Going Global by Michaela Cordes | 28th October, 2006 | Personalities
Bora Bora, New York, St. Barths, Knokke, Paris – It is almost impossible to catch Christian Liaigre during his travels for his international projects. The restless Frenchman touched down for a short while to exclusively talk to GG about his latest projects, how his childhood on the Ile de Re has influenced his style, what horse breeders and designers have in common and why women have a more romantic touch than men when it comes to interior decoration. The captivating story of how Liaigre has become who he is today: “The most important and certainly most frequently copied designer of our times,” as the Financial Times enthuses.
Looking back, do horse breeding and designing exclusive furniture have anything in common?
Absolutely! The professional standards. In both fields it is imperative that everything is right, every detail. It simply won’t do to make a mistake when dealing with a horse. Exactly the same is true when it comes to the interior of a room, creating an item of furniture or inspecting the quality of a material.
Do you have to adapt to the personalities of your clients in a similar way as you had to for the sensitive souls of dressage horses?
Instinct is very important in my current work. I have to act on my intuition. But on the other hand, what Corbousier said, proves to be true time and again: “It is more difficult to find the right client than the project.” It is never easy taking on a new project, let me tell you.
What do you mean exactly?
It is difficult when there is nothing there – no past, no history. Let me show you something. Christian stands up and fetches two folders with photos of projects that were not released for publication. The first contains photos of a newly-built house on the Côte d’Azur. Everything is infused with light tones, lots of glass, red and white. Beautiful and yet strangely empty. In the next folder, he shows me pictures of another house. It is immediately apparent: a house with history. Family portraits hang on the walls in golden Baroque frames; modern, personally chosen works of art in another room. Valuable antiques can be seen alongside a spiral staircase panelled with polished ebony.
Which of these projects did you enjoy most?
It is always a challenge when so much history, art and substance are involved. I have just finished this project for a married couple in Geneva. They are the proud owners of an unbelievably beautiful art collection. Their old family portraits now hang on walls of deep black, oxidized stone pine – a striking contrast. The result looks fantastic. A house with personality. This doesn’t work with a new building of course – in such cases I can only be inspired by the culture of the surroundings.
Which interior ideas amaze you?
I remember my old aristocratic friends who lived in very simply decorated châteaus near to my home. One had a French dresser, for example, and two African masks had been hung above it that somebody had brought back from one of their many trips. It is the almost random way in which things had been combined. The mix of lives well lived that no interior designer could conceive let alone copy.
Do you have to take an interest in the latest trends – like in the fashion world?
I find it very difficult to talk about trends when it comes to one’s own home. That is why I always try to minimise the trend. Otherwise you end up ten years down the road thinking back on how much money you spent. I aim for timelessness. Minimise! Concentrate! It is not easy at all, let me tell you, because my clients demand more and more from me. At some point I have to say “Stop!” When I returned to some of my projects for my book “Maison Christian Liaigre”, I decided to remove many objects for the photos.
Does that mean you have only decorated your home in Paris once and never intend to change it again?
(Laughs) No, that’s not possible I’m afraid. I now live with Deborah (his wife, who works together with him (ed.)) and of course she arranges many more small objects around the place than me.
Why is it that women decorate interiors so differently to men?
First and foremost because they are much more romantic than we are and associate fond memories with small souvenirs. It’s the same with flowers – very feminine. I just need one particularly beautiful painting, or an antique piece of art such as the very rare buddha bust made from terracotta that I discovered recently in Bangkok. And not forgetting a large sofa for me to lounge on like a dog. It is fatal but inevitable: Every time I design a new sofa it always ends up being enormous because I don’t just want to sit on it – I want to live on it.
You have transformed almost everything with your designs – houses, furniture, and most recently a yacht.What are your plans for the future?
I want to go back to my roots. I would like to design a stud in Andalusia, Spain. It is very minimal there. The houses are white and simple. I have a small house in St. Barth, but that is too far away for a weekend trip. I would like to come back down to earth. I have grown too far away from it.