My Space: Mr Alexander Rash’s Eclectic Paris Playground

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My Space: Mr Alexander Rash’s Eclectic Paris Playground

Words by Ms Faye Fearon | Photography by Mr Thomas Chéné | Styling by Mr Benoit Martinengo

23 August 2022

When Mr Alexander Rash embarked on a study abroad programme in 2013 from his home state of Minnesota to Aix-en-Provence, he had no idea that it would lead to life as a tastemaker in Paris. While studying at the Faculté des Lettres, he met political science student Ms Ravenna Sohst, who became his partner. The pair moved to the French capital together a year later. Sohst now works for the Migration Policy Institute. Out of his varied cultural interests, from menswear to music, Rash has built and runs one of the most stylish hospitality destinations in Paris. He and Sohst have different professional lives, but they are united in their love of art. “Our shared interest is attention to detail,” says Rash. “It shaped the curation of the loft that we live in together.”

The couple’s loft is located just off the Canal Saint-Martin in the buzzing 10th arrondissement. “The canal has a poetic side to it, which Ravenna and I love because we’re both romantics,” says Rash. “It’s also quite close for me to get to Serpent à Plume.” Serpent à Plume is the restaurant Rash opened in 2018 as “a place for bright ideas and relentless adventures”. It is situated on the historic Place des Vosges and exceeds your expectations of café culture. “I found it incredibly interesting to curate a space that would satisfy all kinds of activities, from gastronomy hours and string quartet sessions to underground fashion parties and shibari performances,” says Rash. “Even though it was more private, the same mindset applied to this apartment.”

Eclecticism pulses through Rash’s home. The immediate impression is set by the living room. He started with a mid-century, bossage textured chimney designed by the Italian architect Mr Paolo Buffa. On the mantelpiece rests a 17th century clock by Mr Christoph Willibald Gluck (Marie Antoinette’s musical instructor), framed by dynamic statues in homage to his opera Orphée Et Eurydice. “I think it’s kind of cool to destroy all of the nobility of these pieces by mixing them with more modern things from the 1970s,” says Rash. “This is the Safari sofa by Archizoom Associati, an Italian studio from Florence. When I was curating Serpent, it was part of my mood board, so the fact that I found it later for my own space was really special.”

Classical dynamism next to provocative kitsch isn’t something you come across in every apartment, let alone typical Parisian ones, but it creates an almost playground-like environment for guests to navigate and explore. This is the effect that Rash and Sohst sought to create. “We like to move the couch a lot to trigger different perceptions for people during parties, because that’s how the experience of really living in a space happens,” says Rash. “You fill the walls with stories, which comes when you live with different objects because there’s so much engagement and inspiration to be found. Ravenna and I are fascinated by a lot of periods in art, so it was impossible for us to stop at one era.” Their source for all of these pieces? Hôtel Drouot, a large auction house on the Rue Drouot.

“It’s the most unique place in the world I’ve ever seen,” says Rash. “While it’s a little bit of an older generation, it’s really fascinating because you can find a lot of different things and are able to cultivate your own eye. We took our time renovating the apartment because we slowly built our collection when the right things appeared.” Rash acquired his apartment just after the pandemic began in 2020. He was living downstairs with Sohst and was offered the flat after its owner died. “This idea of being lulled a little by chance is something I’ve always followed and trusted in,” he says. “I have somewhat of an instinctual approach to interior buying, because I think it’s important to invest in things you’re naturally attracted to.”

“You fill the walls with stories, which comes when you live with different objects because there’s so much engagement and inspiration to be found”

His approach to buying may be instinctive, but Rash doesn’t lack knowledge. Having lived in the US and France, he has been exposed to a broad range of architecture. His interest was piqued with 1950s-style suburban living (filtered by his Midwest upbringing) before evolving to include an appreciation for Bauhaus buildings, thanks to childhood trips to Miami. A taste for French finesse followed. “When I moved to Paris, I met an auctioneer called Jean-Claude Binoche. I worked in the auction house with him and learnt a lot. He really helped shape my French interior taste.” Rash worked with Binoche on the creation of Serpent à Plume and still turns to him for advice.

“We don’t buy new things because we like the idea of binding ourselves to objects that have a cultural history,” says Rash. One object that is slightly more startling compared with others is in the dining room. It is a series of mirrors etched by the Russian-French artist Erté. “These mirrors were created for Madame Claude’s high-class brothel in Paris in the 1960s,” he says. “They were used for her closet, so I’m sure there are some really interesting stories behind them.” Mounted in the kitchen to fill the space of a missing window, they fit the room perfectly and reflect Rash’s hospitality as he conjures up cocktails for friends.

The apartment is divided by a mezzanine, along which hangs a Japanese screen from the early 19th century. Rash and Sohst cut it in three and positioned the pieces in steps to highlight the transition of their space. “At the top section of the screen, you have two people who go upstairs to an old kind of mezzanine,” says Rash. “It’s almost like a mirror to our own.” This is followed by a Mr Antonio de La Gándara painting and, as you look down, you can’t help but be transported. From a surrealist painting by Mr André Masson (Rash’s favourite purchase) and a kinetic ball by Mr Pol Bury to a prop from the Joker film (the wooden working desk, to be exact), Rash and Sohst’s home is filled with artistic fortune.

The space is an extension of Serpent à Plume and, while some people may prefer a clear distinction between their public and private spheres, it is not how Rash’s mind works. Art has cultivated his persona and since he’s living in one of its greatest cultural centres, it is only right to surround himself with it. “[The American art writer] Glenn O’Brien once said that he tries to treat every project as an art project, and I stay true to that with my lifestyle,” says Rash. “While this home is a sanctuary for me, the history that lives here makes it a place of ill repute, too. Because I’m a party boy who loves to host, that curation is key in bringing the underbelly of Paris to life.”