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.
The pineapple has long been a symbol of hospitality in design and architecture and is still trending today. So what better way to start the new year with a token of welcome, friendliness and graciousness and a compilation of images celebrating the now universal exotic and prickly fruit.
A-Gent of Style started compiling images of pineapples represented in interior design about six months ago and this feature wouldn’t have been possible partly without the help of the treasure trove of inspiration that is Instagram, so a big thank-you first and foremost to all my follow Instagramers from whom some of these images are borrowed.
Christopher Columbus discovered the pineapple, or ananas colossus, when he landed in Guadeloupe in 1493 and introduced it to the west on his return as “pine of the Indians”. This beautiful exotic fruit was given as a gift to promote hospitality and welcome. Pineapples were then extremely expensive (sugar and sweets were very uncommon) and were considered as a sign of prestige and affluence, first adorning homes and tables; much prized, the pineapple was often the centrepiece of table displays. In fact, people who could not afford to serve pineapples could rent them, use them as a centerpiece, and give them back after their banquet was over. By the 18th century, architects in Europe introduced the fruit in their work, carved in wood and stone, because of their novelty and value.
Today, we see pineapples not only on facades and on the framework of historical edifices such as stately homes, churches or government buildings, doorways but also on fabric, wallpaper, tableware, lighting, ornaments, furniture and accessories.
Pineapples – Not just one of your five a day…
– David Collins –
The wait is now over. Finally. The much-awaited ABCDCS book by David Collins Studio, heralded as the most important interior design book of 2014, is now available. After months of speculation and anticipation, the publication of the first monograph on (and partially by) David Collins will allow design connoisseurs and enthusiasts to ‘own’ a part of the rich legacy that the late designer left behind him in a career spanning almost three decades which somehow redefined people’s lives in public and private.
A-Gent of Style has expressed in various features on his blog the unswerving admiration and deep influence David Collins has had on him over the years,
which reached their peak when his design icon unexpectedly left a marvellous and rather flattering comment a year ago on his feature of his latest Alexander McQueen store.
Two weeks ago, A-Gent of Style had the privilege to be invited by David Collins’s long-standing team, now the custodians of his vision, to interview Communications Director, David Kendall, about the book, its genesis and its conception. Little did A-Gent of Style know he would be the first person outside the Studio to see the book that had arrived the day before from the publishers (Instagramers would have been teased that night by a preview shot of the final book cover).
And this is what A-Gent of Style will reveal about the book. ABCDCS is beyond chic. And timeless. Everything in this weighty tome is considered and striking (would you expect anything else from their studio?). It delights, surprises and is resonant with meaning. Organised alphabetically rather than chronologically, and showcasing David Collins’s myriads influences and inspirations, this unique and sleek epitaph boasts a bold portfolio of stunning images themed around buzz words and commentaries Collins had written himself.
As A-Gent of Style discovered ABCDCS for the first time, iconic but also lesser known or even unpublished projects – hotels, restaurant, bars, residences or retail spaces – popped up, as well as a great sense of pace and colour permeating it. Madonna’s foreword is honest and well-worded. A meticulous attention to details appears and captivates. Favourite collectable objects such as Line Vautrin, Fornasetti and Primavera resonate with ideas and mesmerise. The palette of colours associated with Collins’s works, principally his beloved trademark blue and its various gradation, shines through and dazzles.
ABCDCS is a unique piece of memorabilia, an essential reference book and a fitting tribute and celebration to a towering and much-missed personality of the design world. No doubt ABCDCS will instantly become a must-have and a classic on many coffee tables.
What was the inspiration for the book?
Back in 2009, we wanted to put together some sort of collateral for the launch event of our Ritz-Carlton residences, MahaNakhon, in Bangkok, and David came up with the idea of an alphabetical portfolio which would take the form of a small give-away book (fifty-two pages in the end) organised from A to Z, with one letter for each page, each letter representing a word, for instance Architecture, Beauty, Colour etc, and one image illustrating that word.
How did the ABCDCS come about?
After the event, David thought about turning this small book into a ‘proper’ book. We worked on it on and off for five years, updating it along the way. David would at times look at it, make amendments, edit it. The keywords changed every time we looked at it. M was for Music then he wanted it to be Madonna [he settled for Music in the end]. But the themes are the same; they were just refined over the years. We were very fortunate David finished writing the text for every letter by the end of last year. He was very good at writing. He was very much involved. He’d laid out the bones. There was little editing to do in the end [David points out David Collins had written a book on hotels, not his own, called ‘New Hotel: Architecture and Design’ published in 2001]. And we already had all the images. David had chosen some of them already and he also suggested we cropped others or use some details. All we had to do was produce and edit the final version.
ABCDCS. Why this title?
Can you describe the covers?
The front cover is David’s home in London. We went through many images but we wanted it to be one of his homes in the end. This image captures materials, colour, texture, a slightly abstract, dream-like quality, which is more engaging and intriguing than a ‘hero shot’, with the usual symmetry. We also preferred a close-up to show details. The image is layered with antique marble, metalwork, mohair carpet, shagreen, silk velvet. And of course, it shows shades of blue, David’s favourite colour. We worked for instance on the gold lettering which was too gold originally and settled on a more subtle brass finish. The actual book without the sleeve is covered in a purpley blue linen, another favourite colour of David’s.
The back cover is a close-up of the hand-stitched green upholstered walls in David’s home.
Can you tell us about the graphics?
Are all of David Collins Studio’s projects in the book?
Most of them have been included. The book has a variety of sectors, residential and commercials, and includes some of the last projects up to the last nine months.
We didn’t want to have a portfolio whereby there would be a section dedicated to each project. The themes dictated the images.
What can we expect from the book?
Can you tell us about your collaboration with Assouline?
It was a great collaborative project. I remember we’d produced first drafts. I had different dummies on my iPad and I ended up having a meeting with a publisher from Assouline in New York and, soon after showing them to her, she decided then and there they would love to publish it because it was so chic. Assouline were very supportive from the inception of the project. We’re delighted with the result. The photos are so strong as we worked with so many talented photographers over the years. The quality of the print is amazing. It would be lovely to see it translated in different languages.
How was the process for you?
It was a fun process, quite emotional of course too, but I thoroughly enjoyed the process and finally seeing the final copy. For me, personally, it had to be done properly; it’s David’s book, it had to be perfect. We’d been working on it for so long. We came close and true to David’s vision, I hope. We think he’d be happy with it. I’d love to do another one.
How was Madonna involved?
We reached out to Madonna because David had always said he’d like her to be part of it. She was wonderful. What came back from her blew our mind. It is a long, personal, beautiful and touching introduction. It hasn’t been changed at all, it’s completely verbatim. We’re very grateful to ‘Muriel’. You’ll have to get the book to understand why…
What does ABCDCS represent?
ABCDCS is a landmark for us. It marks the legacy we’ve inherited from David. It is timely. It is also a way of celebrating the Studio. We are very lucky to still be very busy; we have some exciting projects coming up. It will also be fun to celebrate the book, which was a huge task in the last year. We hope people will like it.
A-Gent of Style would like to thank David Kendall, Jodi Feder and Simon Rawlings at David Collins Studio for giving him the amazing opportunity to preview the book with an interview, and for all their help and support.
– Photographs by Assouline, David Collins Studio and A-Gent of Style –