On Saturday (Nov. 2, 2013) top architects, designers, and the Los Angeles design community attended a private sunset tour of the Bel Air Estate, La Maison des Nuages, designed by Christian Mussy of Paris, interior architect, artisan, and fabricator.The home is in the Spanish Colonial Revival style yet the family wanted to create sophisticated interiors that were French Moderne, from the 1930s and 40s, while neither matching nor disrupting the exterior architectural style.
Christian Mussy is a modern master. He studied at the Ecole du Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Mussy has done extensive restoration work on the period rooms at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, part of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.
He has brought his talents to Moscow, the Middle East, London to Los Angeles, having perfected the process of fabricating precise interiors for installation abroad. Christian Mussy has long working relationships with international architects and decorators. He is also a member of the Entreprises du Patrimoine Vivant, France.
Degroote et Mussy was founded in Paris in 1951. It was first and foremost an atelier that created custom furniture and boiserie, the French term for the exquisite woodwork often found in the principal reception rooms of private homes and state properties.
Since 1993, Christian Mussy has directed the Parisian atelier and further developed the firm's signature work by integrating custom-designed furniture – from classic 18th century styles to Art Deco to more modern periods – within completely-designed interiors, including boiseries or other wall-treatments, flooring, lighting, hardware, fireplace surrounds, etc.
First impressions were that this space was typical Mussy, convivial and elegant, as the Bel Air project was designed for a family in Los Angeles (this was just one of their homes) who wanted to create a place for entertaining centered on their library and art collection, sans television.
The home is underscored with an earthen floor wine cellar with arching ceilings and a proper luxe home theater in fabrics and wall coverings that make you feel enveloped and completely at ease.
The pool faced due west and is completely framed by lemon trees trellis trained and in enormous pots. The entire grounds were a combination of succulents, cactus, lemon trees and stones carved into and around trees and lawn.
The Library was bright and airy, created around the family’s book collections. The space is at once calm with its garden views, but also is a great space for entertaining with access to the West-facing terrace.
The map on the East wall was made in Paris and documents all the classical sites in the Mediterranean visited by the family.
The overscale ceiling fixtures are Ruhlmann-inspired anchor the room giving off a soft, diffused light conducive to reading. The fixtures were made in Paris.
The wool tapestry over the chimney is based on a watercolor by Natalya Goncharova, The Tree of Life. It was woven in Aubusson, France using traditional weaving methods.
The tilework around the fireplace and on the mantle is inspired by Eero Saarinen’s work in Cranbrook, Michigan. The chimney is the room element that sets the tone for the room’s grand scale. The tiles were sourced in Michigan.
The Library wool carpet was designed by Christian Mussy, inspired by 1930s French designs, and was woven by Christopher Farr, Los Angeles.
The Gallery was the original living room. With the Library and Study adjacent, and with a terrace off to the south, the room risked becoming a passage way.
Christian Mussy’s idea was to create a gallery space giving the family and guests a reason to linger in the room. The gallery, with light coming in from three sides, provides a contrast to the Study’s more subtle light.
The low table in the center of room is based on one seen by Christian Mussy in the Jackson Lake Grand Lodge, Jackson Lake, Wyoming. The iron base with gold-leaf was made in Paris, and the stone top was sourced in Los Angeles. The Gallery wool carpet was designed by Christian Mussy, inspired by 1930s French designs, and was woven by Christopher Farr, Los Angeles.
The pair of consoles in the Gallery are Royère-inspired. The console’s crenellated apron provides a crisp graphic profile against the light walls.
The Study was designed to be an intimate space for writing and reading.
The wood panelling, or boiserie, is in palmwood, or palmier. Palmwood was often found in French rooms of the 1930s. It is rarely seen in the U.S. as it is notoriously difficult to work with, but gives a richesse that is one-of-a-kind.
The white walls above the palmwood boiserie are made of gesso and then waxed. They create a background for the paintings and photographs in the room.
The Study’s double-faced palmwood sliding doors were made in Paris, as was the boiserie, and are hung so that although quite heavy, they open simultaneously giving drama to the room’s entry.
The furniture in the room is designed to coordinate with the room’s specific décor. The desk is based on a 1930s model, and the low table bronze base is a Jansen model. (Christian Mussy purchased the extensive cast bronze model archive from Jansen in the 1990s.)
The Entry Hall was extensively modified from its original design by Christian Mussy. By working with the double-height ceiling, he was able to create a dramatic, sculptural entrance to the home.
The front door is made from cast bronze with ceramic inset panels. The front door is the transition from the home’s exterior architectural style to the unexpected French Moderne style in the home’s interior. The interior side of the front door was inspired by a French rug design from the 1940s. The 800-pound door was made in Paris and hangs on an integrated metal structure that allows the door to swing easily, but never forcefully.
The ceiling fixture is made of polished plaster and ceramic. The three ceramic motifs in the fixture’s center are designed to direct the light upward. The fixture is suspended by a wench which allows for easing cleaning and changing of light bulbs. The fixture was made in Paris.
The hand rail on the staircase is made of iron and polished steel. The railing defines and punctuates the sculpture-like aspect of the staircase walls. The four wall sconces were designed by Christian Mussy and inspired by the Guggenheim Museum. The hand rail and the sconces were made in Paris.
The Dining Room is designed around the theme of the Four Seasons. The idea was to create an Japanese-inspired interior garden for the theatre aspect of entertaining.
The boiserie is a unique work using traditional French panelling techniques combined with a very modern regard. The walls are covered in white-gold-leaf with the motifs done in matte black. All the boiserie, installed without nails, was made in Paris.
The Dining Room ceiling fixture was inspired by a lantern design with the interior in gold giving a warm réflective light conducive for evening. The Dining Room table and chairs are lacquered. The table base was inspired by a blowing ribbon. Both the table and chairs were made in France.
The kitchen had an inviting round family table as well as a larger rectangle top table in the sun room off to the side.
The carpet is made from Christian Mussy’s design and is woven from banana-leaf and silk fibers.
The family did not want a television in the family room, and asked for a game-room theme. The result is a room with a warm and welcoming atmosphere where the family indulge in cards, puzzles, mah-jong, and other games.
The room has interior patinated-metal shutters which retreat when open to create the look of metal panels.
The carpet is based on a Vasarely painting and is woven with silk and wool fibers.
The game table is an original restored 1940s pièce. Christian Mussy designed and added the silver mounts, using the card motifs on the table base.