the building's roots all the while marrying the French and Italian styles that embody the Riviera. The result is a space with measured sobriety punctuated with touches of bright color, printed wallpapers, and unobstructed views of the Mediterranean. Step inside this enclave of luxury, and find out why our jaws dropped when we saw this project.
Two elevators take you up into the apartment's Art Deco–styled lobby, which sets the tone for the rest of the home. "In the lobby, we wanted to enhance the Art Deco aspect of the space, so we used this gorgeous red terrazzo for the floor," explains Emil Humbert. "We also wanted it to define the essence of the apartment, which was this Franco-Italian marriage of styles, so we used two sconces by Sarfati Jeanneret and two chairs that captures it perfectly."
As it turns out the Jeanneret sconces are the design duo's favorite pieces in the entire apartment. "It's an indescribable feeling to find a feature that so perfectly encapsulates everything that you want to say about an overarching design idea at the heart of the apartment."
The lobby opens up to a large, open salon, where the dining room and living room are combined to keep the feel of the space more casual and less formal. "When the family originally asked us to design the space, we discovered a perfect symbiosis between our design aesthetic and theirs," says Poyet. "They entertain at home a lot, so they wanted their interiors to express this urban Riviera lifestyle—something we knew exactly how to do."
Though bright and cheery, the color scheme of the apartment was thoughtfully calculated to enhance certain spaces. "The most intense expressions of color were limited to specific rooms," explains Humbert. "We contained explosions of colors within small areas to enhance their effect. For instance, the tropical vibe was limited to the reception area, where we wanted something a little lighter. In a similar way, the bedrooms were the only place in which graphic wallpaper was used."
While many designers stateside would argue that art should come last in a design, the two architects used the owners' art collection to determine the color scheme for each room. "The color scheme was dominated by the existing art collection of the owners," explains Poyet. "We had to compose each room by choosing all the art pieces to fit in it and then creating the best color pallet with materials and fabrics. The owners' collection and art in general always give you an important input to start a project."
Though the architects gutted everything in the apartment, save for the marble floor in the living room and the ceramic tiles on the facade of the terraces, they made sure to infuse the '70s Riviera essence into each space: "The building is straight out of the '70s with a ceramic mosaic facade," describes Poyet. "It is the perfect link to an interior inspired by the iconic images of Monaco, Palm Beach, and Palm Springs by Slim Aarons."
Back inside, the family's living quarters are composed of two children's bedrooms, another bathroom, and a guest room, where bright colors shine, and where graphic wallpaper and bold bedding is juxtaposed with vintage pieces like midcentury shelving and accent tables. "The biggest challenge of the project was the blending of beautiful 20th-century furniture from galleries around France with contemporary new pieces and bespoke designs," says Humbert.
Next to the bedroom complex is a family playroom and an office with another fantastic sea view. "We wanted to distill the essence of the French Riviera's spirit into each of the rooms," says Poyet. "To achieve this, we created a design that is one of measured sobriety—with touches of bright colors, printed wallpapers influenced by plants, and of course, that incredible view over the Mediterranean."
While more subdued in color, the master sea view suite, which includes two dressing rooms and two bathrooms, is just as representative of the Riviera spirit and the elevated design marriage between French and Italian—a true reflection of the history of Monaco and its geographical location.
Pierre Jeanneret Set of 2 Senate Committee Chairs ($27,170)
"Since we started our agency in 2008, we have sought to express in our interiors this urban Mediterranean lifestyle with a strong focus on elegant and meticulous designs that create timeless spaces," says Humbert. "We both found it incredibly rewarding to work on a space that is so incredibly special for its owners—it serves as both a family home and as a place to host dinners and parties. It is also unique in its functions as both a beach house and as a city house."
Next up: Inside the cozy Catskills winter retreat that made our editors' jaws drop.