Bird ceiling light by Francesca Amfitheatrof; canopy bed by Decour; X chair by Peter Hvidt; Substance side table by Hervé Van der Straeten; 1950s brass and leather lamp by Paavo Tynell; 1936 Isokon long chair by Marcel Breuer; Petale sconces by Hervé Van der Straeten; rug by Fedora Design
|James and Muriel in Taffin’s Fifth Avenue boutique|
Step into Muriel Brandolini’s kaleidoscopic world and be swept away by her beautifully appointed interiors, created for such elite clients as Annette and Matt Lauer, Pia and Christopher Getty and the Princess and Prince Pavlos of Greece. Her designs, fabrics and lifestyle collections take bohemian living to an unprecedented level of luxury. Vietnamese boat chandeliers, miles of crisp aqua walls accented by glittering white hand-embroidered lanterns, king-size beds tented in folds of brocade silk, geometric furniture rendered in soothing neutral color palettes—all exist in The World of Muriel Brandolini, her debut coffee table tome, being released this month from Rizzoli. In celebration of the book’s release, an accompanying boutique within Barneys New York, and a special auction of her own antiques and furnishings at Phillips de Pury, Brandolini talks with jeweler James Taffin de Givenchy. Her confidante and coconspirator for more than a decade, he will host a private cocktail event in Brandolini’s honor at Barneys New York on October 11.
JAMES TAFFIN DE GIVENCHY: Muriel, your sapphire ring was the first commissioned piece I ever did. I don’t even know how you found me!
MURIEL BRANDOLINI: I had heard of you from [textile designer] Carolina Irving. She told me, “You must meet James,” and I met you, and that was it. Since I met you, every piece [of jewelry] that I have is made by you for me.
JTG: That was it. You called me, and I had a sapphire. You gave me complete carte blanche to do anything. I don’t think you can be a designer without being influenced by your clients.
MB: We are both in tune with our drive to constantly make something new, and to surprise ourselves. We both love to create beauty through unexpected combinations. In my interior design, I might upholster a 1950s Italian chair in vinyl and set it next to a contemporary polished steel table. You use the most precious stones, set in wood, or rubber.
JTG: You have a new book out, The World of Muriel Brandolini. It’s not just a book about furniture or design. It’s you—your heritage, your passions and your work.
MB: I was asked to do a book for many, many years. It happened that I had 18 months free and I just decided to do it. In all honesty, it was an extremely difficult process, as I am not a person to look back on the past, and I was forced to revisit more than 17 years of a career.
|Coiffeuse and mirror by Estrid Ericson; pearlgray silk taffeta skirts by Gina Bianco; floor lamp by Arredoluce|
JTG: And the corresponding auction being held at Phillips de Pury?
MB: I have never sold a piece of my furniture to a client; I could not part from any piece of my collection. I thought that maybe it would be good to navigate people, as my book was coming out, to the rooms that I could create, and especially how to incorporate contemporary design into the home in a warm and livable way. Some of the pieces are even my design, such as the signature chairs. They are hand-pieced together using antique textiles—anything from 19th century French brocade to a Japanese obi, a version of my patchwork.
JTG: We’re both tremendously influenced by the city we live in: New York. For me, New York is an overdose of sensation and feelings. Everywhere you look, every angle, the speed of it, the colors, the light, the details, are just so incredibly beautiful.
MB: I could not live anywhere else. It is definitely a place where there are no boundaries. You want something, you get it. Nothing is impossible, whatsoever.
JTG: America in general is a great place for anyone who wants to start a business—the freedom of entrepreneurship. On top of that, New York is really invigorating for me. I love to go to Europe, take time to breathe, but I don’t get the same rush, the same desire to create.
MB: New York gives you the freedom of being. It gives you the opportunity to watch—from the Park Avenue lady to the person coming out of the subway. This is what this city is about.
JTG: Let’s talk about your djellabas [Brandolini has a collection of the traditional hand-block printed Moroccan gowns]. I remember when your first one came out…
MB: It’s a very elegant way to entertain at home. You will never see me in jogging pants—never! A silk djellaba really flows to your body. My collection started in 1999 after a trip to India, and I decided to revive it exclusively for Barneys for the launch of my book.
JTG: Tell me more about your partnership with Barneys.
MB: I created a special collection as a tribute to my country, Vietnam, and its history of craftsmanship. Everything is hand-beaded and embroidered by Vietnamese artisans—the pillows, tabletops, chair cushions. The Barneys pop-up (open through October 28) represents my world, not only through my own collection, but also through limited edition pieces commissioned by Galerie Kreo. The shop will include a screen in straw marquetry by Lison de Caunes [granddaughter of French decorator Andre Groult], lit be embroidered lanterns that I brought back with me from Vietnam. The air will be infused with Fleur d’Oranger [one of three signature scents from James’ new line of candles].
JTG: You’ve been very loyal to Barneys, and Barneys very loyal to you. I think there’s a special relationship there.
MB: Barneys gave me 900 square feet without even seeing a sample. That level of trust, they didn’t need to see anything! I wanted to push myself to create designs that one might not normally expect. Everything is very limited edition—for some only three or four were made.
photographs by eric boman (opener); Ean Sung (portrait); peter estersohn (room)