CHRISTIE’S: Two interiors designers, 289 lots, one empty room

Find out what happened when Christie’s challenged myself and Christopher Howe to furnish an empty room in their King Street galleries, using pieces offered in their Interiors sale on 31 January which totalled, including buyer’s premium, GBP 1,753,250.

Full online story here
You can view all the results of the sale here

London-based interior designer Fabrice Bana specialises in bespoke, antique and vintage furnishings. He blogs about design and decorative arts at A-Gent of Style.

Fabrice uses (from left) Moser glass Adela Melikoff part table-service (£3,000-4,000); Charles X ormulu-mounted mother-of-pearl and micromosaic Palais Royal casket (£4,000-6,000); Victorian parcel-gilt and black japanned breakfast table (£1,500-2,500); Part-pile Veramin Ru-Khorsi (£3,000-5,000); French metal-mounted ebonised bureau (£1,200-1,800); Imperial yellow

Fabrice uses (from left): Moser glass ‘Adela Melikoff’ part table-service (£3,000-4,000); Charles X ormulu-mounted mother-of-pearl and micromosaic ‘Palais Royal’ casket (£4,000-6,000); Victorian parcel-gilt and black japanned breakfast table (£1,500-2,500); Part-pile Veramin Ru-Khorsi (£3,000-5,000); French metal-mounted ebonised bureau (£1,200-1,800); Imperial yellow glaze vase table lamps (£2,000-3,000); Ormolu-mounted Sèvres-style turquoise ground porcelain striking vase clock (£1,000-1,500); Tuschinsky-style handwoven wool carpet (£3,000-5,000); George III mahogany corner armchairs (£2,000-3,000); Chinese export Coromandel six-fold screen (£2,000-3,000)

How would you describe this look?

Fabrice Bana: ‘For this space, I created a maximalist vignette that is quite luxurious, uniting elements from a wide range of cultures and time periods. All together, it’s colourful and joyous, with lots of different textures and materials. I imagined that the person who would be living in this room would be a well-travelled aesthete, with many stories about where they picked up each of these items, and have a good sense of humour.’

How does this look reflect your design philosophy?

FB: ‘You could describe me as an emotional interior designer; there’s something very organic in the way I approach everything I do. Here I started with the Tuschinsky-style handwoven wool carpet from 1920, on the wall, and added elements that drew out its colours.

 ‘I also wanted there to be a great deal of movement in the room, so I added the smaller, square rug on the floor [a 19th-century part-pile Veramin Ru-Khorsi rug], on which I put a round table [a mid-19th-century parcel-gilt and black japanned breakfast table]. That allows you to walk through the space in a circle, so there’s a sense of fluidity.’

What’s your favourite piece in the room?

FB: ‘I would have to say Otto Pilny’s Oriental Beauty Dancing, from 1913, which was done in the Orientalist style. I love the composition and the colours — there’s an amazing orange glow in the background, and there’s a lot of movement. ‘It’s quite textural, too: you can see the embroidery in the dancer’s dress. It’s a big painting, which makes it quite striking. I imagine that every time you looked at this work, the dancer would put a smile on your face.’

Otto Pilny (Swiss, 1866-1938), An Oriental Beauty Dancing. 70½ x 47½ in (179 x 120.6 cm). Estimate £12,000-18,000. This lot is offered in Interiors Including Property from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Tang and Property from Bywell Hall, Northumberland and Property from Howe on 31 January 2018 at Christie’s in London

Otto Pilny (Swiss, 1866-1938), An Oriental Beauty Dancing. 70½ x 47½ in (179 x 120.6 cm). Estimate: £12,000-18,000.

An ormolu-mounted Sèvres-style turquoise-ground porcelain striking vase clock, pendule a cercles tournants, late 19th century. 17¾ in (45.7 cm) high overall. Estimate £1,000-1,500. This lot is offered in Interiors Including Property from the Collection of Sir David and Lady Tang and Property from Bywell Hall, Northumberland and Property from Howe on 31 January 2018 at

An ormolu-mounted Sèvres-style turquoise-ground porcelain striking vase clock, ‘pendule a cercles tournants’, late 19th century. 17¾ in (45.7 cm) high overall. Estimate: £1,000-1,500. 

What’s your advice for someone decorating a blank space?

FB: ‘‘Go with your gut. I often like to start with an antique or bespoke rug and then decorate with colours and textures that complement it. But the end result has to be comfortable — there’s no point living somewhere that looks like a museum, where you can’t touch anything. Above all, a room should reflect who you are and how you live. When I design a space, I always think about who will be living in it. I think a bit of wit, a bit of humour, and having stories to tell are important, too.’




Tomorrow afternoon in Paris, Christie’s will be auctioning from a private collection some important and striking pieces of the 20th C and 21st C by design maestros such as Rulhmann, Printz, Anthonioz and Jean-Michel Frank. First and foremost is a selection below of collectibles that grabbed A-Gent of Style‘s attention. 


You can view the full catalogue here

But most importantly, there will also be twelve wonderful objets for sale by ones of France’s greatest Art Deco designers, Armand Albert Rateau, created for his friend, the legendary couturier Jeanne Lanvin. 

