“Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant,” Honoré de Balzac, the French novelist, once said. And while the world has changed a great deal since Balzac’s passing in 1890, and we now appreciate the idea of elegance as both complex and dynamic, there’s a seed of truth in his words. The Paris of the new millennium remains the epitome of elegance, reinventing and resurrecting the styles of its storied past in its many grand interiors.
And we want to be there. Blame it on the Lost Generation, that famous group of writers and artists who left America for the City Of Lights in the years after WWI. Blame it on Love Story, that heart-wrenching film in which Paris is the unattainable Promised Land for two young lovers. Or simply blame it on the best butter croissants in the world. The reason for the ongoing allure of Paris today is a difficult thing to pinpoint, but we have a hunch that part of this allure is the city’s opulent designs. Louis Vuitton and Coco Chanel helped steep Paris in luxury when it comes to fashion, and the following four designers continue to transform Paris from the inside out — that is, through its magnificent interiors.
Here are the four French interior designers who will make you want to relocate to the capital of love.
Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier
Our first two designers operate as a duo and are the founders of the firm Gilles & Boissier. Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier define their collaboration as an attraction of opposites. Romantic partners as well as business partners, they purportedly thrive on creative debate, finding inspiration in regular disagreements. Gilles’ taste is that of strict lines and fine woods; Boissier practices in the realm of spatial fluidity, colours, and elegance.
The duo has been commissioned for numerous high profile projects, including Moncler stores, Ritz Carltons in New York and Madrid, and the Mandarin Oriental. They have also earned a host of awards for their work in the hospitality and design industry. But it’s the residential interiors by this creative team that we love best of all — if for no other reason than our wish that each project was our own Parisian flat.
In true French fashion, visual art is no afterthought for Gilles and Boissier; on each of their projects, they provide an artist with ‘carte blanche’ to create a piece—be it a mural, a drawing, a painting, etc.—to help transform the space.
Charles Zana is a powerhouse of not only the Parisian design scene, but the world; with projects in London, Tel Aviv, and Monaco, Zana has forged a name as an architect, art curator, and interior designer. A self-professed “culture aesthete,” Zana communicates in the realm of art and abstraction, looking to sculpture, drawings, and installation art in order to develop a design language through which to communicate with his selectively-chosen clients.
The result of Zana’s method is a portfolio not of interiors, but rather, as he terms them, “curated stories.” A champion of the classics—revisited and reimagined with emotion and warmth—Zana creates spaces that are responsive to the lives of the occupants.
Since founding his studio over twenty years ago, Zana and his team have created more than two hundred projects around the world. Our favorites, though, are the Parisian interiors that have come to life under his touch.
Born in Tehren and raised in the United States, Germany, and France, Mahdavi’s design sensibilities are a signature mix of east and west. With degrees in architecture, industrial design, graphic design, and furniture, her work is also multi-disciplinary; her broad education has created a foundation for unique attention to detail.
Beginning her career as a decorator with Christian Liaigre, Mahdavi branched out with her own studio in 1999, situated on the historic rue Las Cases in Paris. Four years later she launched her first collection of furniture. High profile clients for her interior design work have included Valentino, Monte Carlo, and Claridge’s, though she is perhaps best known for her restaurant interiors. These charming bars, restaurants, and cafés make us wish we were drinking a fine French wine in the heart of that romantic city.
Pierre Yaovanovitch’s journey in design is quintessentially French; he began his career working in men’s fashion with the couture house of Pierre Cardin. Ten years later, at the turn of the millennium, he opened his own eponymous design and architecture agency. The magazine AD France has termed his style “Made In France” — that is, heavily immersed in French artisanal methods and objets, but with a careful eye trained outwards to foreign influence and talent.
Yovanovitch approaches each new project as a work of art, with a careful set of key words serving as the points of his compass: sobriety, comfort, balance, and modernity. Aside from creating modern, muted spaces in the heart of Paris and beyond, he also produces custom furniture from authentic materials like wood, stone, marble, and metal. Once one has entered any of Yovanovitch’s spaces or interacted with his furniture creations, we imagine one will want to do little else but relax and reste un peu — that is, stay a while.