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Interior Design Lessons From Francois Catroux

Interior Design Lessons From Francois Catroux
Reading time: 5 min

When pictures of Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s London townhouse were first published in House and Garden magazine in 2006, it exemplified the effortless blending of timeless, neutral tones with contemporary art. To look at it today, the same impression is imprinted. Such is the signature of esteemed interior designer Francois Catroux, a world-renowned purveyor of modern classic interior design.

Grand Entrance

Style in the mid-60s was in a constant state of flux. New attitudes began to favor the bold over the conservative, and the unique over the trendy. This shifting state provided the perfect platform for interior designer Francois Catroux to make his mark.

In Catroux’s own words, “school can teach you only technique, not taste or flair”. It seems flair is something Catroux was born with and something he lavished on his designs in abundance. Contrasting historical architecture with bold, geometric shapes and modern elements, Catroux carved his own niche within the interior design industry.

Catroux’s style is easy to recognize – due in no small part to the self-assurance that keeps him from compromising with his clients. He says of his work, “when people come to me, they either like what I do, or they don’t.” Confident in his creative eye, Catroux knows what he likes and what he doesn’t – and one particular dislike is rather unusual for an interior designer: furniture. In fact, he says he detests it.

Modern Design - Interior design by Francois Catroux

“Art Deco is Just Furniture”

That same unbending will has kept Catroux from following popular fashion. While he derides the trend for art nouveau, he takes inspiration from styles that match his own instincts. He shares a love of uncomplicated but high-quality design with Persian architects – a look evident in his famed Parisian apartment from the 70s.

Catroux is undoubtedly an artist, and even the furniture he will concede to owning he designs himself. He talks about bringing a room together – “different qualities of transparency, different levels – in the same way many connoisseurs would describe their process when starting an art collection. This eye for quality has garnered the designer attention from nobles and celebrities around the globe.

Styling for the Stars

His love for simplicity is perhaps surprising when one considers the high-style life of Catroux. Princess Marie-Chantal is just one in a list of esteemed clients that come to the designer for his particular style, first begun with the Italian couturiere Mila Schön who became enamored with his apartment.

Catroux is also rumored to be working on a palace for Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and counts Diane von Furstenberg, the Rothschild family and the Prince and Princess Pavlos of Greece amongst his many loyal patrons. His influence is wide reaching, and he has even been asked to decorate the Fifth Avenue penthouse of David Geffen as part of a creative collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Modern Design - Deer antler chandelier from Christian L. Einwaller

Emulating Catroux

While Catroux may have first appeared on the scene decades ago, his style is still very much coveted today. The designer himself is unabashedly proud of the timelessness of his designs, saying, “The projects from the 1960s look fresh today.”

As a result, there’s no need to add a modern twist to a Catroux classic. Instead, take inspiration from his own apartment. From his design choices, it is evident that quality outweighs quantity. Even in his earlier days, when his finances were far more limited, Catroux emphasized the importance of having “all the basics done well”.

It’s also clear that, while Catroux won’t yield to the tastes of his clients, he will adapt to the building – an important aspect to consider when choosing your own interiors. The designer has always shown great respect to 17th Century architects, and speaks highly of antiquated buildings. In fact, while his reputation is built around contemporary design, he also says “I will not throw everything out to make a modern décor” and explains that the important thing is not to copy the old but to respect the originals. In his country house near Deauville, he says his choice of Chintz décor is due to the “essential mood” of the building.

And to ensure your own designs stand the test of time, Catroux has the following advice: “Achieve timelessness by removing unnecessary things, without being a minimalist. It is about keeping just what is essential.”

Get started

Harmony between old and new is an essential aspect of Catroux design, and is a balance perfectly managed by this deer antler chandelier from Christian L. Einwaller. The look is reminiscent of the Hervé Van der Straeten chandelier that Catroux chose for Lauren Santo Domingo’s apartment.

Marrying the antique beauty of decadent lighting with the artistic interpretation imagined by the Viennese designer, it manages to sidestep Catroux’s aversion to furniture by becoming an art piece that transcends the trends.

Catroux’s designs may each be unique, but they share clear themes that serve as an essential set of guidelines for anyone with a passion for interior design. Keep fuss to a minimum, work with the bones of the building and, above all, quality is key.

Modern Design - Deer antler chandelier from Christian L. Einwaller