122 RADICAL CHIC
Jacques Hervouet doesn’t hesitate to reveal his design modus operandi. «A wellbalanced mix of styles and a bit of fantasy». The former ad man isn’t selling a bill of goods; he’s a believer. After working for the advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi for years, he founded in 2005 a gallery devoted to 20th-century decorative arts that has become internationally renowned. Galerie Hervouet is a curio cabinet for creating dramatic spaces. The furnishings bear such famous names as Maison Jansen, the interior design firm that since 1880 has decorated royal palaces from Belgium to Iran, Italian legend Gio Ponti and the chic (and eccentric) works of leading 1970s French designers such as Philippe Cheverny, Marie-Claude de Fouquières and François Godebski. The address is 40 Rue de L’Université in a district crowded with art and antique dealers in the VII arrondissement. Eclecticism and beauty intermingle to create a style that Hervouet describes in just two words: radical chic. «The most serious mistake that one can make in my field of work is to create a sense of dejà vu», said the dealer and decorator. «You need to experiment, to shake things up». His home is the perfect extension of his way of living, observing and collecting emotions through unique objects that are both visionary and brilliantly handcrafted. The apartment, revamped with interior decorator Sarah Lavoine, retains the refined aspects typical of Parisian architecture yet reinterprets them with a decorator’s shrewd eye. Colour steals the show, inspired by the hues of the 1960s and ’70s. «I am completely in love with light grey, green, blue and orange. But also the tones and the feel of materials. For example, very thick mohair velvet. Or maple, rough oak, straw marquetry. I can’t imagine a world in just black and white», he admitted. Hervouet’s abode is a sort of cultured, rational catalogue: a body of work that radiates calm, harmony and balance. From the deep blue corridor, adorned by Charles Gianferrari’s huge mosaic, to the dining room with the enormous optical carpet featuring shades of violet, every room is a colourful palette of character. Design masters provide the denouement in this stylistic narrative, from the Scandinavian design classics of Arne Jacobsen to the quintessential 1960s work of Raymond Loewy, famous for his Lucky Strike cigarette pack design (1940), Shell Oil logo and the lickedy-split Lancia Flaminia. When asked what’s the worst mistake a decorator can make, Hervouet’s answer was frank: «Be a slave to the past, the accumulation, the cacophony, the excesses». He continued, «In order to enhance an object or a place, one must first understand and love it. An interior is like a melody. There can be variations but there should be a consistent line in the piece». His creative touch often has a noble feel. He adores the work of the late decorator Henri Samuel, beloved by the international aristocracy’s biggest names, including the Rothschilds and Vanderbilts: «I have always appreciated how Samuel interpreted and mixed antique furniture and objects with modern pieces». The cabinetmaker Jean Michel Frank is another favourite. «A master without equal for his legendary ability to unite a simple form and precious materials such as parchment». The Hervouet hall of fame also includes French designer Jean Royere and Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. «Fantasy and sensuality reach a massive scale in Niemeyer’s work». Hervouet willing admits to being obsessed with «the quality of the work, those details that you don’t see but make the difference». And with this in mind, the designer who influenced him the most was David Hicks. That is, the larger-than-life Brit who created fabulous interiors for royals and the jet-set. Such as Lord and Lady Cholmondeley’s flat with a view of London’s Hyde Park, walls in eye-popping colours, vibrant geometric-patterned carpets, an infectious energy and a glimpse of the future. «Hicks’ work guides me. It’s the perfect synthesis of a dash of British eccentricity, classicism and a commanding sense of French style». This decorator with a capital D.
«An interior is like a melody», Jacques Hervouet said, «there can be variations but there should be a consistent line in the piece». His Paris gallery is the destination for 20th-century decorative arts. But the Frenchman, who also decorates, isn’t stuck in his ways. «You need to experiment, to shake things up». With colour, textures, even straw marquetry. And never, ever create a sense of dejà vu
This house in Paris is a rational catalogue of colours, textures and marquetries