What to do when you are mad about interior designand
your favorite store has had to close...
A lesson in interior style:
learn from the pros from the comfort of your own home
We turn to the interior designers who we particularly admire
and who have been kind enough to share their tips with us.
Style advice, design tips and decorating wisdom.
Today we talk to
Can you introduce yourself?
I’m an interior stylist and decorator based in Paris. I founded my first agency six years ago. I am also the co-founder of BR Design Interieur. Together with my partner, Bénédicte Pierens, we have been lucky enough to spend the past four years working on a number of hotel projects, houses, stores and flats, both in Paris and elsewhere.
After a number of years working in the fashion and high-end interiors press, I felt that I had reached the end of a cycle. I jumped at the chance to change jobs and to really listen to what I wanted. I focussed on my passion for interior design and decoration and I don’t regret it one bit.
I need to have fun and to enjoy myself when I’m working. Mine is a very demanding job which requires a lot of rigour and complete attention to every detail. I’m also a yoga addict, so particularly sensitive to the need for harmony between the inner and exterior worlds. I try to find this balance in the relationship of trust that I build with my clients and my team.
That’s what drives me. I try to breathe some of my energy and my sense of laid-back chic into my projects. In general, things seem to happen very naturally – I don’t impose ideas but instead express myself gently, but with determination. Our aim is to create spaces for living, where you feel good, whether it be a hotel, a store, a flat or a house. My style is a mix of multiples influences. I like to steal something from the past, mix up the classics, add a hint of fantasy and above all, to create a sense of emotion.
Your decorating mantra?
« Decor translates the soul of a place and the souls of those who live there. »
I like this phrase that I found in Inès de la Fressange and Marin Montagut’s lovely book, Sous les toits de Paris.
I am lucky insofar as I get to created spaces for living in, to gain a glimpse into the lives of the people that reside there, to help them to feel happy. That’s the wonderful thing about what I do.
What do you think of the concept of good taste?I think that taste evolves and becomes more precise over time. Knowing what things will work well together, finding harmony in colour, it’s like having a good palate as a chef. Taste is a way to avoid indigestion! The notion of good taste bores me though. Too perfect, too smooth, too mainstream. It stands in the way of creativity. I prefer to think in terms of energy, harmony and of course, good vibes!
If you were a room in the house?
The kitchen, without hesitation. It’s the heart of the home. I can spend hours there. Cooking is all about generosity, conviviality and sharing. And of course creativity. I cook the same way as I build up a space. Finding harmony and balance, spicing things up, adding the ingredients you need for a recipe to work. I like kitchens to be warm and lively so I decorate with antique crockery, hand-crafted ceramics and paintings. And I like to introduce noble materials to shift the eye away from the technical kitchen stuff.
The top 3 things on your bucket list
- Travel, travel, travel: a cruise on a beautiful sailing boat in the tropics, or to go back to Brazil where I lived for years. Or nearer to home, a few days in Prague or Venice would make me just as happy. I always come back from my travels with things made locally, feeling full of inspiration and energy.
- To have a flat in the mountains that I would decorate in my minimalist yet cosy style with lots of wood and soft fabrics.
- To take singing lessons so I can accompany my husband when he plays the piano!
If you were an artist?
I’m particularly sensitive to art in all its forms, particularly painting because I love colour and the precision and detail involved. The emotion that the impressionist paintings evoke is particularly touching to me. I recently discovered the Danish painters from the 19th century: Vilhelm Hammershøi’s interiors and the way Peder Severin Krøyer depicts the light of the north. It’s very different but I also love the simple forms created by Brancusi and Matisse’s decoupage.
Your dream project?
Designing a hotel is a wonderful experience for an interior designer. I’d like the next one to be in the mountains or on the Mediterranean coast, or perhaps in a chateau. I’d like a beautiful backdrop with a strong story to tell. I’d also love to design a restaurant and work with the chef to create a link between the food and the decoration.
Your current obsession?
