written by:
photos by:
September 10, 2013
Originally published in City Living
as
Paris Match
For Felix Claus, a 1930s rental apartment is more than an idyllic pied-à-terre—it’s an architectural gem that requires reverence and careful tending.
rue Raynouard in Paris, France
Long before he moved into the historic building, Dutch architect Felix Claus admired 51 rue Raynouard, an apartment block in the Passy district of Paris designed and built in 1932 by Auguste Perret. One of the seminal architects of the 20th century, Perret is renowned for high-profile commissions like the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and the post–Second World War rebuild of Le Havre, and for his pioneering use of reinforced concrete. He constructed 51 rue Raynouard to house the design firm he ran with his two brothers and created a 1,830-square-foot apartment on the seventh floor for himself and his wife. Here, the apartment’s balcony offers an impressive view of rue Raynouard.
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Modern Parisian dining room
In 2006, Claus—director of Claus en Kaan Architecten, one of the Netherlands’ top architectural practices—finally got inside Perret’s apartment. He was duly impressed. “It’s the sheer abundance with which limited materials are used here that first struck me,” he says. “The wall-to-wall French oak paneling, combined with materials that were ahead of their time—columns made not from marble but from stone-blasted concrete, the extraordinary round plaster ceiling inset, and the fiber-wood paneling—and his attention to the tiniest of details.”

He tracked down the organization that owns the apartment, the Association Auguste Perret, to see if he and his wife could rent the unit as a pied-à-terre. To his surprise, they said yes.

In the dining room, a marble-topped table by Eero Saarinen is ringed with Eames wire chairs. Through oak accordion doors, the atrium beckons with red Utrecht armchairs by Gerrit Rietveld and a yellow Diana table by Konstantin Grcic.

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Modern wooden Parisian bedroom
“The building is listed on a historic register, both inside and out, which means it’s especially difficult to run,” says Claus, ruminating on why the Association Auguste Perret agreed to let him rent Perret’s apartment. “In many ways, I think it was an answer to their prayers: income from someone who understood the space and in no way wanted to tamper with it.”

A framed vintage Michelin map of France—“the same one my parents used to drive us around,” says Claus—leans against the oak-paneled wall in the bedroom, alongside an AJ floor lamp by Arne Jacobsen and a lacquered metal Fronzoni 64 bed by A.G. Fronzoni.

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Modern banquette with wooden floors and door

The calf leather–upholstered banquette between the grand salon and the bedroom was designed by Perret and is original to the apartment; Claus likes to imagine that it’s where Perret would curl up for a nap.

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Apartment building by Eiffel Tower in Paris
The apartment building is a ten-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.
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Modern atrium with Jasper Morrison furniture
In the atrium are two Low Pad chairs by Jasper Morrison and a Still coffee table by Foster + Partners.
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Modern bathroom with green blue walls and multiple windows
Architectural interventions are restricted in the historic apartment. Claus takes it a step further, however, and refuses to make even minor repairs. “It would destroy the pristine character of the space, which is just as it was when Perret’s wife died in 1961,” he says. “We are just passing by.” The plumbing in the bathroom, for instance, no longer works, so his wife uses the room as an office, working between the original stone basin and bathtub. The couple brushes their teeth and bathes in the kitchen, where Claus installed a makeshift shower.

Reflected in the bathroom mirror is a photograph of a Perret-designed building in Le Havre, shot by Dutch architectural photographer Kim Zwarts. “It’s impossible not to pay homage to him within the space,” says Claus.

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Modern living room with Carrara floor lamp
In the living room, a black Carrara floor lamp by Alfredo Häberli for Luceplan echoes the shape of the column. The Jean Prouvé Trapèze desk is topped with a Kelvin LED lamp designed by Antonio Citterio with Toan Nguyen for Flos. Books rest on a wood Zig Zag chair by Gerrit Rietveld.

Renting the apartment was a dream come true for Claus, who founded his firm in Amsterdam, but had always wanted to live in Paris. “Why? Anyone who’s visited the city will know the answer—it’s self-explanatory,” he says. He currently spends most weekends in his second home—“I couldn’t live here permanently; I’d find it too overpowering,” Claus says. He frequently throws parties for fellow design aficionados. “It’s fantastic for entertaining, simply because most of my friends and contacts, as architecture fans, are thrilled to have a chance to spend time here.”

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rue Raynouard in Paris, France
Long before he moved into the historic building, Dutch architect Felix Claus admired 51 rue Raynouard, an apartment block in the Passy district of Paris designed and built in 1932 by Auguste Perret. One of the seminal architects of the 20th century, Perret is renowned for high-profile commissions like the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and the post–Second World War rebuild of Le Havre, and for his pioneering use of reinforced concrete. He constructed 51 rue Raynouard to house the design firm he ran with his two brothers and created a 1,830-square-foot apartment on the seventh floor for himself and his wife. Here, the apartment’s balcony offers an impressive view of rue Raynouard.

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