Rateau and Lanvin met through the couturier Paul Poiret in the early 1920s and she became one of Rateau’s most important clients. These two remarkable, strong and independent figures of the time started a regular collaboration from 1921, when Jeanne Lanvin established her Lanvin Decoration department, headed by Rateau. They collaborated on prestigious commissions such as the Daunou theatre in Paris, inaugurated in 1921, the interior decoration and furnishings of Lanvin’s villa in Le Vesinet, near Paris, and her townhouse in rue Barbet de Jouy. Furnishings from this scheme were shown alongside the Pavillion de l’Elegance  at the 1925 Paris International Exhibition.

Rateau’s singular and striking style is instantly recognisable to the trained eye and you will see below some of the sophisticated and extremely refined pieces of furniture, lighting, and objects he produced for Lanvin. In noble and pure materials ranging from bronze furniture to carved wood, Rateau’s genius and craft transformed designs influenced by his strong relationship with classical antiquity and Egyptology into the modern language of the time.

This sale is proving to be a great and timely opportunity to revisit and appreciate one of the 20th C ‘s notable design relationships.

Today, you can see Lanvin’s now iconic private apartment at rue Barbet-de-Jouyat which Rateau designed between 1924 and 1925 re-created at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Simply divine



– All images by Christie’s –





A seminal sale in the world of interiors is looming. In a few hours, in Paris, important objets that were the result of a fruitful and exciting collaboration between two giants in the worlds of art and fashion of the 20th C will be,  A-Gent of Style predicts, snapped by fervent collectors. Albeit small as it contains only twenty-one pieces, the auction under the aegis of Christie’s has already gathered great momentum and exposure online and in the press over the last few weeks – The Financial Times’ How To Spend It gave it yesterday its cover and main feature. And it is bound to heighten the price points. 

The great couturier Hubert de Givenchy will be parting with his unique and unparalleled collection of museum-quality Giacomettis. ‘Even if my heart tightens at the idea of parting with these objects, that’s it,’ the designer explains. ‘My decision has been taken.’ The pieces in the collection are all personal and tell a specific story about the relationship and friendship that span decades between the two men. ‘I was already an admirer of his amazing creations, which he made with a lot of imagination and dexterity,’ explains M. de Givenchy, approaching 90, of how this special relationship began. The man who created iconic garments for some of Hollywood’s biggest names — from Audrey Hepburn (the little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is his) to Grace Kelly and Ingrid Bergman — was initially ‘seduced’ by the shape of Giacometti’s octagonal tables. Three of these very important examples (estimate £700,000-£1m) are offered in the sale which also includes four bronze stools and a major white patina lantern that hung in the main staircase of Givenchy’s chateau, which preceded the one created for the Musée Picasso in 1984 (still beautifully hanging with other white patinated lanterns in the main staircase). Giacometti, then not as popular as his sculptor brother Alberto Giacometti, was commissioned by the likes of Henri Samuel or Bunny Mellon and made his first pieces for Givenchy’s house at Jouy at the end of 1960 (he was introduced to the Swiss artist by art dealer Aimé Maeght, he of the famous Foundation in St-Paul-de-Vence), and from the early 1970s worked on bespoke pieces for the designer’s elegant and well-storied Renaissance Château de Jonchet in the Loire Valley, a couple of hours away from Paris.

‘Every time I asked for something [Giacometti] would write the idea down in his notebook, like a schoolboy,’ recalls de Givenchy. ‘Once he started working on a piece, he would ask me to come and take a look at the maquette, and it was always much more beautiful than the thing I’d had in mind, not only because of the imagination [it revealed] but also because of the incredible subtlety and refinement.’

Animals (dogs, deer, birds) are a recurring theme in the pieces Giacometti designed for de Givenchy, who describes them as ‘touching and endearing’. ‘The animal “talks”, his face is made with intelligence, infused with life. Each time [he made one], it was like a story,’ he adds. ‘Beautiful stories.’ ‘With this sale, I want to pay a further tribute to him, an additional recognition which he does not need, but which shows how important he was to me.’

Once again, it is time to see a private collection that encompasses decades of passion and a special relationship but also that captures a special era and aesthetics be disseminated into various, anonymous homes. A-Gent of Style was fortunate to see several Giacometti pieces over the years at antiques dealers, fairs or viewing exhibitions, and has alway been fascinated by his work instantly recognisable by its delicate, fragile-looking yet hand-wrought finished pieces and charmed by the elegance, craftmanship and humanity of his works especially the white patina lights, the birds and of course the doggies.
It won’t be too long before we see these iconic pieces suddenly emerge in another magazine feature or a sale, taken out of a new context and given a new chapter of their lives. And even if the gracious and restrained Manor du Jonchet is strongly associated with its Giacomettis, how exciting to ponder and fantasise over what it will look like without them and what they will be replaced with (if at all).

Art defies time, boundaries and slipping into oblivion. In the great word of Jeanne Moreau (this one is for you, G.E): “My life is very exciting now. Nostalgia for what? It’s like climbing a staircase. I’m on the top of the staircase, I look behind and see the steps. That’s where I was. We’re here right now. Tomorrow, we’ll be someplace else. So why nostalgia? ”

Going, going…gone.

Below some images taken from Instagram of the viewing exhibition at Christie’s Paris curated by Monsieur de Givenchy himself.

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