I’ve always been pretty obsessed with natural materials. Wood, travertine, coloured marble, ceramic, straw, wicker and lime bring lots of warmth and personality to a room; they are the materials that I use the most, probably because they remind me of my old house in Brazil.
I also have a thing about cushions. I can’t seem to stop buying them! They are the one thing that can make a room much warmer and welcoming instantly and you can change them easily if you get bored. My obsession is becoming a bit of a problem in our house though…
What are the architecture movements that have inspired you?
There are so many! In no particular order: Bauhaus, Art Déco of course, Arts & Crafts, the precursor to Art nouveau. I also really like the 18th century, the mudéjar decorated buildings that you can see in Seville and the flibertarian style of the 70s, but always just a touch, never all over!
I have quite eclectic taste. I like to marry different styles. It’s important to add a touch of fantasy so as not to be taken too seriously. Mixing different styles freely is what makes an interior warm and alive.
Get in shape
I have always loved rounded edges, both as a source of inspiration and in practice. We are using more and more round shapes in our projects. Soft, fluid, a symbol of flow and exchange, they evoke the rounded edges you see so much in Art Déco, but also the freeform style you so often see in mediterranean architecture. Even in Paris it somehow conjures up thoughts of holidays. Whether for built in shelving, architraving on cupboard doors (like in the Hôtel Léopold in Paris), an archway between two rooms, glass walls or cushions, we like to use round edges as much as we can, pretty much everywhere in fact!
Colour and pattern
Everything we do as an agency involves a fair amount of colour. We like to have a thread that takes you from room to room and to use colour in clever ways. So a dark entrance to make the sitting room seem much brighter, coloured walls for depth, a painted ceiling in a more intimate space, etc etc. Pattern can be used on cushions, rugs, small pieces of furniture and papered walls. We absolutely love patterned floors and have also created completely flowered bedheads for the Léopold hotel. You should never shy away from mixing patterns as it gives energy to a room.
How do you separate rooms or distinct spaces?
Colour is an excellent way to structure spaces without having to build walls. So if you want to create an entrance in an open space, you can paint the walls and ceiling in a dark colour.
I also love glass partition walls. I prefer them to be very slim, more sophisticated than atelier-style windows, in metal or oak and inspired by the rounded edges of Art Nouveau rather than the angular edges that you see in Art Déco.
Furniture or built in cupboards?
More often than not our clients like both! Recycling furniture is a wonderful pastime and whether you are making use of an inherited piece or something you have unearthed at a market, furniture always adds an element of charm as long as it is used sparingly and done up well. We would recommend avoiding a heavy normandy wardrobe in a Parisian flat for example, but a Louis XV chest of drawers works almost anywhere, especially in a contemporary interior where it can really elevate a room. I must admit that I prefer a vintage, market find with all of its imperfections and signs of a well-lived life.
I also love to design built-in furniture which is the best way to increase storage space and make use of every spare inch. You can get really creative with doors which can either blend in with the decor or be made to stand out with rattan cut outs, wallpaper, beautiful handles etc.
The devil is in the detail
I am obsessed with detail. A badly chosen switch can ruin the design of a space just as too bright a bulb can kill the ambiance of a room. I am also particularly attentive to door handles which can give a room a very polished feel, even with a limited budget.
Do you find it hard to create something unique in this trend-led era?
Our job is to reveal the personality of a space, not to create a picture-perfect decor. Each project is unique, even though of course we are designers of our time and influenced by the trends and the colours of the moment. Herein lies the paradox: how to create a timeless style that one won’t tire of, with a touch of something thoroughly up-to-date and of the moment. Our approach is to mix the old and the new. And of course if one does tire of something you can easily change the wallpaper or the colour of a wall.
Your signature (obsession)?
All the different shades of green (pine, emerald, khaki, bronze etc.) which I like to mix with pink, terracotta or brick red. When I have good ceiling height to play with I like to paint the bottom half of the wall and add a line of gold or black to differentiate between the two areas. And then there is my obsession for old, gold mirrors that I find online or on my travels...