Monday, February 18, 2013

François Catroux At Home

A while back, a reader requested that I feature the work of French designer François Catroux. Catroux, of course, is a "big name" designer, but photos of his work are not always easy to find. While looking through the August 1984 issue of House & Garden over the weekend, I stumbled upon an article about his Paris apartment, located in the Left Bank's quartier de l'Odéon. It's so interesting to see photos of his home close to thirty years after it was published because so much of the interiors look stylish still today.

According to the article, Catroux had coveted this apartment for some time. The quartier de l'Odéon is filled with residences that cannot be altered because of their historical heritage, but this particular ground-floor apartment did not come with such restrictions. With a free hand to renovate and decorate the home, Catroux decided to devote his home to what the article referred to as an "abstract" form of classicism. As Catroux said, "After all, what is classicism but that which remains forever modern?" As such, Catroux used a building material known as staff, a combination of mixed plaster and fiber, to create cornices, Doric columns, and rusticated wall finishes that, although essentially pastiche, give the home a classical flavor.

Neutral colors pervade the home with the exception of the red bed covering, while serious antiques like Louis XVI chairs are hidden beneath canvas slipcovers. And in an effort to keep the rooms from looking overdecorated, Catroux chose to leave the canvas that is hung portière-style between the home's dining room and petit salon unhemmed, saying, "I'm never happy when an apartment is too finished." But of all the chic furnishings in the home, my favorite is the trompe l'oeil carpet that is installed throughout the apartment. Designed by Catroux himself, the carpet mimics a marbled floor, something that brings to mind that fabulous trompe l'oeil "marble tile" rug in the bedroom of Lady Sackville at her Brighton House.  (Sackville's bedroom was decorated with the help of her friend, architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.)

A recent WSJ article showed photos of the Catroux Paris apartment that look quite different from what you see here.  Whether they live in the same apartment as seen here or not, I do not know.  Regardless, I think these photos prove that classic design and, yes, classicism, remain timeless. And to the reader who requested this Catroux post, I hope that you haven't yet seen these photos before!

Image at top: An Indonesian throne and bull funerary sculpture greeted visitors in the apartment's entrance hall.

The petit salon with Doric columns made of staff and architectural plans hung on the wall.

A Sèvres vase stands on top of a Directoire table supported by Sèvres biscuit lion and paw legs.

The sitting room. Here, a statue of Atlas and 19th c. English architectural orders mingle with Art Deco sculpture.

The luxurious dining room is kept from looking too rich thanks to canvas slipcovers and curtains.

The master bedroom. To the right you'll notice a concrete support for the spiral staircase, a design borrowed from those used in parking lots.

The bathroom with faux-marbre moldings and embossed walls.

Every room of the home looks out onto the tranquil garden.

All photos and quotations from House & Garden, August 1984; article author Christina de Liagre and photographer Michael Boys.


  1. A wonderful post! Great images and I had never heard of "staff" before. A perfect essay on the enduring appeal of classicism and how it can adapt to the tenets of modernism in a timeless way.

  2. I also have never heard of "staff" + I love to learn new things. These pictures are just beautiful + timeless.

  3. Oh, lord Jennifer...these photographs take me back! I've loved Catroux's designs for decades! He and his gorgeous wife were the style icons of the 70s and 80s. The era of Le Jet Set, Halston, Warhol and The Factory, Studio 54.

    His home in the South of France made using common rattan seating all the rage. He once designed an elegant dining room in a London residence, and shredded the dining chair slip covers. People talked! And talked!

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane!