My Houzz: A Lush, Secluded Terrace is the Heart of this Airy Home
A leafy garden inspired by travels in Asia gives the owners a relaxing haven and provides a vista from inside the house
For second-generation gallery owner Catherine Mikolajczak, décor is an opportunity to live out all of her dreams. “I love repainting the walls and spend my time buying and selling furniture,” she says. “I can’t stay in a static environment; I need it to evolve with us.”
Who lives here Catherine Mikolajczak, founder of Galerie 42B, her husband and their five children: Lila-May; Juliette; Lou and Adam, who visit every other weekend; and the eldest, Marussia, who is usually at school in Montreal, plus Daphne the dog
Location Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, Île-de-France, in the south-eastern suburbs of Paris, France
Size About 1,905 sq ft (177 sq m), plus a garden about 970 sq ft (90 sq m)
Renovation budget £175,276-£262,915 (€200,000-€300,000)
Photos by Jours & Nuits
“We bought this house in 2009,” Mikolajczak says. “We were looking for a home big enough to accommodate our stepfamily of five children. Saint-Maur-des-Fossés was ideal: it’s a charming, quiet town. With the river Marne nearby, it has a pleasant countryside setting that makes us forget Paris is only 10km away.”
The couple kept looking despite an expensive market, and eventually found this house, which is typical of 1920s workers’ homes in France. “We immediately saw its potential, because we could build an extension in the garden,” Mikolajczak says.
A garage was torn down and the small house extended to almost double the original 1,080 sq ft (100 sq m) space.
“I travelled a lot in Asia when I worked in fashion,” she says. “There, I discovered architectural styles I really like and that I wanted for my own home.”
A corner under a pergola is furnished with rattan furniture and Moroccan tables, where the couple like to hang out with loved ones in a ‘jungalow’ atmosphere, a style characterised by a mixture of tropical and bohemian elements.
The piece that’s most emblematic of the chill space is the iconic Peacock chair. “I love mixing metal objects with wickerwork,” Mikolajczak says.
The garden has southern exposure and is sheltered from the wind by the neighbouring building. “It creates a kind of greenhouse effect that allows us to grow exotic varieties that are difficult to find in Île-de-France,” she adds.
Mikolajczak loves plants with sculptural forms and captivating scents. “It’s part of the sensory experience of travelling – in our very own garden.”
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The garden features cacti, succulents and even a corkscrew willow, which rises from a hole in the trumpet tree wood deck. The white pebbles surrounding the trunk add to the Zen atmosphere.
The huge glazed walls open the living room up completely to the outside and flood it with light. “Even when closed, they enhance the feeling of spaciousness in a room that is, after all, only 27 sq m [about 290 sq ft], since we adopted the dimensions of the old garage. Fortunately, the ceiling height is quite extraordinary, since the zinc roof is 2.5 to 5m [about 8 to 16.5ft] high,” Mikolajczak says.
She eventually decided to create her own paints inspired by what she’d seen in magazines, but with a matt lacquer finish. “This is the same pigment as the matt paint, but a wipe of the sponge suffices to clean anything off.”
The colours change every six months or so, “much to the annoyance my husband”, Mikolajczak laughs. “I told him that décor is therapeutic for me. When I need to turn things over in my head and refocus, I move the furniture around and change the colour of the walls, because they affect our emotions.”
Painting on the left, Monique Orsini. End Less, Rero. Bric à Brac bookcase, Drugeot Labo at Fleux.
Painting of the woman in the hat, Hopare. Sofa; mirror; floor lamp; coffee table; side table, all Caravane. Cushions, Le Monde Sauvage. White lamp, Sarah Lavoine. Rug, Jaminy.
As for how to select artwork for an interior, this expert says there is no formula. “Art is above all an emotion. Beauty and harmony are subjective, so you just have to follow your gut,” Mikolajczak says. “Even if you aren’t rich, you can still start building an art collection and allow it to grow over the years. After all, there is a wide range of more or less affordable artistic expressions, such as paintings, sculptures, and drawings. The combinations you come up with should be instinctive.”
Another piece of advice from the gallery owner: never choose a work of art based on your furniture, because, according to her, it’s the interior that should adapt and act as a frame to enhance the art, not the other way around.
Browse a huge range of art in the Houzz Shop
The large mirror – placed in the corner to double the light in the room – was a bargain find. The Berber baskets on the right are souvenirs from a trip to Marrakech. The waxed concrete floor echoes one of the earth-tone hues of the cement tiles in the kitchen.
Dining table, Maisons du Monde. Chairs, Frenchrosa. Pendant lights, Merci. Low Indian seats, Ouma Productions. Painting to the right of the windows, Semor & Ardor.
The large wardrobe is actually a china cabinet that’s been personalised with wallpaper on the inside. “It brings a vintage touch to the room and allows you to see Lila-May’s pretty dresses on their wooden hangers.”
Here, too, works of art adorn the walls and bring graphic design and character to the room.
The TV was moved to the basement from the living room to make the latter a place for distraction-free quality time with family and friends. When the family want to watch a movie, they just go down a few steps to enjoy this cosy space completely dedicated to entertainment in front of the TV.
Sofa, AM.PM. Floor lamp, Caravane. Painting hanging above the white sofa, Jean Faucheur.
“I felt like having a neutral room dedicated solely to rest, a bit like a decompression chamber,” Mikolajczak says. “The fresco in here is spectacular, and so encompassing that you feel as if you’re in a cocoon.”
The bottom of the wall is painted in yet another colour created by the owner.
Wallpaper, Ananbô. Bed linen, Le Monde Sauvage.
“In the summer, we feel as if we’re on holiday. We take baths with a view of the garden, then walk only a few steps to have a Moroccan tea under the pergola.”
In winter, the couple have the pleasure of feeling as if they’re in the mountains. “Taking a bath when there are 20cm of snow on the terrace is such a delight!”
What do you think of this home and its jungly garden? Share your thoughts in the Comments section