In conversation with Fabienne Spahn
You are a decoration addict,
but once you’ve closed aside your favorite magazine,
how to adapt the precepts of the experts at home?
Here are some of our favourite personalities who have
been kind enough to share this vision of interior design.
With generosity, they indulge you with their choices,
share tips and inspiring advice.
Today we talk to
Fabienne, can you introduce yourself?
I’m a dreamer and something of an idealist. I like harmony and balance, whether in a place, between objects or in my life. I didn’t follow the well-trodden route into decoration and my background is a little unusual. I have worked in communications, run a stud farm, been a racehorse dealer, organised trade shows and worked as a stylist for events (in particular the Vivre Côté Sud trades how). After a while I started to want to create something more permanent. So, I went back to school to gain some‘serious’ experience and then started to work on interior design projects – the first being the Kouros Hotel & Suites in Mykonos – which was my real training ground. And what a training ground! I’m still working with them on nine new suites and a villa.
What is your interior design mantra?
« Think out of the box ! »
When I get stuck on a project, I look at my dog Joy, fast asleep in my office with no idea of the ‘crises’ I’m dealing with, and I think that really, it’s not that bad, I’m not saving lives, just doing a bit of decorating. That helps me to put things in perspective!
What do you think of the concept of good taste?
If you were a room in the house?
The bedroom, without hesitation. It’s a space dedicated to intimacy and abandon, a cocoon where you start and end the day, the alpha and the omega of the house! I tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the bedrooms in the hotels I work on, and I am starting to have a pretty long list of bedooms I have decorated.
The top 3 things on your bucket list?
If you were an artist?
That’s a tricky question for me as I love all forms ofartistic expression: dance, writing, painting. For me they all go together,it’s a question of emotion. If I had to choose one, I think it would be adancer, like Pina Bausch for example.
Your dream project?
As I don’t mind working in a completely different register from time to time, my next project will be a complete departure with an over the top, excessive, opulent style. That’s what I find amazing in this line of work; I love to write and decorating is a way of writing a new story with each new project.
Your current obsession?
It’s not so much current as permanent! Cushions, andin particular the silk ones from Le Monde Sauvage. To my mind a room isn’t finished if there aren’t any cushions. They can link different colours, shakeup an atmosphere that’s too perfect and they can also be like a teddy bear when you need something soft and comforting to lie on.
What has influenced and shaped your style?
I am immensely sensitive to nature which is a huge source of inspiration to me. In nature, there is no such thing as bad taste:the colours, the volumes, everything is perfect. I also find a lot of inspiration in travel and in what I see around me every day: exhibitions, windows, street style, films, even the fabric on the seats on the train (which need to be redone of course ;). I’m also super interested in what other decorators are up to. It would be a lie to say that we don’t take inspiration from what other people do. Sometimes I also go incompletely the opposite direction to what other people are doing. It can help to engender new ways of thinking and new stylistic departures. Time also fashions taste: as you grow older you feel freer and can be more daring.
Which is the project you are the proudest of?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it pride but I do feel very satisfied when I finish a project and see a result that really hangs together well. My last project, the Olympos Naoussa Hotel in Thessaloniki, is the one that took up the most of my time and required a lot of energy. It was a big challenge that required a huge amount of research: 60 bedrooms in a listed building, an iconic restaurant, a bar, a lobby, a gym, a garden, a roof top etc. The general opinion seems to be that it’s a success so I’m happy!
How do you make the decor in a hotel more personal?
