Joséphine Bonaparte was actually born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pager. Try that as an Instagram handle! But in today’s world, the once French Empress would probably be known on social media and in celebrity magazines as JoBo.
The Martinique-born lover and first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte, Rose de Beauharnais (she was married first to the aristocrat Alexandre de Beauharnais) was renamed “Josephine” by the French emperor. Her style and elegance were emulated across Europe and her influence as an avid art collector and decorator was considerable. Idolised as a style icon and celebrated as a modern woman and trendsetter, it is no wonder she has become today the fantasised inspiration behind a new boutique hotel in Paris.
JoBo came to A-Gent of Style‘s attention only after coming back from Paris Déco Off last month. Little did he know at the time that its charismatic and talented interior decorator was herself too part of the Déco Off’s jury and that they spent the first day together judging the showrooms!
The Hôtel de Joséphine Bonaparte, in its full designation or simply JoBo to those in the know, opened last summer steps away from La Place des Vosges in Le Marais, the multi-faceted part of old Paris. The once 17th Century convent’s new decor was entirely inspired by and dedicated to Joséphine Bonaparte. The 24 bedrooms and public areas are a riot of colours and bold patterns, and an ode to all things JoBo came to symbolise and love, first and foremost her passion of roses – she had, at the time, the greatest and largest rose collection in the world that was made up of about 250 species and varieties at Malmaison. The flower can be found all around the hotel, either as a wallpaper, a chintz and the carpets throughout the hotel which have been designed by the decorator herself.
Enters Bambi Sloan. A-Gent of Style was mesmerised by all of the images of the hotel he found online as soon as he delved into her creation. Sloan’s approach is studied and intelligent but also frivolous and gay. The hotel captures the insouciance but also the refinement of the post-French revolution era as well as the eponymous heroine’s character. Sloan playfully throws bold patterns and colours together referencing to the Directoire style with a gentle nod to Madeleine Castaing too (the leopard-print carpet, the turquoise colour, the gauze curtains…). Walls and upholstery are adorned in either plush velvets, Toiles de Jouy, striped tricolour cockade, leopard-print or swirling swags of roses, some of which come from the archives of the iconic Le Manach at Pierre Frey. The explosion of hot pinks and reds of the Adelphi Paper Hangings wallpapers and friezes as well as the flower power carpet give the corridor a sophisticated and glowing Red Lights district-esque atmosphere. The trompe-l-oeil marquetry parquet and the ebonised and brass detailed furniture anchor the rooms whilst the bathrooms have a more neutral yet impactful palette of black, silver and white marble mosaics. As for the entrance to the hotel, the colourful, flowery, chintzy tented courtyard certainly sets the tone for the rest of the hotel.
Last but not least, thumbs up to the owners of the hotel for having a whole section dedicated to the interior decoration. Not only do they credit the decorator (I always find it puzzling that, online or in some magazines, the creators of what makes the whole venue are hardly ever credited; surely, without them, it wouldn’t be what it is so why ignore them!?) but also they describe the feel and design of the rooms as well as mentioning the names of some of the fabrics or wallpapers and their manufacturers. I like that. A lot.
This wacky but witty rock ‘n’ roll luxurious boudoir has undoubtedly a lot of character and is not for the faint-hearted nor the taupe brigade! It is eccentric, zany, and imbued with history and cheekiness. A-Gent of Style knows exactly where he will be heading first next time he is in ze French capital. The main dilemma will be then: which type of bedroom to stay in?…
And if you want to delve a bit more into Jobo’s life, read the feature Josephine, Imperial Tastemaker I wrote after I reviewed in 2014 an exhibition at the Musee du Luxembourg celebrating the legend.
There have been a few definite highlights during Paris Déco Off this year for A-Gent of Style and today’s feature is one of his favourite discoveries. The exhibition was just on his door step in Saint-Germain-des-Près and he could have easily missed it so a big thank you to Bruno de Caumont for taking him to the opening. We were transfixed. Let us hope you are too…
The Robert Four-Aubusson Gallery opened its doors a few weeks ago to a contemporary creation by Brazilian artisan and designer Janaïna Milheiro with the exhibition Verdure et Plume (Greenery and Plumage).
As soon as he walked in the gallery, A-Gent of Style was simply blown away by the sheer beauty and genius of the dazzling creations around the showroom.
Greenery is a dynamic contemporary re-reading of a theme greatly appreciated from the 17th to the 19th century on which Aubusson built its reputation. Leaves, flowers and rare plants revealing a fantastic bestiary with magnificent birds. As for Milheiro, her creative world is defined by feathers and textiles. The artist produces unique weaves, embroideries and lace created from real birds’ feathers on commission for the fashion and decoration sectors such as Armani, Chanel, Hermès vitrines, Guerlain and Elitis.
With Patricia Racine, the artistic director of the Manufacture Robert-Four Aubusson, they used fragments of authentic antique Aubusson tapestries and chose one piece of work that had a parrot in relief. Once it had been cut out to create four different graphic worlds, the bird gradually faded out until its presence became a fleeting suggestion through a few fragments of its plumage. Each piece, either sewn or fixed with metal attachments, was painstakingly and meticulously assembled together and presented in a transparent perspex box that permitted to see the reversed side of the decor.
Milheiro’s talent resides in combining different techniques with unexpected materials that produce an innovative, graphic and poetic vision of plumage hence her interest in working on authentic Aubusson tapestries.
“I sought to create greenery with feathers that were superimposed on the groundwork and would thus interplay with the greenery of the tapestry, simultaneously bringing to it an unprecedented relief”, explains Janaïna Milheiro. “Composed to resemble lace or textile designs, the feathers are cut out in precise shapes which respect their innate anatomy whilst evoking the vegetal world. feathers and tapestry overlap, echo and mirror one another. The idea of the bird remains but only as if it had just taken flight.”
Patricia Racine adds: “Our aim is not to erase the past but to revisit it. With this creation that glorifies the groundwork, I feel we have attained our objective in a very graceful manner”.
This, to A-Gent, is a brilliant example 0f overturning traditional codes without rejecting the essence of secular handicraft, and at interpreting a new vision. In the words of The Peak of Chic Jennifer Boles’ book title, ‘In with the Old’. Simply glorious. Don’t you think?
A-Gent of Style is thrilled and honoured to be Rachel Bates’s special guest tomorrow evening at Christie’s Lates. The delightful interior and product designer will be in conversation with me to discuss ‘the most important colour in the universe’ as part of the Colour and Form theme. We hope to see as many of you as possible.
Tuesday 7 February 2017
The Hangar Gallery 7.15pm
Christie’s South Kensington, 85 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3LD
Brighten up your winter with an evening devoted to colour and form. On 7 February at Christie’s South Kensington, interior designer Rachel Bates and A-Gent of Style Fabrice Bana will discuss “The Most Important Colour in the Universe.” Design journalist Kassia St Clair will tell “Five Colourful Stories” behind her new book, The Secret Lives of Colour. Felicity Aylieff, a ceramic artist and Senior Tutor of Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art, will lead a tour of the RCA’s pop-up ceramics exhibition, and Christie’s specialist Imogen Kerr will discuss highlights from our upcoming Impressionist & Modern Art sale. Discover the art of top-tier handbag collecting with Christie’s specialist Matthew Rubinger, and purchase bespoke stationery from Armorial, the renowned Parisian stationers. To top it off, Morag Iona Young, a personal stylist at House of Colour, will stage a series of short workshops demonstrating how colour can transform the way we look and feel about ourselves.