by Andrea Aldeguer
With its mixture of year-round sunshine, art deco facades and old world lavishness, Nice captures the glamour and lifestyle of the French Riviera perfectly. For Jacques Chahine’s pied à terre on the Riviera, he wanted a house with personality and style, and just the right size. The project was created to house their offices in the area, but mainly Jacques envisioned it as a hideaway where he could be alone with his creativity. Finding this La Maïon on the way to the airport was “love at first sight. This house for me is like a nice antique chest of drawers that belonged to my grandma.”
La Maïon has four levels: the two upper floors are for Jacques’ personal use—which peers over the port of Nice—and the offices occupy the lower levels, which opens to a garden and a small yard. He chose yellow, ochre and white hues to catch and reflect the light, the Côte d’ Azur way. To keep the French Riviera effect all the way to the attic, he installed a glass floor. “This way, nothing could obscure the space,” he explains. Black touches to the pale interiors bring rhythm and make the eyes dance, adding a modern character to a house with so much history.
La Maïon is considerably a historic place. “Originally, it was the toll house for the park of Saint Aignan, which is no longer in existence,” he shares. Of this age, he kept the 19th century stained glass window, which had been restored. The furniture was chosen for its natural facet, a juxtaposition between Provençal simplicity and oriental characteristics. Old prints, antiques, and a light and fertile ambiance reflect Jacques himself.
When you walk up to the door, the doorknocker reminds you of the original vocation of the house as a tollhouse and gatekeeper’s lodge. The stark architecture and character of the house is immediately noticed. When you step inside, the white palette allows the sun to peek through the windows and lends a soft touch of light through the whole space. In the main room are old architectural prints covering majority of the wall, while archeological elements and the Becara chandelier hang above the glass slab supported by old wrought-iron trestles. The spaces are furnished with Moucharaby chairs, little elements brought all the way from Beirut and painted white for a second life.
Using strong visual motifs allows structuring of the space, like the black stripes in a pale room that creates an eye-catching geometrical effect. The windows around the main room were originally 19th century stained glass windows, but refurbished by l’Atelier St. Didier. “The effects of symmetry have always captivated me, as much as the contrast of black and white,” says Joseph Karam, the designer behind the firm Jacques works with.
The system cabinet is tucked under the staircase, inspired by craft furniture, and hides the sink and other electrical elements under its sliding top. It’s a kitchen, then, that becomes invisible. From a functional standpoint, a concealed mixer tap on the system cabinet is practical for washing dishes while looking through the window. The splashes of yellow in the room, like the flowers and the fruits, tie the contrast of black and white elements together.
Once you go up the fourth floor, the double exposure from either side of the ceiling has sunshine radiating right above the bed, offering a stunning view of the port. The sun’s rays shine from the ground floor as well, having the Côte d’ Azur feel extend its way to the fourth floor. Seating in the attic are Louis XV-style armchairs, raw stripped with laced natural linen seating. Lastly, a marble shower reflects the luminosity of the attic in the bathroom.
The La Maïon is a house of character that transcends timeless elegance through its history. It’s given new life as Jacques Chanine’s perfect haven as a creative outlet, or simply a place to get away from the big city.