The World of Interiors

Garouste & Bonetti II, The World of Interiors, June 2010


"'I had no wish,' said Lacroix at the time, 'to surround myself with that cold and cerebral design that had been advocated for ages.' This was 1987, when Lacroix was the talk of the town. Having just left Jean Patou, he planned to produce out of nowhere something that had not been seen for a long time: a new haute-couture house. In April he got in touch with the two 'Barbarians'; in July they held their first fashion show. 'It was meteoric,' says Mattia Bonetti placidly. They had to invent a place in three months starting from scratch: a suite of three salons, separated by arches and extending for 350 square meters, between a courtyard and a garden. Lacroix adopted his usual manner: graphically, 'graphomaniacally' you might say, issuing ideas, cuttings, torn-out pages and suggestions, which all contributed to a gigantic collage that summed up his idea of the place. As none of the three designers particularly cared for the established codes, the first line of action was established. 'We wanted,' Elizabeth Garouste recalls, 'to give an idea of luxury, without using traditionally luxurious materials', to get away from the banal codes of good taste. Luxury, she says, would be expressed in the flamboyance of color, in the richness of pattern and – Mattia Bonetti adds – in the 'luxury of the handmade', the skilful joinery of the furniture serving as shorthand for the perfectionism of haute couture."

"Hence the sophisticated poverty of the materials (Arte Povera was then in fashion): a simple block of wood (but studded with bronze); pieces of branch (but richly lacquered); long drops of natural linen (but hemmed with velvet arabesques); surfaces of terracotta (but enhanced with gold leaf); sofas in simple shapes (but 5m long)... The references intertwine or clash in a sustained assault on the economic orthodoxy of the design of previous decades. It was a return to what 18th-century theoreticians called architecture parlante, one that is expressive of its purpose: not so much in narrative dimension but as portrayal of personal mythology. 'Here,' said Lacroix, 'you will find everything I love: overtones of Jean Michel Frank, the Cocteau spirit, the influence of projects by [Emilio] Terry and a whole host of references to the theatrical aspect of things, but... devoid of any obsession with the past.'"

"In the opinion of Garouste and Bonetti, these salons marked the beginning of their rise to international prominence. They were, and are, one of the essential elements of Christian Lacroix's 'brand image'. They express a particular moment when it finally became possible, and urgent to move away from the cold functionalism of Modernist orthodoxy. It was a return therefore to the imagination, the dream, the taste for ornament, to the short circuit between past and present. Thirty years have passed. 'That it is dated is a fact,' comments Bonetti, 'that has to be accepted. That you can even immediately date it is great. I have gone onto something else, but I don't repudiate any of what we did. It's not an 'evolution' to move from the Neo-Baroque towards the minimal; I am, at least, dual: I can want something clean and pure one day, and something 'baroque' the next. In matters of style... you don't go from something 'less good' towards something 'good'. The worst errors are committed in the name of progress."

TEXT BY MARIE FRANCE-BOYER, PHOTOGRAPHY BY IVAN TERESTCHENKO, TAKEN FROM THE WORLD OF INTERIORS, JUNE 2010

Garouste & Bonetti I, The World of Interiors, November 1996


"When the Garouste and Bonetti enterprise was started in 1980, it was the dawn of a flourishing era in the world of decoration. Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti came from different countries with different horizons. In Paris, Elizabeth had been to the ultra-liberal Ecole Alsacienne, where she was taught to 'express herself'. Elizabeth 'played at Picasso, or at prehistoric man' but, to her amazement, her unbridled imagination won her no more than four out of 20 in the baccalaureate drawing test.

She was still a very young woman when she married the painter Gerard Garouste, then just starting out. In the evenings, the Garoustes often went to Le Palace, the famous nightclub, and its restaurant, Le Privilege. Both were run by Fabrice Aemer, who clustered around him everyone who was creative or fun in 1970s Paris. It was here that the Garoustes met Mattia Bonetti. Bonetti, a Swiss, had attended the Ecole des Arts Appliqués a l'Industrie in Lugano and had worked on the fashion side of the textile business in Italy. Mattia was interested in cinema, photography and theater and he undertook several ventures with David Rochline, Elizabeth Garouste's brother."

