Article Originally Published on May, 2015
Jacques Grange is without a doubt one of the best interior designers and decorators in the world. Known for his exquisite style, characterized by a harmony between traditional and contemporary tastes, Grange is one of very few interior designers who received strict, classical education in the field.
He decorated and designed interiors for some of the biggest and most respected personalities and taste makers. His main customers included Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, for whom he decorated the Château Gabriel, in Benerville-sur-Mer.
As a teenager, encouraged by his mother, he completed his training at the École Boulle – a traditional trade school that taught weaving, plastering, cabinetmaking and other basic crafts. He then attended the École Camondo, a school of interior design, to learn the history of architecture, design and the decorative arts. After graduation he joined the team of French interior design legend – Henri Samuel. Years later he opened his own design office at the shop of Didier Aaron, the Paris antiquaire, and he is now partners with Didier’s son, Herv’ Aaron.
It is thanks to this background and early experiences that Jacques Grange is able to effortlessly mix the style and elements of different times – from rococo opulence to contemporary minimalism. “I’m like a sponge,” he says. “At first, decorating is a profession. After that, you can build a style.”
Besides Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé he completed projects for French actress Isabelle Adjani, Princess Caroline of Monaco, Alain Ducasse, François Pinault, Robert Agostinelli, Valentino, and Karl Lagerfeld. In New York, he provided the decoration of Paloma Picasso’s jewelry shop, of the Mark Hotel on Madison Avenue, and of the Barbizon Hotel.
In 2014 Jacques Grange received Trophee des Arts from the French Institute Alliance Francaise. The award distinguishes an artist who exemplifies FIAF’s mission of French-American friendship and cross-cultural exchange. It has been bestowed upon French and American artists and cultural icons, including Alain Ducasse, Marc Jacobs, Christian Lacroix or Francois Cluzet.
Grange lives in Paris, in the former apartment of the great French novelist Colette. He has redecorated several times since he moved into the grand rooms overlooking the Palais-Royale in 1980. At first it was designed as something of a tribute to its last owner, with books everywhere, and many antiques. Now it is more of a collector’s apartment, with contemporary art and sculptures, chandeliers in abstract shapes, and a giant Damien Hirst painting mixed in with the 18th-century objects. It is telling that Grange’s personal apartment looks very much like his designs for his clients.
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Most Iconic Projects
For 27 years, Chateau Gabriel was the country home of couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge. The Chateau, an 1874 Anglo-Norman house, sits on the heights of Benerville, overlooking Deauville, and is nestled on 75 acres of forested land. The couple asked Jacques Grange to decorate the 9000 square foot home using inspiration from King Louis II of Bavaria (around Munich between 1869 and 1890), and from the decor of Luchino Visconti’s films (especially “L’Innocente” which was Saint Laurent’s favorite). The collaboration was a turning point for Grange saying, “of all the houses I have decorated, those I have decorated for Yves Saint Laurent are the most important part of my work”.
Here is the story of Chateau Gabriel as told by Jacques Grange for Christies from July 2009. In November of 2009, Christie’s auctioned off almost 1200 works of art and antiques from Chateau Gabriel.
“When Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent acquired Château Gabriel, at Bénerville, an uninhabited, late nineteenth century neogothic mansion, with a commanding view over the bay of Deauville, they asked me to decorate it. This residence was simply waiting to be given a new life and the commission was most certainly a key moment in my career as a decorator.
The very close relationship between us three gave to this project an exceptional dimension. All of Yves Saint Laurent’s decorative themes were quite meticulous; however I was encouraged to interpret them as I saw fit, in order to produce the best results. The main sources of my inspiration were the film sets of Luchino Visconti, more precisely that of “L’Innocente”, as well as the ambiance and atmosphere that were present in the numerous castles created by Ludwig II of Bavaria. The imposing ‘portières’ and curtains made from thick, opulent fabrics, formed a perfect contrast with the Napoleon III furniture and other unusual and fantastic objets d’art.
