All interior designers have a house they idealise. I personally have a number of them, but the one dearest to my heart is a 19th century manor house where friends of ours lived and we used to visit them often when I was young. It was jointly owned by different members of their family, so there were aunts and uncles, cousins, sisters-in-law, etc. Different generations cohabited gleefully and they all did the necessary for it all to work. Some aunts stoked the fireplaces in the bedrooms of the guests, others baked cakes… It was the generous hospitality of Flanders, the region I was born and brought up in. This to me was the quintessential happy home. It was a friendly, reassuring world, all in a 19th century decor. I suppose it’s my Rosebud, the childhood memory that explains my love of the 19th century and my conception of comfort as consideration for the well-being of others. I was the youngest of ten siblings in my parents’ house, an ideal situation for learning how to share, empathise … and fight for a place.
I saw Versailles for the first time when I was seven. I visited every corner it was possible to visit. I was fascinated. My love of stately décor dates from this period.
When I was ten, reading a feature in « Paris-Match », I discovered the Château de Groussay, the fruit of the combined aesthetic deliriums of owner Charles de Beistegui, and interior decorator Emilio Terry. It was a shock, a life-changer, a revelation: it dawned on me that it was possible to reproduce decors just as sumptuous as those of the chateaus of yesteryear! I was stunned; I found it extraordinary that we could recreate an antique finish. Emilio Terry instantly became my hero. That was the day I decided to become an interior designer.
When I was twelve, having saved my pocket money for months on end, I took a decisive step and bought an empire-style mahogany writing desk. I started to take a serious interest in art, decorative arts and furniture. As a young man, I went to live in Paris and frequented the world of antique dealers. I observed my elders and learnt on the job. My first real break came from a perfumer who asked me to redecorate his premises and after that I went from job to job.
This was in the eighties, Paris was one big party and I wanted to be in on it. I was twenty; anything seemed possible, even becoming a rock star. Some friends and I started a cold wave band with me as singer. We were impatient youths, determined to become famous in a few months. But after three or four weeks of approaching producers, as success did not appear to be imminent, nor assured, the band split up and I returned to my true loves
see also: Interior Design Interviews