"When, in 1979, Fabrice Aemer asked the Garoustes to redecorate both Le Palace and Le Privilege with Mattia Bonetti, the world of Paris nightlife was enchanted. It was the beginning of a highly successful partnership. 'We were fascinated by everything to do with ornamentation, illusion, baroque. We liked fake stones, prehistoric references, wrought iron and raffia – none of which were taken seriously at the time – and we decided, the three of us, to create a collection of 12 elements: chairs, screens, mirror lamps, tables. We each put 11,000FF into the venture.' When Gerard Garouste's paintings began to sell very well, he parted professional company with Elizabeth and Mattia, leaving them to their work as designers and decorators."

"At first the distribution of their objects proved difficult as Garouste and Bonetti defied categorization: they were neither craftsmen nor artists, neither fish nor fowl. Five or six years were to elapse before the opening of galleries such as Neotu or the lighting shop En Attendant les Barbares, both of which would be receptive to their work. In the meantime, Elizabeth, who looks like Snow White, and Mattia, a blond Prince Charming, were lucky enough to meet Jeanne Lambert de Loche, who was working at Jansen, the decoration mecca on the rue Royale. She offered them her shop window to display their collection, a minor event which generated major interest from the media. The company of Garouste and Bonetti was born.

Further recognition followed in 1986 when Christian Lacroix commissioned them to decorate his couture house and boutiques. In 1987 Bernard Picasso hired the team to design the furniture, objects and carpets for his house, and then there was a commission from Nina Ricci to design a new cosmetics line. David Gill introduced Garouste and Bonetti to the British public in 1988."

"'Our style hasn’t' changed much since the beginning, apart from the fact that the things we do are more sharply defined. We still like contrasting luxury materials such as gilded or silvered bronzer and wood, and we still prefer the natural look, which we call "organic style" because of its soft, asymmetrical outlines. What interests us is the outer frontier of good taste, the zone where kitsch and chic collide. Ours is an ambiguous blend, somewhere between Marie-Antoinette and Africa.'"

SKETCHES BY MATTIA BONETTI, PHOTOGRAPHY BY VINCENT KNAPP, TEXT BY MARIE-FRANCE BOYER, TAKEN FROM "PARIS MATCHLESS," WORLD OF INTERIORS, NOVEMBER 1996

What You Should Have, and What You Don't: Isabella Blow, Eaton Square


Wallis Simpson’s clothes were amazing, she was my heroine; but not her house, it was too busy for the clothes.
— Isabella Blow, Home: What our Homes Really Mean to Us

"My earliest memory is of masses of honeysuckle on the walls of our house. We lived in something called The Gardens; my grandfather had this beautiful house and we lived in the park. I used to wake up every morning and know that we were never going to be there, so I was brought up with this incredible beauty that you knew you couldn't get your hands on. I've always wanted it; I still want it. I think that beauty is very sexy. It wasn't the size, it was the elegance. Once a year, as a child, we used to look out over these incredible gardens and look at the world we'd lost, and it was a red carpet with people going up all dressed for the hunt ball, and the house would be spotlit. It was the only house in England to have plates on it—to have Wedgewood zodiac signs. It made me, I suppose obsessed with tarot cards and the zodiac, and with very strict beauty, which I still like in fashion. People think I like really funky stuff. I like classic with a twist. I like things that are cut beautifully and I think it comes from that house; it was really severe. It was called Doddington Park and it was designed by Samuel Wyatt who was the younger brother of James Wyatt, who did a lot of houses. Plum Sykes recently got married in a Samuel Wyatt house, which was her cousin's, Sir Tatton Sykes. She was wearing a giant emerald bracelet that was perfect with the house and it looked great. You see, I think people have to plan their house so they look good in it. Wallis Simpson's clothes were amazing, she was my heroine; but not her house, it was too busy for the clothes."

