A French designer has turned a very formal French mansion into a colour-filled family home that still retains all the elegance of its illustrious history…
WHO LIVES HERE Sandrine Ziegler-Munck, a freelance designer, her marketing director husband, Hervé Munck-Ziegler, and their children, Paul, eight, and six-year-old Fleur.
THE HOUSE A commanding country mansion in the alluring Alsace region of France that merges traditional style with arresting pops of colour.
WHY WE LOVE IT The family has respected the original features of the house without being afraid to add audacious dashes of acid brights and to play with interesting finishes.
In a grand mansion in the Alsatian town of Mulhouse lives a young family – Sandrine and Hervé, their son, Paul, and daughter, Fleur. But this is no stuffy country pile; the current owners have transformed the traditional house into an astonishing statement property, keeping all the historical details – but breaking the codes of convention at the same time. The mansion had been empty for five years when Sandrine and Hervé discovered it.
Large and rambling, it had belonged to a rich old man who lived there alone – which is almost inconceivable when you consider that the house measures some 500 square metres and has 14 rooms. For the young family, though, the derelict mansion was just what they were looking for. It needed a complete overhaul – windows, ceilings, floors – but they made sure not to lose any original features in the renovation process.
While a project of this magnitude might have been a daunting challenge for most families, Sandrine, Hervé and their two savvy children could be seen as experts in the art of renovation – in fact, moving home is something of a hobby for them, rather than an arduous ordeal. Sandrine explains, “We move house regularly – we like decorating and meeting new challenges. After a while, you want a new environment or a bigger garden or something. We’re always on the lookout for very old homes that we can do up completely to our own taste. Places that have been decorated already often have features that aren’t to our liking. Someone might have knocked down a wall to make a big American kitchen, for example – we don’t do that kind of thing. We modernise while keeping all the original details. It’s important to preserve the history and charm by keeping the old elements.”
Still, they have put their own distinctive stamp on the house – a style statement that starts at the front door, with its vivid aquamarine-verging-on-teal entrance. Sandrine believes this area needs to make an impact. “It’s the point that you enter this big mansion,” says Sandrine. “The house dates from 1908. It’s built in the typical style of that time – Art Nouveau – which is bourgeois and elegant, but I was afraid it would be too classical. I wanted to make sure you’d immediately understand that it’s a young family that lives here. I planned to mix the classical style with a modern ambience; that’s why I chose to shock with a strange colour. It changes with the light and I actually prefer it at night, when it turns a bluey-green. The floor is original, but again we broke with the classical codes by making it light instead of the dark parquet floors you usually see in houses like this.”
The sofa cushions are by La Cerise sur le Gâteau and the indigo cushions by Merci.
Sandrine stands against the vivid teal main entrance dotted with amulets and religious paraphernalia.
Paul’s bedroom. “This was the office of the old man who used to live here,” says Sandrine. “I guess that one day he decided he wanted to have something modern in his house. He completely ruined the room; all the original features were destroyed – it was absolutely awful. As a kind of contrast with the other rooms, I thought up this idea of the wide band in an acid green.”
Looking from the masking-tape-adorned dining room into the kitchen. “Our cat is called Rose – she’s 10 years old,” says Sandrine. The candleholders in pink fluo are by Mérésine, Sandrine’s former company. “I have a soft spot for religious items,” she says.
“I created this print on the dining-room wall especially for this home,” says Sandrine. “The idea was to have a spacious image here, so it opens up the imagination of anyone eating or sitting at the table. It is a digital printed stretch wall with the pattern Île Lointaine from the brand Artolis by Barrisol.” The golden side table is a family piece, inherited from Sandrine’s grandparents.
Sandrine designed Fleur’s bed, and her father-in-law made it. The bedlinen is from La Cerise sur le Gâteau. The candleholder came from a market.
Sandrine designed the mobile with the mirrors in the hallway and had it made by an ironworker – another modern touch in an otherwise classical environment.
Sandrine’s office used to be the conservatory. “I designed the technical fabric myself. My office used to be upstairs, but I wanted to be nearer my children when they came home from school. The vintage lamp I found in a market.”
”The master bedroom is the only room where they had carpet put in. “The dressing room is on the other side of the wall,” says Sandrine. “I dyed some old embroidered linen from my grandmother – I mixed my own colours. Other linens are from Merci. The lamps are Toledo by Artemide.”
Through the study door you can see the entrance hall. “We use the study for books, the computer, films, music. And the children like to play here,” says Sandrine. “I painted the chair, which I found on the street, myself with ordinary acrylic paint. It soaks it all up and needs quite a few coats, but it works. The carpet is by Muskhane.”
“The hall upstairs serves all the bedrooms and the bathroom,” says Sandrine. We decided to paint the floor black. The swing has a double function as a lamp: the cords contain the wires and the seat is a LED light.”
“Fleur’s walk-in closet. On the bottom left, you can just make out a hot-air vent, part of the home’s heating system.”
“In our bedroom, we have a mixture of family pictures, engravings, postcards,” says Sandrine. The lamp in soft resin was designed by Sandrine a few years ago.”
The beautiful blue-painted entrance. “The candleholder is an old family piece. Bambi was found in a old market.”
Intricate Art Nouveau details in the entrance.
Fleur wears a mask from China.
Words Bernice Nikijuluw. Photography Louis Lemaire. Styling Kristel de Jong.
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