Take it from one of the world's preeminent interior architects: trendy is out and timeless is in. Here, you'll hear from him directly and tour one of his gorgeous residential projects. Then, keep reading and find out how to get the Jean-Louis look.
photos by Jonny Valiant, Jonny Valiant Photography, NYC
He's done it again folks. French interior architect Jean-Louis Deniot has made the AD100, Architectural Digest's highly prestigious list of the industry's best. Deniot is to the AD100 what The Beatles were to music's Billboard Charts - he's made it on there many times. As far as how often he's been included, he's likely lost count by now, but it's always a thrill.
I firmly believe that when opportunity knocks on your door, you answer it. So when Jean-Louis was in Miami visiting Elysee, his ultra luxurious first high-rise residential project in the U.S., I made it my business to meet up with him.
Jean-Louis Deniot is a world-famous design talent. Though Paris is his home base, Deniot is recognized globally for his eclectic interiors - unparalleled havens where classicism and modernism are juxtaposed to perfection. Without a doubt he'll go down as one of the great interior architects of our time.
His projects are notable. Deniot restored the Chateau Latour winery of Salma Hayek's billionaire hubby, French businessman Francois Pinault. Most if not all other clients are prominent, affluent, often famous, and sometimes, very private people who prefer their names not be mentioned. Deniot has completed projects in Miami, New York City, Beverly Hills, London, Moscow, Istanbul, New Delhi, Hong Kong and so on. Whether it's a romantic pied-à-terre in Paris, a chalet in Aspen, or a royal palace in Quatar, his interiors are perpetually flawless, timeless, elegant, and chic. A proponent of historic nods, he infuses iconic pieces from various eras using a carefree, or as Jean-Louis might say, "insoucieux," approach.
To celebrate Jean-Louis' recent honor, I decided to revisit one of his numerous design triumphs - an apartment situated in a significant Pre-War building on NYC's tony 5th Avenue and done with a sleek Art Deco/Neoclassical vibe - while I also let you in on our little chat.
The entry hall features an 18th century Louis XVI period carved giltwood lantern Deniot purchased at Galerie Marc Philippe in Paris. For the geometric floor, he enlisted a combination of Savoy Blue and White Tassos marbles. The center table is a custom creation by the designer, comprised of a gilded, forged iron base and Statuario marble top. A blending of two Japanese wallcoverings - Couleurs privées Washi nuage gris and Couleurs privées Washi pluie gris - provides the backdrop for a pair of 1950s Italian armchairs from Onsite Antiques of Paris and matched "Hyperbole" sconces by legendary furniture, lighting, and jewelry designer Hervé van der Straeten.
TDR: When did you first recognize your gift for design and how did you turn it into a career?
JLD: I have no clue. I've been designing from an early age. My aunt gave me art supplies just for personal entertainment but I didn't realize one could make a career of interior design. My family was pragmatic and viewed being an artist as a recipe for struggle, but fortunately they let me decide for myself. I could have ended up a lawyer and frustrated artist my whole life. My career is an example of why it's important to let kids follow their desires.
Deniot would later study at the esteemed École Camondo, a private school of product design and interior architecture located in Paris, prior to opening his own agency.
The sophisticated sitting room melds classical influences such as decorative moldings and coffered ceilings with modern elements like the Paul Evans cocktail table in the center and Jacques Adnet daybed in the foreground. The fireplace is flanked by alcoves designed to showcase sculpture: an untitled abstract piece by Marcia Cable (left) and a figurative bronze by Won Lee, titled "Lulu" (right). Deniot includes van der Straeten's singular "Nebuleuse" mirror for what he refers to as "eye candy." It lives as the focal point of the space.
TDR: For those who are unfamiliar, can you explain the term "interior architect"?
JLD: An interior architect falls between design and architecture; you get to handle both, so everything is touched by the same hand. Normally, only the architect can modify the structure, but an interior architect is allowed to touch the bones so you get a better décor in the end. Imagine if you had one chef start your meal and another one finish it; the intended flavor might be altered. Same with design. When done by an interior architect, it's all one person's vision.
In the sitting room, there's much to take in, but highlights include the following: On either side of a vintage sofa by Edward Wormley discovered on 1stDibs are identical 1960s walnut end tables by the great British architect and furniture designer T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings. The large oxidized bronze Brutalist lamps, by Harry Balmer for Laurel (c. 1970s,) were purchased at Gallery Assemblage, Chicago. All of the above, plus a Michel Mangematin bronze base/glass top coffee table c.1965, sit atop a graphic rug by Solstys.
