Charles Plumet (1861-1928), one of the most influential French residential architects at the turn of the 20th century, conducted a successful career capped by his appointment as chief architect of the 1925 Exposition des Art Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. His role in the Exposition, from which we derive the term "Art Déco", was not only to design many of the major architectural elements, but to coordinate a large group of master architects, each of whom espoused radically different aesthetic viewpoints. Plumet was a natural choice for this sensitive task of harmonization, having collaborated repeatedly with architectural and decorative arts luminaries such as Henri Sauvage, Louis Marjorelle, and René Lalique. For purposes of the Exposition, Plumet even managed to reign in the modernist tendencies of his former student, Le Corbusier.
Our building, constructed in 1893, was Plumet's fourth residential design. Two of its predecessors can still be seen at 151, rue Legendre and 2 bis, rue Léon-Cosnard. Our building exhibits many similarities to Plumet's grander building at 35, rue de Lévis which was designed just a few weeks later. Many of the architectural features of Plumet's mature Art Nouveau style, though not as florid as they would become in later years, are already in evidence--mosaic floors, arched windows, bright red brick contrasting with colorful enameled brick, decorative stained glass, projecting bays with stone columns, and arching balcony supports that sweep up and outward from the facade. Plumet drew heavily on Italianate and neo-Renaissance influences that readily lent themselves to the development of full-fledged Art Nouveau style. An interesting discussion regarding the evolution of Plumet's style can be found here (French only).
Nineteenth century Parisian apartment buildings were intended to house families of varying economic means. The ground floor ("rez de chausée") would have been occupied by storefronts and caretaker's lodgings, while the merchants themselves lived just above, on the first floor (the French first floor is the equivalent of the American second floor). Since elevators weren't common, the most prized apartments were generally closer to the ground floor; thus the third floor, where our apartment is located, would likely have housed the building's wealthiest residents. In your walks around Paris, you may notice that if a building has only one balcony, stained glass window or other interesting architectural element, that feature will nearly always be on the second floor (remember--the American third floor). Upper floors, all the way to the attic, housed families of increasingly lesser means. Servants made do in tiny attic rooms under the slanting eaves and shared a communal bathroom on the landing in the stair hall. That same top floor in our building is now a single large apartment with private elevator access!