Whether refreshing a historical French chateau or a Central Park penthouse, Pierre Yovanovitch has fine-tuned his craft of imbuing historic, timeworn spaces with contemporary panache. His residential projects are distinctive for their intermingling of vintage furnishings and museum-worthy contemporary artworks, an alchemy that allows him to oscillate between the past and future. In anticipation of his forthcoming monograph, Pierre Yovanovitch: Interior Architecture, out through Rizzoli in September, the acclaimed French designer meditates on the art of crafting the perfect sanctuary—and the true essence of “home.”
Home is where I welcome friends and share simple things that give me pleasure. It’s where my dogs Fuji, Kim, and Stella are. Starting the book with my own house is an obvious choice. This lifelong project inspires and motivates me.
Designing it was creatively liberating, yet so difficult. Home is where I recharge and find inspiration, so it’s quite sacred—the design must reflect that. I live in a historic chateau in Provence, which took some understanding to redesign. Refreshing my surroundings gives me creative freedom to incorporate art and design pieces that intrigue me.
The building opens onto a terrace, with a thick retaining wall overlooking a valley. In the shadow of large chestnut trees stands a chapel. On the other side were several 19th-century farm buildings. The abode’s simplicity is tempered by its quirkiness, while harmony between the volumes brings undeniable grace to the whole. The estate belonged to the same family since the 12th century—I was the first person to purchase it.
Last winter, I repainted my guest rooms in strong colors, which changed the atmosphere and interaction between art and architecture entirely. I was delighted with the result and implemented the lessons learned into my practice. The reverse also applies—I’m dying to replace my living room sofas with pieces we designed for my next R & Company exhibition.
Intuition propels me through the design process. The more I trust my gut, the more in tune I am with my clients. Design is visual, so having a good eye goes without saying. I rely on my imagination to forge strong narratives and always start with the premise that it will work. Otherwise, why bother? What often surprises me is how results exceed expectations. When I commissioned Claire Tabouret, a close friend and talented artist, to paint the walls of my home’s 17th-century chapel, I knew it would be fun and beautiful. I didn’t expect it to resonate with our personal history and what has become so important to my work.
A home absolutely needs art. I closely collaborate with trusted gallerists to locate one-of-a-kind works that impart narrative and depth. I also commission artists to create site-specific pieces that add character. It’s central to my work and makes it stand apart. Art is extremely personal so I never impose myself. Selecting art is more of an alchemy than designing architecture or furnishings.
Many factors interplay within a design approach, but my little differences blend into something specific. I maintain close relationships with craftsmen throughout Europe who create custom furniture and lighting. My trust in their craft means we can execute large-scale design elements on an incredibly high level.
I approach each residence as an artist would a blank canvas. I visualize angles and volumes to create the perfect frame. I consider textures, colors, and materiality as I would in choosing paint. Once the main picture is in place, I sprinkle in one-of-a-kind art and design pieces that add depth and character. I create with a certain subject in mind just as an artist creates with a certain brief in mind.
Along with intuition and communication, I need to understand how my clients live, entertain, communicate, and most importantly, what they enjoy! If gardening brings them joy, we make the garden a focal point. Gardening is one of my passions, so it’s particularly apt to my own home and the general notion of “the home.”
Homes are constantly evolving. I don’t know if there’s a moment when one feels complete, but I know when it feels right.