Leafy greenery breathes life into all the rooms of Alexa Funès’s 1930s house in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. “We have nature everywhere," ella dice, talking from her home office where, behind her, the tendrils of a living wall steadily creep skywards. Abajo, a dining room extension has been designed so that there’s a strong connection with the terrace that wraps around the house. Even the bathroom has a tropical feel, opening on to a balcony decoratedhung with ferns and a holiday-mood hammock.
Alexa lives here with her husband, Albin, and their sons who are, aged eight and 10, and has continued the verdant theme in the living room, where real plants mix with framed herbaria – giant leaves that have been dried, pressed and framed between two layers of glass.
This process of preserving tropical leaves in the way has a long history as a way to method of identifying specimens, often for medicinal purposes. “Aside from their scientific heritage, these tropical leaves also look gorgeous,” says Alexa, an architect and interior designer who heads up the company Atelier Germain. Two years ago she bought fellow the French company Jardin Pamplemousse, which had been creating herbaria for more than 20 años. “These unique objectsThey are still made in a workshop near Paris, where everything is done by hand, from drying the leaves to cutting the glass and framing them," ella explica. “But I could see how slightly modernising their appearance could help them achieve the attention they deserve.”
On the walls of Alexa’s home, these giant leaf silhouettes add natural impact to her deliberately pared-back schemes. In the family’s living room, with the exception of one wall painted in chartreuse, most of the furniture and surfaces come in shades of black, white or grey. “I like to use neutral colours as my base, then I personalise a space by adding objects and a few dashes of colour,” Alexa explains. She also finds that a neutral base makes it easier to change things around if she gets bored. “Pretty quickly, you can make a room feel completely new.” she adds.
Alexa and Albin Funès made a larger-scale change to their house tThree years ago, the couple when they added the dining room extension, encroaching into part of their small garden. This might seem counterintuitive for people who love greenery, but the room’s roof lights and sliding glass doors mean that it is a more practical way to appreciate the great outdoors, all year round. What the family lost in square metres of in garden space, they gained in usable interior space. “It also completely changed the feel of the adjoining kitchen and living room beyond that," ella dice. “Now, there is a feelingsense of circularity to the three spaces, which feel light and connected to the outside – which is always a good thing in my book.”
Alexa freely admits she has a thing for tropical gardens and greenhouses and, before travel restrictions, she loved visiting historic gardens. Her favourites include La Bambouseraie in Cévennes, la Exotic Garden in Monaco and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami. Closer to home, Serres d’Auteuil in Paris now keeps her botanical levels topped up: “These places are a vivid reminder of the beauty of nature and its effect on us," ella dice.
As both an architect and an interior designer, Alexa is always considering how function intersects with style and is an admirer of the work of the early modernist designer Charlotte Perriand. “Her designs always focus on functionality and her compact kitchen for Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse is brilliant. Y, por supuesto, I love her LC4 chaise.”
Furniture in this family home is a high-low mix, with design classics, such as Sori Yanagi’s classic Butterfly stool for Vitra, working alongside mainstream items by Made.com, House Doctor and Caravanne. Then there are plenty of items from Atelier Germain, designed in-house or by collaborators that Alexa regularly brings on board.
By tending to the bigger structure and the smaller details of these spaces, Alexa has created rooms that work for her family. “It’s a house full of light and nature,” she adds. “During lockdown, this home definitely made our confinement happier.”