"I had two sisters. My brother died—he drowned in the swimming pool of that house, in the garden. Our house was so ugly: it was a pink house with horrible pink grout. My room was blue, and I've always had blue wherever I go. My apartment in New York was light blue. Neither of my parents had any interest in furnishings; they were socialites. They poured crème de menthe over each other every night. Then my grandfather had this murder trial—White Mischief thing—and everything was sold from the big house. My father didn't want any reminders of those things. But I have inherited two pieces that are going into my new place. One is a pope's table that my grandfather got on the Grand Tour, and it's got snakes and peonies, which are my favorite flowers, and the snake is winding its way around the flowers, which I love. Hard and soft. I like very severe beautiful tables with very soft cushions. That's what makes something very erotic, like a penis going into a vagina—same thing. I was brought up in a house in Cadogan Square in London. That was amazing. It had these beasts on the floor—black beasts with hair flying and funny noses –and amazing doors. I'm obsessed by doors. (The Hermitage; for me it's the most beautiful building in the world because of the doors. The tsar had every single door made differently, and it gives it such an individual feel. Making an entrance. I never thought about that before.) We had these malachite tables that remind me of Russia, and this great round table in the drawing room, with a vase of flowers in the middle—that must have come from Doddington. My parents entertained a lot. You could extend the dining-room table by adding extra leaves, from four people to six to sixteen. My mother got a friend, Andrew Rolla, to do the interior. Do you remember when trompe l'oeil was very popular? We had this absolutely hideous fake trompe l'oeil hall that was orange and cream. I knew it was wrong because I'd seen my grandfather's house. I knew what you should have and what we didn't have, and maybe that's been my problem all my life."

"When I was 16 I was chucked out. My father had met this woman and my parents got divorced. My mother moved from Cadogan Square to Lennox Gardens, where she had a gray suede hall, ugh! My mother went very suede. She had suede sofas. I hate that. After that, I literally lived like a vagabond. I just loved living in other people's houses. That's my thing. You can't afford what they've got, so why not enjoy it while it's going? As a fantasy. I was very influenced by someone I stayed with called Maria St. Just, who was the muse of Tennesee Williams and she played Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She got a group of Russians in to paint her house and they make little pelmets, like a theater set. It had pistachio green, like the inside of the nut, on the walls and the sofas were... I don't remember, but she had one little sofa opposite another little sofa. I love it when you can talk to people opposite. When you just have one lame duck it's hopeless."

"I went to New York and bought a fantastic apartment. It was a classic—the second floor of a brownstone. It had a beautiful square drawing room, lovely light. I knocked through the two bedrooms and had a huge four-poster bed and big cupboards for my clothes. That was the first time I really had somewhere. I was 24 and my grandmother had died and she'd left me some money, so I spent it on that. I worked for Anna Wintour at American Vogue, so I wanted it to look good; I wanted some self-respect. I used to go out with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. We used to really live it up. It was slightly "rock 'n' roll," the whole thing. The apartment was on the wild side, but very classic. I had a Mary Fox Linton black-and-white sofa. I cooked—I love cooking—and I had a very modern galley kitchen with a black rubber floor. Then I got married to somebody and then divorced two years later. I finished my job with Vogue and left New York."

"For the past eight years I've been living in this little two-up two-down hatbox in Lambeth, London, but it's a horrible area; I can no longer live in terror. I can't walk under the bridge at night for fear of being murdered. Location is the most important thing. I've now decided to buy this flat in Eaton Square—classic, first floor, very good proportions. I was only looking for three weeks. I'm very impetuous. It's a bed-sitter basically, but I won't make it a bed-sitter because of proportions and scale. I'm not really a good home person; my husband is the same. I'm not very cozy by nature because I've never had a real home. I've lived in 29 houses. I've got a friend called Camilla Guinness who's going to do it up, otherwise it just won't get done. I just don't want to have fights with Detmar—my husband—over sofas and chairs. She can arbitrate. I think when your husband has a strong point of view, you have to show him photographs and drawings so he feels in control. We're going to do a portfolio, so I can say, do you like this sofa, this chair? Do you like the chandelier hanging here? What he wants is organization. He doesn't want chaos. I've got a great chandelier that came from my father's house; it's been in storage for nearly three years. It's absolutely huge—really beautiful; Waterford 1760. People don't hang them properly—much too high. A chandelier is meant to act as a light on top of the food or something. It has to be down, so the eye goes, wow! It's something people have got to learn. I hate shopping. I like buying art. I love auctions. The nerve-racking bit of it. You see it, you fall in love with it and you feel like you're buying it for the correct price. I like to support artists; it's good for them and it's fun for me. You must support the culture you live in. Stability is very important. I've been so ill from not knowing where I belong. Since I was 15, I've never put my key in the door and thought I was at home, never. My mother never gave me a key. Having got Eaton Square I'm not going anywhere else."

ALL TEXT TAKEN FROM HOME: A UNIQUE INSIGHT INTO WHAT OUR HOMES REALLY MEAN TO US, EDITED BY STAFFORD CLIFF, 2006; IMAGES TAKEN FROM HOME, AS WELL AS THE WORLD OF INTERIORS, MARCH 2009