This was indeed, quite similar to the way in which the Viscount and Viscountess de Noailles, the Rothschilds and Princess Mathilde, all decorated their properties, punctuated with an abundant use of plants and flowers, which rendered their homes both unique and enchanting. The living rooms all had a certain cinematographic and artistic quality to them, along with a mural representing Monet’s Nymphéas, with the decoration in the bedrooms inspired by characters taken from Marcel Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu.
Two years later and after much effort to find extraordinary objects, driven by Pierre Bergé the house was finally ready. The park, which was designed by Franz Baecheler include both rose and Japanese gardens, a lake and a potager. Since then was added a checkerboard of topiary pushing up between sculptures of François-Xavier Lalanne. As I said to a journalist from the New York Times in 2005: “Of all the houses I have decorated, those I have decorated for Yves Saint Laurent are the most important part of my work”.
Afterward mentioning Château Gabriel I added: “I love this place. It is unbelievable, extraordinary. I would like to dismantle it all and spirit it away.” I do hope that each and every one of these pieces, which were chosen with such a fervent passion, will give to each collector, the same pleasure that they gave to us.”
The Mark Hotel in New York
The Mark combines the luxury of old-world comfort, avant-garde design, up-to-the-minute technologies and an unprecedented level of personal service to create the finest five-star hotel of the 21st-century.
The Mark turned to renowned French designer Jacques Grange, whose clients have included some of the world’s greatest and most exacting style-setters, among them Yves St. Laurent, Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld and Caroline, Princess of Monaco.
Equally adept at creating grand spaces of striking modernity and theatrical effect, as well as serene havens of quiet luxury, Grange was the perfect man to re-imagine The Mark’s design. Here in NYC, he has unleashed the full range of his talents, creating public spaces that engage and delight, and private 5 star hotel rooms and suites that calm and soothe.
In addition to selecting and designing custom furnishings, he collaborated with the Parisian design gallerist Pierre Passebon to commission a host of objets d’art, furniture and lighting fixtures, specially created for the hotel by renowned artists and artisans, including Ron Arad, Vladimir Kagan, Mattia Bonetti, Paul Mathieu, Eric Schmitt, Rachel Howard, Todd Eberle, Karl Lagerfeld, among others.
People about Jacques Grange
His rooms have an optimistic elegance, as if his clients got rich but stayed bohemian. Mr. Grange is one of the inventors of this taste, which, while French in origin, is completely unlimited in terms of the cultures and periods it references. David Netto, The Wall Street Journal, 2011
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Inspiring Thoughts from Jacques Grange
I don’t like anything too shiny, too gold-y, too bling-bling. I love the balance between the very simple and the very sophisticated.
I think the people select you because they recognize something of themselves in you. If people don’t understand what you’re doing, they don’t select you. It’s like a love, no?
That’s the influence of New York — the modernity, the creation. I’m more protective in Paris, more traditional, but I’m more open to being modern in America.
Receiving an award can feel somehow abstract. However, being on the stage, and seeing my friends and colleagues brought a lot of warmth to the moment. As you know, during the evening, there was a video in which the actress Catherine Deneuve spoke about our friendship, and my career … That instant really touched me. Feeling the love of so many people who I hold dear made the difference, that love ultimately made the moment unforgettable. It was not so much about the trophy and its significance, but it was more about the people’s acknowledgement.
Building a design career is not just about having talents. Many people have talents, but the designer need to go further than that. The role of the designer is to input psychology into their work, as well as showing respect to the clients. You need to convince them of your ideas, as well as to carefully listen to theirs. If you know who you are, you will have a successful career.
“Yves deepened my knowledge of colour, sharpened my perception of it. But I am also amazed by the unbelievable number of objects, pieces of furniture, paintings, tapestries, carpets and drawing and sculpture to come into Yves and Pierre’s hands, which they managed to hang on to, because we are talking about true collectors who collect with a concern for literacy and historical knowledge and also a taste for excellence and for sharing. Their homes seem to be haunted by countless story book characters.” – says Jacques Grange about his collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge.