PaperCity Magazine

December 2019- Houston

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backdrop of de Gournay's African Savannah grisaille wallpaper. The foyer is the most direct reference to the exotic continent, but there's nothing serious about it. Fontenot created a tableau within a tableau, placing a mesmerizing painting by Houston artist Bret Shirley over the head of a giraffe as a witty homage to the work of French surrealist René Magritte. "The piece looks like a portal into an acid trip," Fontenot says of the artwork, which changes colors depending on the angle. Opposite, he's created a dynamic vignette with furnishings by some of the masters of 20th-century French and Italian design, including a wall cabinet by Jean Prouvé, mirror attributed to Emile Jacques Ruhlmann, and lamp by Luigi Massoni. The homeowners, who were summering in Maine while Fontenot installed the furnishings, saw their new apartment for the first time this fall. Fontenot was waiting for them in the living room when they arrived. "I could hear the elevator ding and the doors open," he remembers. "Then I heard the wife give a little shriek — but in a good way." The husband was quiet, taking it all in; little by little, a smile emerged. "At first, it's a lot of decoration to digest," Fontenot says. "But then you walk into the main area, and you're hit with all this white. It's like a palate cleanser." With white walls and windows draped in 400 yards of white raw silk, it's essentially one big peaceful space, divided into a living room, TV room, dining room, and kitchen. Everything harmonizes, with pale hues and natural materials such as jute, mohair, linen velvet, plaster, limestone, concrete, rosewood, and walnut. Fontenot kept a handful of the clients' heirloom pieces, such as the husband's Ming dynasty chest and African artifacts from their travels. In addition to the Mulhauser chair, Fontenot acquired highly collectible and sculptural furnishings. In the living area, a pair of rare 1950s Guillerme et Chambron wood-and- bouclé chairs play off a curvaceous black-plaster coffee table from Belgium. In the dining area, 1960s English leather-and-rosewood chairs in pristine condition surround a biomorphic limestone-and-concrete table designed by Fontenot. In the sitting room, a simply furnished area includes an angular 1950s Pierre Jeanneret armchair and a shapely 1940s Swedish upholstered chair. Rustic furnishings help ground things, including an antique French workbench that serves as a console in the living room and an un-lacquered marine brass coffee table that Fontenot designed in the TV room. Decorative objects were chosen for their worn patinas and interesting shapes, such as a collection of ancient Bactrian stone weights. For the master bedroom, Fontenot looked to the monastic elegance of Belgian interior designer Axel Vervoordt, one of his biggest design influences. A simple linen- draped bed dominates the space — a refuge for weary travelers returning home. (continued)

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