“It’s not a house for display,” says de Merry, as a black-and-white cat wanders in, demanding attention. He picks up a turn-of the-century carved chicha cup that he bought in Peru and runs his fingers around the jagged rim. “One of the dogs chewed it.” He shrugs. “This is a house of love, not a house of value. What is here are memories.”
Those memories are seamlessly connected to the couple’s fine furnishings firm, Jean de Merry, which they launched in Los Angeles in 2001 after living in France and England. At first they specialized in French antiques but soon began turning out their own Deco-inflected designs, including a line of hand-dyed and aged leather seating inspired by the tanning business de Merry’s family operated for four centuries in France. The company has expanded to encompass luxury case goods, lighting and decorative arts as well as furniture, textile and carpet lines by Natasha Baradaran, Jean-Louis Deniot, Kimberly Denman, Philip Nimmo, Peggy Platner, Erik Lindström and others.
Tucked behind a tall hedge on a quiet street, the house is an easy drive from both the Jean de Merry showroom at the Pacific Design Center (there are also Jean de Merry showrooms in New York, Chicago and Dallas) and the firm’s Los Angeles factory. They found it 18 years ago, when they unexpectedly had to move from their apartment in Marina del Rey and Darnaud-Maroselli announced he’d found a Koreatown rental. Unsure about the neighborhood, de Merry was skeptical until he learned the house had a pool. They set out for a look, and after peering through the 1927 Dutch Colonial’s windows, they contacted the landlord.
They rented the place for four years before convincing the owner to sell it to them. “The day after we bought it we started to realize it needed a lot of work,” de Merry says wryly. Their first order of business was redoing the pool and transforming the large rear garden—planting orange, lemon and olive trees along with clusters of fragrant lavender. “I wanted it to be a haven since we spend so much time at home working,” says Darnaud-Maroselli.
The studio, formerly a garage that briefly served as the Jean de Merry atelier, was opened to the rafters and outfitted with French doors on two sides. When the weather is nice, they’re left open while the couple works at the long library table, which holds sculptures, stacks of magazines and paperwork for the business as well as boxes of research for de Merry’s latest novel (his previous works were published in France under the name Jean-Claude Libourel). Designing, he observes, is much like writing. “You design a chandelier and you start square and it ends up oblong and you don’t know why—something in the design brought you to a certain shape. Writing a character is the same.”
They went on to redo the kitchen and bathrooms, install oak floors and turn a porch upstairs into a feline rec room. French doors at the back of the house open to a covered terrace, where at any given moment you’ll find one or more of the couple’s beloved rescues—the current total is three dogs and 10 cats.
Arabic Floor Seating
The house continues to evolve. Last year Darnaud-Maroselli commissioned French artist Aidan Sakarya to paint the studio’s mural, which details everything from the couple’s astrological signs to places they’ve lived, including Corsica, where Darnaud-Maroselli was born, and Paris, where he and de Merry met. And a few months ago, Darnaud-Maroselli oversaw a refresh of the interiors. “For years we lived with dark gray walls, and everything was very masculine,” he explains. “I wanted to change the energy and make the rooms less cluttered and brighter.”
There’s a casually collected quality to the rooms, where everything is used, from the worn Jean de Merry leather sofa in the living room—a favorite perch for the dogs—to the dining room table that de Merry fashioned from an industrial metal base. Displayed throughout are sculptures and artworks, like the Rafael Buñuel prints in the TV room and the tribal-themed paintings by Jeffrey Long in the dining room.
“It’s like being in a Parisian apartment, but with a private oasis in the middle of Los Angeles,” says Darnaud-Maroselli. De Merry agrees. “Every time we’ve thought about moving someplace bigger, we come back and say, Why would we want to start again somewhere else? Our soul is here.”
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