Inside a 1960s Paris Apartment That Redefines French Flair

A rejection of Haussmann style, in-demand young designer Hugo Toro wanted something “more cinematic” for his personal abode
Hugo Toro Inside a 1960s Paris Apartment That Redefines French Flair
Hugo Toro designed the living room’s curving sofa, which wears a Pierre Frey velvet. Vintage copper sconces flank a framed Moroccan horse saddle. 1970s cocktail table; custom carpet by Édition 1.6.9.

At the heart of the project is a powerful palette of rich hues and calculatedly dramatic contrasts. Since his early childhood, Toro has been fascinated by the play of colors and textures, influenced by his Mexican mother who admired the painter Diego Rivera. “There’s a pictorial side to this apartment,” he notes. “I love Luis Barragán and his Casa Pedregal in Mexico City—the green color of the pool, the pink walls. It’s one of the houses that has made the strongest impression on me. Even though I’ve never lived in Mexico, its textures and colors fill the sketches in the pages of my notebooks.” Indeed, influences from around the world can be seen in all of his design work, and other touchstones include the buildings of Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos in Vienna and John Lautner in Los Angeles— two cities where he did his graduate work.

After school, he launched his own studio in 2020. Since then, the now 34-year-old designer has been taking on a rapidly growing number of big projects. His latest ones include Booking Office 1869, a bar-restaurant in London’s St. Pancras station, which took a Victorian winter garden as its inspiration; the remodel of the studio atop the historic Payne Whitney Mansion, Villa Albertine’s New York City headquarters; and Orient Express’s La Minerva Hotel, in the former Palazzo Fonseca in Rome, due to open at the end of 2024. Toro’s approach is to imagine an entire world with its own strong narrative. His architectural work has a scenographic quality, with every project conceived as a set, complete with carefully staged spaces and an extreme attention to detail.

In the living room, a Murano glass sconce hangs above a vintage coconut lamp, turntable, and the Andy Warhol–designed cover of Diana Ross’s 1982 album, Silk electric, on a shelf next to bespoke lacquered ziricote cabinetry.

© 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Toro in a sweater, shirt, and kilt by Dior Men.

In this apartment, in addition to the geometric floor, another element helped shape the space: the yellow lacquer on the ceiling. Toro chose the color because the walls were initially covered with a yellow moiré fabric, and it complemented the watery green tone of the bath’s original wallpaper. Those walls have since been refinished in a custom limewash, Toro notes, adding, “I like to engage with traces of the past, as a way of preserving the soul of a place.” He continues, “Both lacquer and bold color are less common in apartments, but I use them regularly in my hotel and restaurant projects. Clients don’t come to me looking for beige and gray.”

While admitting that it’s important to find the right balance, “I don’t think you get tired of colors,” he asserts. “But I’d rather get tired of a color than not take any risks.” With the apartment’s nine-foot-high ceilings, the lacquer also helped to instill a sense of verticality to the space, while its play of reflections provides indirect light. In this apartment, wood is also used to striking effect, with three different species—walnut, sweet gum, and ziricote—employed to provide contrast.

Toro also designed much of the furniture himself, punctuating the space with travertine pieces from his new Amanecer collection, created with Kolkhoze gallery and M Éditions. In the bedroom, the angled niche above the bed adds a surprising element. “I wanted to achieve a hotel feel, but at the same time follow a more Brutalist approach,” he notes. “Here, it’s almost like a temple or Batman’s lair in his villa…only more exotic.” He also worked extensively with curves to counterbalance the rectilinear aspect of the apartment, smoothing the transitions between spaces as well as materials and volumes. “I like accidents,” he confesses. “I’m neither a maximalist nor a minimalist; I like living architecture.”

Translated from French by John Newton.

Hugo Toro’s home appears in AD’s November issue. Never miss an issue when you subscribe to AD.