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. 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.
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.