A deeply learned alumnus of Paris’s rigorous École Camondo school for design and interior architecture, Robert Couturier can do consummate period-French style with his eyes closed. But he’d rather not. “It’s a wasteful and vain exercise,” he says. “We no longer live that way.” Instead the Paris-born, Manhattan-based conjurer of buildings, interiors, and gardens from America to Azerbaijan (he’s constructing a 100,000-square-foot palace near Baku) likes to walk on the wild side. With a mix-master approach he calls “sensual, experimental, and witty,” Couturier composes rooms that are bracing essays in contemporary connoisseurship, confidently seasoned with historical elements (rare antiques, hand-carved boiserie), conversation-piece art, exquisite fabrics in saturated colors, and unexpected objets de vertu that establish a patina of globe-trotting sophistication. Being adventuresome is Couturier’s stylistic wont. As he explains, “I detest anything that takes itself too seriously.”
All in all, Robert Couturier can be said to lend a sense of connoisseurship, imagination, and even experimentation to the traditional design landscape. As he likes to say himself, recalling the rich interiors in which he spent his childhood and youth, “It is to both grander and greater ends that one invents when one can start with one’s own past.”
A graduate the École Camondo in Paris with a degree in interior architecture and design, Robert Couturier moved to New York in 1981. He took his first professional steps as a designer at Adam Tihany’s practice in New York City. Within five years he was a partner in the firm and left his stamp on many a Manhattan nightclub and restaurant interior. He quickly established his own practice, which has been recognized in, among other media, Architectural Digest’s prestigious annual list of the best decorators and architectural firms in the world. In June 2012, Elle Decor included Mr. Couturier in its A-list Top 60 Designers and British House & Garden named him one of the top 10 foreign decorators.
See also: TOP INTERIOR DESIGNERS | ISAY WEINFELD
In 1987 while still relatively inexperienced, Mr. Couturier was entrusted by the financier Sir James Goldsmith with what would amount to the single greatest private commission of modern times: the re-conception, execution, and continuous embellishment – down to the last gilded detail – of Goldsmith’s 20,000-acre kingdom on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Crowned by a 60,000-square-foot vaulted-and-tile-domed hilltop palace called La Loma, the estate came to encompass vast satellite villas and assorted guest pavilions. He later completed the picture by decorating Goldsmith’s Boeing 757 (“a flying carpet with a motor”), his double-width Manhattan townhouse, and his historic French chateau. Two and a half decades later, the New York-based Couturier continues to execute grand-scale commissions in the U.S., Europe, South America, and Russia. Today his name has become synonymous with continental and international style and elegance working with clients such as Anne Hearst and Jay McInerney, Cecile David Weil, Fred Iseman, Frederic Fekkai and Vanity Fair special correspondent Amy Fine Collins.
Couturier has contributed to major architecture and design books and, in October 2014, released his first monograph, Robert Couturier: Designing Paradises with Rizzoli New York, showcasing a beautiful range of multifaceted work, from Old World elegance to contemporary design. In his introduction Couturier admits, “I’m completely addicted to luxury. I have no ability for anything else.” He lectures widely at galleries and at arts and antique fairs, and participates in charitable and design-industry events. His work has been featured in publications such as Architectural Digest, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Town and Country, the New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, House and Garden, The Robb Report, and Elle Décor and Wallstreet Journal.
The Most Iconic Projects
Many of Mr. Couturier works can be considered iconic. Although to start with Sir James Goldsmith notable estate in Mexico, already mentioned in Biography, needs to be here on the first place. After that Couturier’s career soared and clients from around the world sought him out to design their homes and interiors: from classical castles to contemporary condominiums.
An apartment in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper
When Robert Couturier began designing the interior of an apartment in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper, his client expressed one primary desire. “She wanted something ultracontemporary, because she had done everything else,” Couturier says. The Polish businessman’s wife had previously overseen the design of a number of the family’s other homes in Europe. “They have incredibly beautiful houses,” says Couturier. “They have one in Warsaw, another by a lake in the Polish countryside, a place in Geneva, a place in Sardinia, and a boat. Each reflects a different side of her personality.”
But the client envisioned her Manhattan home as “the modern one,” he says. A mutual friend put her in touch with Couturier. While the decorator is known as a master of mixing periods and styles, he was thrilled to push his work in a new direction.
Inspirational quotes from Robert Couturier
“It is to both grander and greater ends that one invents when one can start with one’s own past.”
“I give soul to everything I do. That is essential for me. I try to combine all styles, from classical to modern.”
“For me, an interior must match the architecture, the location and, in particular, the people who live there.”
“You can’t pin me down to one particular style. Some people say they can recognise an interior I’ve designed by the mixture of classical and contemporary. I do indeed like to combine styles. That is part of my quest to give a soul to what I do. I feel that is essential. I really enjoy my work and no doubt that enthusiasm is always apparent. I couldn’t do anything else. There’s always a way to make something interesting; it’s always fun to take on someone’s house”, as Robert Couturier put it. And this amiable designer went on: “A project is as good as the client. Everything depends on his or her sense of excitement. If I don’t get along with a client, the project, whatever it may be, will be a disaster. In the past I’ve been known to concentrate on acquiring a particular project and when I’d actually landed it and got to know the client, I wondered what on earth I was doing. And I called it off. In my work, the vital factor is the fun and excitement I experience with the client.”
Interesting facts about Robert Couturier
All his suits are custom tailored and he never wears jeans : The shop that makes my suits is called Douglas Hayward in London. Another guilty pleasure is ice cream but the problem is that if I buy too much ice cream I won’t ever fit into my suits anymore!
He spends free time in the country with his boyfriend and dogs. “I usually go on Thursday or Friday afternoon and come back Monday morning. My boyfriend is there and my dogs are there and my life is there”- he says in interview for So Haute.
What is on his iPod?
“Oh my god I have 19,000 pieces of music on my iPod! I love classical. My favorite composer in the world is Johann Sebatsian Bach. I don’t think I could live without him. I have mostly classical on my iPod but I like plenty of other music. I love Eminem! I think he’s so cool! I like what he says, I like the irony and I like how crazy he is! He’s fabulous!” says for So Haute.
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