TDR: I've heard you say: "You have to put yourself in design danger." How so?
JLD: I love the challenge of tricking my artistic senses into something I'm not used to. It's like a a minimalist designer working on a 17th century Italian palazzo, or one who specializes in baroque creating within a 1970s cement building. A painter can’t paint the same painting his or her entire life. One needs to evolve.
In this sitting room vignette, an Italian 1960s bronze and glass gueridon table by Poggi sits beside a Louis XVI period Marquise bergère chair purchased at a Sotheby’s auction in Paris. The artwork, a steel, cast metal, and leather wall sculpture titled "Gates of Narcissus, Motherboard IV" is by NY-based artist Rachel Lee Hovnanian.
This sitting room vignette displays a 1970s vintage glossy parchment goat skin console by J. Robert Scott that Deniot found in Los Angeles. The abstract art above it is an oil painting by Alain Le Yaouanc, and the diminutive, shapely nailhead-trimmed stool to its right was purchased by the client at the Marrakesh Medina Souk.
TDR: Of all the exciting cities you work in, which is your favorite?
JLD: I love them all! The French have a reputation for being quite stubborn, but I try to fight that and be as open and worldly as possible. I strive to adapt to every market and every culture.
Decidedly formal, yet befitting of the overall aesthetic, the breakfast area features a banquette, custom-designed by Deniot and upholstered in Majilite's pearl finesse leather. On the opposite side of the 1970s brushed steel table base by Paul Legeard (the wood top is custom) are a pair of 1960s Danish dining chairs by Kai Kristiansen. A textural silver wallcovering from Phillip Jeffries wraps the space, while a chromed metal and lucite rod chandelier by Sciolari illuminates it.
JLD: As opposed to designing for a client you've spent time getting to know well, when you design for a company, you'll design a sofa and never know who will own it or where it will end up. Someone puts a price tag on your product and waits to see if the public will be 'into it' or not. It's a completely different, but very interesting thought process.
(Note: The Jean-Louis Collection is Baker Furniture's top-selling line.)
The master bedroom is awash in soft gray - from the wool and silk carpet from Pierre Frey to the Westbury "Nassau" textile covering an upholstered bed frame and headboard custom-designed by Deniot. An accent pillow fabricated with "Etamine" by Zimmer & Rohde decorates the understated, bespoke bedding. The wall panels are inset with Phillipp Jeffries' silk and abaca "Porcelain Palace" wallpaper, and the ebony-stained cerused oak beside table is one of a pair by Robsjohn-Gibbings.
To bring a subtly feminine sensibility to the master bedroom, Deniot added a Louis XVI style patina armchair found at Paris Flea Market in Saint-Ouen, France and a narcissus floral archival giclee print on canvas titled "Santori I", by Rachel Hovnanian.
He's gorgeous, isn't he? But sorry boys... he's taken. Maybe you saw the press on his recent restoration of a 1930s Tudor style house, the L.A. pad (one of several homes Deniot owns) he shares with his partner, real estate and tech entrepreneur William Holloway. It's ridiculously amazing of course.
TDR: Got any advice for the design enthusiasts reading this?
JLD: Yes. Atmospheres are made so people can have nice moments together. Interiors should conform to your mood, whether you want to curl up in a corner by yourself or be in the center of a group of 20. It’s not about a pretty picture; it's about the people.
As you've now seen, Jean-Louis' work is exquisite - brimming with rare antiques, vintage finds, iconic pieces, custom designs, and a magic "secret sauce" that's known only to him. Needless to say, it's impossible to replicate genius... but it is possible to emulate it. When I took on the role of The Design Raven, I promised to not only inspire you, but also, to guide you. And I am a woman of my word.
My personal design philosophy - and you'll hear me say it over and over again - is that with the correct balance of "skimp and splurge," showstopping interiors are well within reach. That said, I will now perform the death-defying feat of re-creating Jean-Louis Deniot's aesthetic with some suggestions to help you GET THE LOOK.
Here ya go!
J-L D, when you see this, I hope you'll approve... and remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. To everyone else, happy decorating... and remember to have fun!