I hate standardized hotels where you feel like you are waking up in the same bedroom, no matter whether you are in New York or Athens.For each project I work on I try to take the hotel’s specificities into account, so the building of course, where it is, the clientele, the type of hotel and of course, I try to tell a story, to add a touch of poetry. The narrative isn’t the same in Mykonos or Thessaloniki. I would add thought that it’s an approach that’s easier in a small, boutique hotel as opposed to a big chain or a resort. You need to find a way to include all the essential elements for a hotel bedroom: bed, dressing table, sofa, armchair, mirror etc, and reinvent the set up each time to avoid the feeling of déjà-vu. I try to create different room styles for each room type, always bearing in mind the function that a room is supposed to have. Hotels, bars and restaurants have to be able to take a lot of use. They need to work just as well for the staff as for the guests, and they need to be easy to clean and maintain of course. As soon as you enter a hotel via the reception or the lobby, and then on to the restaurant or the bedroom, you need to fall under the spell of a place. It’s a game of seduction that needs to work right away. And of course the decor is also essential from a commercial perspective – it’s vital in the quest to increase reservations.
Sofa so good
Sofas are of major importance in a hotel. I place them both in the lobby and in the suites. They add a sense of comfort and luxury. I like to dress them up with cushions from Le Monde Sauvage which I adore. A sofa adds a sense of intimacy, a feeling of ‘home’. Except that unlike at home, the use that the sofa will get is much more intense. A sofa needs to respond to very specific needs. It needs a solid beech structure, very comfortable stuffing with just the right density, fire retardant fabric and of course, it must be easy to clean. For the Olympos Naoussa, I used the Le Monde Sauvage daybeds which were exactly what I needed with the added advantage that you can remove the covers which was essential. I don’t like complicated lines and shapes and the design of the day beds was exactly what I was looking for. I could choose the cushions, combine different fabrics in the same colours (the GaryBruxelles fabric with the Romy Bruxelles velvet for example) – the mix of different textures produces a really interesting effect. Depending on the atmosphere I wanted to create in the bedrooms, I added the velvet over mattress pink or dark grey Venezia to match the curtains and rugs. The fabrics have a vintage feel that worked perfectly on a project where you are trying to bring the past into the present. And I know that in the future I could easily change the covers and create a completely different ambiance.
Texture and touch
Coussin Goa pompons & tapis douceur Hanoï (suite Kouros Hotel & suite Mykonos)
Long live velvet! It’s a sensual fabric that you can’t help but run your hand over. Is there a better fabric than velvet? Silk perhaps? I like the contrast of a rougher fabric with something more sophisticated. The greater the contrast, the greater the potential for two fabrics to interact successfully. When you find yourself standing next to an object, a piece of furniture or a fabric, your hand moves towards it. There is emotion in touch. Like all the senses, touch is always looking for something new to experience. I also like metal which has wonderful reflective properties and is very malleable. Today we are always looking for natural resources and we care deeply for the environment (I belong to a collective that protects French forests for example) so I always try to select materials that don’t harm the planet. The hotel industry is a heavy consumer, so I always try to seek out ways to recycle old furniture, to give things a new lease of life, either in the hotel or else where. I hate throwing things away and I know that Le Monde Sauvage shares these values which is important to me.
Colour is a veritable language that can be used to transmit a mood or an ambiance. I am happy to work with all sorts of colour palettes, but right now I am in a soft, neutral phase which I think reflects our needs at the moment. I have tried to avoid using too much blue on my Greek projects but I can’t say I have really succeeded. It’s a colour that naturally crops up everywhere there and it offers a multitude of possibilities. I also use white of course, mainly for its reflective properties, and black which is indispensable as a way of underlining, framing or breaking things up. And when you use it everywhere It can have a very theatrical effect. One strange idea in decorating that annoys me is the famous ‘three colour rule.’ I find it absurd. It’s more important to get the way you use colour right rather than the number of colours!
What is your home like?
A long way from the pages of a magazine! It’s full of things that I like without being overloaded, and it changes all the time. My friends say that they feel comfortable in my house and that the interior fits with my personality which is the best compliment for me. There is a bit of everything: velvet curtains and a sofa from LMS, lots of black and white and then a multicoloured rug, tables purchased from Habitat in 1994, family heirlooms! Last year I had a bit of a reorganisation – I repainted and redid the kitchen – and guess what? I used Le Monde Sauvage wallpaper in the stairwell. Just the best!