Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Enduring Legacy of French Interior Designer Henri Samuel

Opulence is just the beginning of this design star's legacy.

Estate of Karen Radkai
Ifirst became aware of the work of French designer Henri Samuel in the mid-1980s, in what might be called his robber baron phase. At that heady time in American social history there were a few decorators from England and Europe working in New York for very visible clients: Geoffrey Bennison had just performed miracles for Guy and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild on East 66th Street, and Henri Samuel and his project for Susan and John Gutfreund at 834 Fifth Avenue were the talk of the town.
Before then the apotheosis of Reagan-era classical style had been basically Georgian. Afterward a gap was bridged, and it was said that Samuel’s work didn’t just evoke the past, it was as good as anything in that past. Samuel delivered to the New World something that was thought to be no longer possible: the authentic opulence of another continent and another time.

Eight ways to nail French style at home

 There's an effortless style to the way the French do decoration so let's celebrate Bastille Day with some of their coolest contemporary looks



 Best in class 1France has been flying the French decoration flag for centuries and while its classical styles are world renowned it is also home to a wealth of contemporary capabilities. One brand that manages to straddles its historic Hausmann past as well as the decorative now is Roche Bobois, a household name that was born out of two families joining forces in the 1960s and now has more than 250 stores worldwide. It has two core collections, a contemporary one that features the work of designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Kenzo Takada and Missoni Home; and Nouveaux Classiques, a more traditionally French take on furniture. Pictured is a solid oak Chambre Eqop bed with headboard, 180cm by 200cm, €5,200, ex mattress, deep buttoned bergere-style chair, €2,740, four-drawer sideboard, €3,580, and Ispahan floor lamp, €2,340,  all available to order and there’s 15 per cent off all new orders until July 31st.

Best in class 2

Ligne Roset, from parasol fabricator in the 1860s to a global brand with 200 stores worldwide and leading collaborations with names such as Michel Ducaroy, Pierre Paulin and the Bouroullec brothers.


Its Toa armchair, launched in 2015, is designed by emerging talent Remi Bouhaniche, who took a chance and submitted the design to Michel Roset, Ligne Roset’s owner, in 2012. It has a solid ash frame, available in a dark stain or natural, pictured, and in a wide choice of colours in cotton or leather. The trapezoidal shape of foam and fabric is inspired by origami and prices start from €2,902 from Arena Kitchens & Living, Maple Avenue, Stillorgan Industrial Park, where it is available to order and where there is 15 per cent off the entire collection, during the summer sale which ends July 22nd.

Best in class 3

Magic Circus Editions is an experimental lighting company that was set up just two years ago by Marie-Lise Fery, an art school graduate turned antique dealer, and the appreciation of classic forms is evident throughout the collection’s dramatic designs.


The new range features soft coloured glass spheres in soft new shades of jade and rose. The soft curves of its Applique wall light, pictured in rose but also available in an equally easy on the eye jade green, €3,675, will turn an entrance hall or corridor into a destination rather than a throughway. You can buy the pieces online from Anglo-Italian interior designer Chiara Colombini who launched her Paris-based design practice in 2006.


Best in class 4

From its launch in 2012 La Chance, a Paris-based design company that produces furniture, lighting, accessories, rugs and wallpaper, has looked back to the art deco period, a style born in France in 1925, and put a modern riff on this now classic era. Many of its pieces have been much copied, in particular its Bolt stool and Salute side tables – imitation being the greatest form of flattery.


Sorciere wall sconces have been inspired by the ritual Ngil masks of the Fang tribe in Gabon and are more like sculptures than mere illumination. Designed by Marta Bakowski in 2016 the light diffuses through the perforations in the mask to shines upward in a graphic but gentle fashion, changing personality depending on the combination of colours, textures and perforated patterns, which vary in each version. The plain black or white options cost €395 each while the multiple-colour combinations cost €445 each to order through Dún Laoghaire-based Lost Weekend.

Best in class 5

Colonial-era France has played a huge part in creating the rich and textured interiors heritage of the country. The rug pictured has been inspired by one of the many Berber designs, descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa with a strong expertise in carpet making.


The design is by fabric firm Lorena Canals whose rugs and cushions are all washable. Moroccan in origin,it is available through KSL Living, one of France’s best home etailers. The 100 per cent cotton design comes in two sizes; 160cm by 120cm, €165 and 200cm by 140cm, €245. Prices are ex delivery.

Best in class 6

Petit Friture, which translates as “small fry”, is a boutique design house that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Set up by Amélie du Passage in 2009 it works with established and emerging designers who already have their own studios meaning that it offers an endlessly changing range of furniture and home furnishings.


There is a Mediterranean suspension light, £1,465, by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance that is inspired by the weightlessness of laundry drying in the Mediterranean sun; and, pictured, the Dojo table, £1,865, and chairs, £378 each, by Amandine Chhor and Aissa Logerot and Jetlag wallpaper by illustrator Lisa Laubreaux, £207 per roll. All are available from Clippings.com which ships worldwide.

Best in class 7

Eno Studio in Paris is another small seller of cool finds by less well-known designers.


The Vega pouf, a simple round form within a brass-effect steel frame, is a piece that will punctuate an empty space or corner of a room. It comes in teal green or midnight blue velvet, pictured, and can be ordered through Dunville Avenue-based CA Design. Measuring 45cm by 38cm by 36cm, it costs €436. The adjustable Plus wall light is a clever marriage of form and function, and its ability to swivel up towards the ceiling or down towards the floor means you can focus the beam in either direction depending on the ambience you’re looking to create. It comes in two metal finishes; anodised aluminum or black steel. Each light measures 18cm high and 10.5 cm across and costs €217.  

Best in class 8

There’s a certain relaxed elegance about French interiors that is hard to replicate. The seasonal weather, where you can actually spend much of the summer outdoors, helps but it is part of the nation’s natural DNA to be able to put together looks that appear effortless.


One affordable brand worth investigating is Amadeus and includes these outdoor and sunroom perfect pieces, rope-knotted armchairs, €229 each, and a driftwood-inspired coffee table held in a steel frame, €449, both available to order from Sallynoggin-based M. Kelly Interiors.