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.


  1. Very stylish Louis XVI-ish backgammon or tric-trac board there.

  2. Stunning + can't get enough of Jacques Garcia

  3. Gorgeous beyond Jennifer, Garcia is a genius! The details, the deep teal chair. I also love the portrait of a Sultan(?) on the left wall.

    Featuring "Inner Spaces"

  4. Love it! Small precious quarters may actually be more indicative of the Versailles look than one generally realizes. Other than for the State Apartments and the the Hall of Mirrors, few at Versailles lived in large quarters. The palace being the center of society at its height, competition for digs there were stiff, even for the most exalted of courtiers below the Royal Family. M. Garcia may have, in fact, recreated the intimate world of Versailles, the physical remains of which mostly vanished when the Chateau of Versailles was partially gutted by the "Citizen King" Louis Philippe for those long and pompous halls of battle paintings when it became a museum.