Some things are just meant to be. That's how it was when met French interior designer in the summer of 2003. The Canada-born singer, songwriter, and photographer was in the process of decorating his vacation home in the West Indies when he approached Auer. "I had ripped out several pages from a magazine to show him the style I wanted," Adams recalls. "When he saw them Tristan just laughed—they were of a project he had done." As the designer puts it, "It was an auspicious start!"
Since then—in between work on high-profile residential and hotel projects in Europe and South America—Auer has continued his successful collaborations with Adams, now a good friend. The designer revamped the rock star's townhouse in London and, most recently, created a pied-à-terre for him in Paris.
Adams's love affair with France dates back more than a decade. "It started in the south, where I rented a villa and did some recording," he says. Paris also provided him with songwriting inspiration (it's where he wrote "All for Love," and "Please Forgive Me"), and when he finally decided to purchase a home there, he had one overriding criterion—it must have a glass roof to provide plenty of natural light. The place he ultimately found, a former carriage house tucked away at the back of a courtyard on the impossibly quaint Île Saint-Louis could not have been more perfect. "For foreigners, it's the ultimate dream," Auer says. "It's also a find as so few apartments even come up for sale on the island."
Sadly, the space did not match its appealing façade. "The interior had everything to scare off a potential buyer," Auer remarks. The 18th-century building's most recent incarnation was as a dreary architect's office. A warren of small rooms entered through commercial-style glazed doors—and with red carpeting on both the floor and walls—"it would not have looked out of the ordinary in a social security office," Auer quips. However, the place did have a coveted glass ceiling on one side, and the basement below was available to make it into a duplex.
Knocking the apartment into shape was no small task: It took more than two years just to obtain the work permits required to turn it into a residence. The raw concrete floors were wildly uneven, so Auer leveled them with a coat of resin. What's more, unwieldy structural columns and pillars couldn't be moved, making the eventual gutting of the space even more challenging.
Directly under the glass-roofed portion of the apartment the designer created a large photo studio for Adams, who began taking pictures seriously about ten years ago. He has since been published by the likes of Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Interview, and British Vogue and taken portraits of such notables as Queen Elizabeth II and Mickey Rourke, as well as a litany of Hollywood's A list. One of his images of the monarch ended up on a Canadian postage stamp, while the Rourke shoot yielded a 40-page story for the Amsterdam-based . A book of his portraits done in collaboration with Calvin Klein, , was published in 2005.
Auer's goal was an open layout. "There's a limited view outside, so we tried to provide as many interesting sight lines as possible within the space," he explains. He accentuated the coziness of two small bedrooms on the ground floor by using dark-stained oak for the cabinetry and heavy linen for the curtains. He also carved out an extra guest room in the basement, which he jokingly refers to as the torture chamber. "It feels a little like a dungeon or a castle," he says of the windowless nook with its arched rough-hewn-stone ceiling. That said, it comes in handy when accommodating Adams's frequent guests, to whom he regularly lends out the flat. "Bryan creates apartments he can share," Auer notes. "He really is extremely generous that way."
Stylistically, the singer likes to keep things simple. Here the idea was to mix modern-day French designers with the work of their 1950s counterparts. Almost all of the furnishings in the living room are by , though scattered throughout the space are several pieces by Jean Prouvé, including a desk and a daybed. Vintage school desks by Charlotte Perriand have been grouped together in the dining area, while in the ground-floor bedrooms, blue industrial tables purchased at a Paris flea market offer the only bright flash of color in the residence.
Adams was determined to keep furnishings to a minimum, an attitude that allows him lots of leeway. "I believe it takes time to acquire all of the right things for a home," he says. "There is no rush." As Auer explains, "For Bryan, this is a place of real calm and plenitude. He didn't want to create any visual pollution with unnecessary items." There is no television and only two small Bang & Olufsen speakers, which Adams operates via his laptop. Built-in conveniences further play into the apartment's relaxed feeling. "Since I'm on the ground floor, I don't have to carry anything upstairs," he says. "It's very handy, especially with a bike." In addition, Auer made a sink unit that cleverly incorporates a rail for a hand towel as well as a laundry chute hidden behind a wooden trapdoor.
Though Adams must contend with a frenetic schedule, he steals away to Paris as much as possible—and couldn't be happier with his new home. "It's so old France with its stone foundation," he says. "I didn't think a thing like this would exist on the Île Saint-Louis."
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