JAC­QUES GAR­CIA

The French ar­chi­tect and de­signer em­braces the grandeur of the past

VOGUE Living Australia - - CONTENTS - Vogueliv­ing.com.au By Ja­son Mowen Por­trait pho­tographed by Nigel Dickinson

As an as­pir­ing aes­thete and la­tent Fran­cophile, one of the most un­for­get­table mem­o­ries from my younger, glo­be­trot­ting days was ar­riv­ing at the Ho­tel Costes in Paris in the sum­mer of 1997. It was the era of min­i­mal­ism: fash­ion-wise, the hey­day of Prada and Jil Sander — think Tilda Swin­ton in I Am Love — and the clean­lined in­te­ri­ors of Philippe Starck, An­drée Put­man and Chris­tian Li­ai­gre. (Even Anouska Hem­pel, queen of the ‘bou­tique’ ho­tel, was aban­don­ing the ex­trav­a­gance of Blakes for her new, white brand of Zen at The Hem­pel.) Pass­ing through the front doors of the Costes, how­ever, was an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. As my eyes ad­justed to the low-lit in­te­rior, I was im­mersed in the but­toned and bul­lion-fringed world of Napoleon III. A se­ries of small but op­u­lent sa­lons and con­ser­va­tory-like gal­leries ex­uded per­sonal style as they wrapped around a Neo-Re­nais­sance court­yard. The cool tunes of emerg­ing French DJs were played in this court­yard for which, among a plethora of other at­tributes, the es­tab­lish­ment be­came in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned. I didn’t know it at the time but I’d just had my first be­guil­ing brush with the work of French ar­chi­tect and in­te­rior de­signer Jac­ques Gar­cia. His il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer was al­ready decades long but the Costes was a sem­i­nal project. Not only had he taken Napoleon III, what is es­sen­tially a French ver­sion of high Vic­to­rian, and made it sexy and cool, his op­u­lent craft­ing of its in­te­ri­ors sparked a style revo­lu­tion that has reverberated across the de­sign of lux­ury ho­tels, restau­rants and pri­vate homes ever since. Steeped in the French tra­di­tion, Gar­cia’s aes­thetic moves back and forth be­tween the evolv­ing grandeur of the 18th cen­tury (he is the go-to per­son when the fur­ni­ture needs to be re­ar­ranged at Ver­sailles) and the Belle Époque. His so­phis­ti­cated palette, of course, in­volves for­ays into the ex­otic. One ex­am­ple is the an­cient world, as ev­i­denced in his re­cent restora­tion of the Pom­peii-in­spired Villa As­tor on the Amalfi Coast. An­other is Ori­en­tal­ism, at Paris’s opium den-like Mai­son Sou­quet — touted as the most ro­man­tic ho­tel in the world — and in his re­design of the iconic La Mamou­nia in Mar­rakech. There are even pared back (for Gar­cia) touches of Art Deco and ’30s mod­ern at the NoMad Ho­tel in New York, and an­other ver­sion, al­beit more Ital­ian, at its re­cently opened sis­ter prop­erty in Los An­ge­les. The most typ­i­cal ver­sion of Gar­cia’s eclec­ti­cally cul­ti­vated style, how­ever, usu­ally em­braces, in vary­ing mea­sures, all of the above. ››

Other re­cent projects in­clude his first Lon­don ho­tel, L’os­car, a tribute to Os­car Wilde; ho­tel Sel­man Mar­rakech; and his re­work­ing of Monte Carlo grand dame the Ho­tel Metropole where, ac­cord­ing to Gar­cia, the “rocker and the duchess” are thrown to­gether. And then there’s the le­gendary brasserie Le Fou­quet’s — home of the César Awards gala din­ner — and Ho­tel Bar­rière Le Fou­quet’s, on the Champs-Elysées, nei­ther of which re­quired much work as Gar­cia had ‘done’ them be­fore. “In­te­ri­ors are sim­i­lar to hu­man be­ings,” he says. “The bet­ter they are, the less we need to touch them.” The ‘per­sonal style’ of the Costes is a run­ning theme through­out Gar­cia’s oeu­vre but two projects seem es­pe­cially close to the de­signer’s heart: Château du Champ de Bataille, the grand 17th-cen­tury coun­try house he bought in a state of vir­tual ruin in 1992, now so lov­ingly re­stored it gives Vaux-leVi­comte a run for its money; and his more re­cently de­vel­oped and self-named ‘re­sort’ in Noto, Si­cily. The château is Gar­cia’s mas­ter­piece. Rarely, if ever, is the restora­tion of so ex­ten­sive a his­toric prop­erty done with such pas­sion and fi­nesse, in­clud­ing his com­plete re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the gar­den, ac­cord­ing to orig­i­nal sketches at­trib­uted to King Louis XIV’s land­scape ar­chi­tect An­dré Le Nôtre. There is, of course, a twist: the gar­den hides an ex­quis­ite Mogul Em­pire folly — an en­tire sec­ond, pavil­ion­like palace made up of a mul­ti­tude of ar­chi­tec­tural com­po­nents, some from 16th- and 17th-cen­tury tem­ples that Gar­cia sal­vaged in the years fol­low­ing an earth­quake in Ra­jasthan. Noto, on the other hand, is lighter and quintessen­tially Mediter­ranean, al­beit ever so slightly more eru­dite — and al­ways ro­man­tic, à la Gar­cia. The great news is it’s avail­able to rent, and sure to elicit the same won­der­ment as the Costes, all those years ago.

RIGHT French ar­chi­tect and in­te­rior de­signer Jac­ques Gar­cia with his mother, Jeanne Gar­cia, and their dogs Olymph and Leon.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Château du Champ de Bataille in the up­per Nor­mandy re­gion of France. The NoMad Ho­tel in down­town Los An­ge­les. Sel­man Mar­rakech.

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