Thursday, January 15, 2015
Versailles on a Small Scale
Look at many of today's formally-decorated, French-inflected houses, and you'll likely find that the inspiration for their interiors was Versailles. Yes, Louis XIV's palatial exercise in self-aggrandizement remains influential in interior design, something which has unfortunately produced a mixed-bag of results. For any small-scale interpretation of Versailles to be successful, it must be reimagined with a modern sensibility. Otherwise, it won't be very livable.
In the hands of a lesser designer, a Versailles-inspired home can be a flaming disaster. (You know what I'm talking about.) But, when such decorating is left to expert hands, the results can be delicious. Take, for example, the Paris pied-à-terre featured here. Decorated by Jacques Garcia, a designer of great skill, and furnished with antiques from star dealer Luc Bouveret, the apartment might be grand, but it could hardly be called imposing.
The homeowner, who, along with her husband, was based in New York, had long wished "to live in Versailles", a wish that Garcia worked hard to grant her. Walls and windows are lavished with sumptuous silks and damasks, while a contrasting color palette (light tones for the living room and dark shades for the bedroom) creates a sense of both brightness and intimacy. Although the antique furniture, which includes an Henri Wirtz marquetry games table and a rare desk with painted glass and silver-backed panels, is quite formal, it's not overwrought. The furniture's mostly clean lines help to counterbalance the pattern that is found on both fabrics and rugs. As Bouveret says of eighteenth-century French furniture, "There is a modernity to this furniture in its cleanness."
If only all Versailles-fueled decorating would produce such beautiful results.
All photos and text from House & Garden, October 2002; François Halard photographer.