Tour a Jewel-Box Apartment Crafted by frenchCalifornia Founder Guillaume Coutheillas
Filled with deeply saturated colors and a personal collection of art, the Manhattan residence serves as an inspiring base for his growing interiors practice
It’s not the vastness that makes some of the art world’s most astounding masterpieces memorable. Some visionary talents conjured ethereal landscapes or haunting portraits on canvases measured in inches, not feet.
Guillaume Coutheillas, head of interior design studio frenchCalifornia, found himself in a similar situation when composing his own New York pied-à-terre, an intimate one-bedroom apartment in the city’s bustling West Village neighborhood. “Growing up in a really large city like Paris, I’m used to small spaces,” he says of the residence. “It was just an incredible location, really close to the Waverly Inn and all these amazing townhouses, facing a bamboo courtyard.”
At the time, the diminutive unit was sorely in need of an overhaul, but its prime address was desirable because it marked a sort of homecoming as well. “My very first New York apartment was above Café Cluny,” recalls Coutheillas, who met his best friend walking their dogs in the neighborhood. (That friend later met designer’s brother at his wedding, and now she’s Coutheillas’s sister-in-law.)
“It took a lot to make it into something livable,” he says of the apartment. “It’s like a boat in the West Village, because I approached it like every square inch has to be usable.” Hence, many of the furniture pieces are custom, like the bed, that’s raised several inches to hide four oversize drawers, each with enough room to hold a rolling suitcase. A built-in banquette disguises a massive radiator and offers a cozy dining area for small groups of friends.
Now completely renovated, the residence serves as a live-work space and a design laboratory of sorts. Coutheillas lives with many of the unique vintage treasures he discovers before relocating the pieces to his various projects. Other items, such as an ornate fireplace mantle discovered in an antique shop on Long Island, have found a permanent home inside the dwelling. “It creates this atmosphere of having a fireplace,” he says of the decorative detail that’s topped with a mirror and other objets.
Nearby, a Ligne Roset Togo sofa is placed against a lime-washed brick wall that’s bookended by sconces. A central closet was repurposed as a fantastical bar, with a noir-ish wall covering, stunning music box, silver trays, and glass shelves lined with a thoughtful mishmash of glassware from flea markets in Paris and New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
Leaning into the interior’s lack of sunlight, Coutheillas dressed the walls in dark, moody palette—a decided contrast from the bright white interiors he often conceives with frenchCalifornia. “It’s not the brightest apartment, so that’s why we went so dark with all the colors,” says the designer, who utilized a soothing, misty green in the bedroom, its Zen-like hue inspired by the bamboo outside the window.
“For the living room, I wanted something more cheerful, so that’s why I picked the blue,” he continues. “Traditionally, in my designs, I use a lot of muted, whitewashed colors, so the gloss was a huge departure for me. I was like, am I going to be able to live with this? But it made sense because every candle, when it’s lit, has a reflection on the wall so it creates another angle that opens up the room.”
Art adds the final personalized touch. Displayed throughout the pied-à-terre are a number of paintings by his brother, a mixed-media artist who transforms hardcover volumes, purchased from the open-air sellers along the Seine River in Paris, into layered works. “Every way you turn you see pretty things, which is why everything in the apartment has meaning,” says Coutheillas. “Everywhere you look is pretty and a little source of joy.”