Interiors guru and seminal furniture designer Christian Liaigre needs very little introduction: he is the ‘king of minimalism’ who changed the design scene in the 1990s and has continued to influence the world of design with his exquisite, deceptively simple furniture and striking interiors.
Liaigre has known the renowned antiques dealer Florence Lopez for more than 30 years. It was therefore a natural move to mix friendship with business with Lopez picking a selection of pieces that would sit alongside Liaigre’s latest collections in an installation in his Paris showroom. Opened during spring 2015 and refreshed for summer and autumn, the resulting happy confluence of antique, vintage and modern was described as ‘one of the chicest places in Paris’ and perfectly illustrates how to meld different eras and influences.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
After doing my studies at the fine arts school Beaux Arts, I went to the Arts Décoratifs, so it was about when I was 22 years old.
Did you have any heroes in the world of design?
My heroes then were Jean Michel Frank, Bernini and Velazquez
Is it possible to sum up your unique design style?
It is the delight of nature that gave birth to my style. I enhance wood, leather and raw materials with traditional techniques to give a feeling of luxury.
Tell me about your teaming up with Florence Lopez – what attracted you to her work as an antique dealer?
We have been friends for 30 years. Florence has a keen eye for finding objects that create harmony even among pieces of furniture that in theory don’t go together. The atmosphere that she so creates is something very personal and rare.
In a similar vein, your work contains a lot of woodworking, including the Shelter armchair from your latest collection.
Wood has always been my favourite material. I have always included it in my work over the last 40 years. All wood varieties, be they rare or ordinary, enchant me as they can undergo so many different transformations. Our company was the first to use wengé wood over 40 years ago (it was totally unknown even in the 1990s). Grey sanded pine and scraped oak are now all used by designers working today. But what is important is how the wood is used, the respect for the material and the proportions of the design that creates the style.
The Gauguin table is inspired by Mondrian – do you have a strong connection to art through friends or collecting?
Art has been my source of inspiration since my time at the Beaux Arts. I have many friends who are artists and I have worked for numerous art collectors and art dealers such as Larry Gagosian whose house we have just finished.
What are the key design elements of your own home?
Mixing it up: I live in an 18th century French townhouse with my contemporary furniture.
How did you get started in the antiques business?
I was working at Jacques Garcia when on a snowy December day in 1992 I discovered this abandoned modernist studio in the heart of St Germain des Près. I loved it at once! I decided right then and there to create an antiques and design concept in the space. I have been an antiques dealer on this fourth floor penthouse atelier for over 20 years now.
What attracts you to certain pieces, and would you say you have a signature style?
I am eclectic I guess, mixing all cultures and periods. I especially love modernist design from the 20s and also from the turn of century: the Arts and Crafts movement between 1890 and 1910, the Vienna Secession, Constructivism and Futurism. I also like mid-century American design. I hope I don’t have too much of a signature style as I hope my curiosity allows me to constantly evolve.
Where do you source your best pieces from?
From collectors all around the world and from my sources who call me as soon they find unique pieces. I can find marvellous pieces on my travels all around the world, from Russia to Argentina, but also on my doorstep. I am passionate and constantly keep my eye out for things.
Is there a typical customer that buys from you?
Anti-conformist clients that are full of curiosity. People that come into my studio are generally free-thinking individuals: artists, dreamers, travellers, collectors. Each one needs to make an appointment and climb the four floors to visit my studio. Some have been clients since I founded my studio – Charlotte Gainsbourg for instance, I did three houses for her. Christian Liaigre knows my atelier from the 90s, from dinners and parties I held there.
Your latest pieces seem to have a lot of beautiful green hues in them – is that a recent thing?
I love all green shades, specially green blue and also a Persian blue that I created for my last collection. For my first collection for Christian Liaigre, I created an old emerald green. I especially remember a Carlo Molino oversized curtain in a deep fantastic shade, and I love the magnificent green and blue green hues of David Lynch’s films and drawings. I also sleep with a piece of cashmere which is also this timeless shade of emerald.
Which designers from the past do you particularly like the work of?
I am fond of Le Corbusier as both painter and architect. He is the consummate colourist, there are superb touches in his projects from the Cite Radieuse to La Tourette. Then there’s Mallet Stevens, Dupre Lafon, Gio Ponti, Molino, plus Brazilian and mid-century American designers. I also love anonymous, unique pieces which catch your eye and let you dream.
How did the collaboration with Christian Liaigre come about?
During a dinner. We are both gourmands, always trying to find the latest chefs and dining spots and it was during a spontaneous chat during one of these meetings we decided to work together and create this Florence Lopez Antiques for Christian Liaigre concept. It’s a kind of luxury private space with some of Liaigre’s designs, which fans of ours, and various clients, absolutely love. It was great to work with Christian and discover which pieces we both love. At first sight our styles might seem different but they are really quite complementary.