As we showcase the electic taste, acute eye and signature style of interior designer Muriel Brandolini, the decorator shares with us her vision for living.
“My world is characterised by fantasy…and freedom,” explains the renowned interior decorator Muriel Brandolini of both a new book and a forthcoming Phillips de Pury auction that share the title The World of Muriel Brandolini. Though not related to the auction, it was the tome on her life and work that inspired the sale that will take place on October 21 in New York. As she writes in the foreword to the auction catalogue: “One morning in December, thinking about my book launch, it struck me that now would be a wonderful time to have an auction of my collection, acquired during a lifetime of travel.”
Travel, along with an uncanny ability to mix objects from different periods and an acute eye for inherently beautiful proportions, is what defines the work of Brandolini. Born in Vietnam and with roots in Venezuela and France, Brandolini arrived in New York as a fashion stylist before accidentally ending up working in interior design. As her new Rizzoli volume showcases, Brandolini’s interiors are rooted in multi-cultural eclecticism, mixing her favourite contemporary designers such as Ron Arad and Martin Szekely with simple pieces such as bamboo furniture. And whether it is a sophisticated Manhattan penthouse or an airy Southampton beach house, Brandolini’s rooms always feature a generous sprinkling of antique artefacts that were sourced on her travels.
Being such an ardent acquirer of beautiful objects is what led Brandolini to schedule an appointment with friend and auctioneer Simon de Pury (“I was instantly thrilled by her idea,” de Pury comments). Like the images in her books, the auction at Phillips de Pury is equally as eclectic, featuring objects as diverse as a lamp by cutting edge designers Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, Victorian chesterfield sofas, and pieces of her own design, all of which will be conjured into Brandolini-designed living spaces at the auction house’s showroom in the week before the sale. Her ability to combine wildly different eras and genres with balance is why Brandolini is often cited as one of the world’s great arbiters of good taste (or, in the words of American Vogue, “a “visionary decorator”).
With an established name and reputation, what does Brandolini want to achieve with The World of Muriel Brandolini? “My aim for this sale and exhibition is to transport people into my dream world,” she says. “My hope is that they realize that there are no rule to follow and that a great design piece is great no matter the era or designer…what matters is its beauty and integrity.”
“To say that Muriel is a highly determined person is an understatement. She knows exactly what she wants and how to implement it. She has created for herself, her friends and her clients a style all her own combined by mixing elements from all periods and origins. The result is highly sophisticated, refined and beautiful.”
- Simon de Pury
“It is impossible to define Muriel’s style, and it doesn’t matter. Her vision follows no code, and has no limits…she is a singular woman, and a singular interior decorator.”
- Franca Sozzani, Editor of Italian Vogue
Muriel Brandolini’s definition of luxury?
A night of restful sleep under a cashmere blanket.
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
The Nam Hai in Vietnam.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
To spend an hour with David Shaffer.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
Marie Antoinette’s Versailles…
More than simply eclecticism, your work is defined in part by objects of beauty, irrespective of period or designer. How do you go about combining them?
When I select pieces it is not a deeply analytical process - one could almost say that it is love at first sight! I believe that great design remains great - no matter the era, designer, culture etc. I mix pieces that I am attracted to for their shape, texture, material, and color.
How would you define beauty?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our memories and experiences shape how we define it.
Which do you consider to be your most successful decorating projects?
That is difficult to answer - I would not consider one project more successful than the rest. The mark of success for me is for the client to feel happy and protected in their home. Each project is my portrait of the couple.
Which are your favourite pieces from the Phillips de Pury auction – the ones that you might consider bidding on if you weren’t selling them already?!
Again, I can’t choose only one! I loved and still love them all. I am simply not a collector to put things in storage – I want to enjoy and live with them, or hope that someone else will!
And what are your absolute favourite objects – the pieces that didn’t make it into the sale?
One piece I do not see myself ever parting with is my crystal and jade boat chandelier, created for me by Claire Cormier-Fauvel over 15 years ago. It symbolizes my journey from Vietnam.
Who are your favourite designers and sources of beautiful objects?
Galerie Kreo in Paris - Clémence and Didier Krzentowski have a clear vision of contemporary design. I admire so many of the artists that they represent - Martin Szekely, Jasper Morrison, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. Other artists I frequently collaborate with include Herve van der Straeten, Claire Cormier Fauvel, Francesca Amfitheatrof, and Lison de Caunes.
You credit your eye in part to a multi-cultural background. How much does travel continue to inspire you?
The part of my background that has had the biggest impact on me is Vietnam. I left when I was a young girl, but the impressions have lasted a lifetime…the bittersweet taste of the candy, the scent of aromatic broths and tuberose, the color of morning glory growing by a lake…All my senses feed my sense of design.
Where do you like to travel, which hotels do you love, and what do you bring back?
I try to return to Vietnam once a year. I just visited the island of Con Dao this past March, and stayed at the lovely Six Senses hotel which overlooks the sea. Travel is always inspiring because you are exposed to new sights…the most important is to keep your eyes and mind open. I bring back anything I might find – from handwoven placemats in Paraguay to a set of wicker chairs from the Paris flea market – they all fly back with me!
You began as a fashion stylist before turning to decorating. How much is personal style still part of your life?
Personal style has always remained in my life. The transition from being a fashion stylist to a decorator was an accidental one - but I have kept the most valuable lessons learned working with David Seidner and Franca Sozzani: to listen and to observe.
You are considered one the world’s true arbiters of taste – but who do you look up to as individuals with great style?
Since I first visited her homes in Venice and Vistorta, I have always admired the taste and vision of my mother in law – Cristiana Brandolini. There is no pretension in her interiors – but comfort and warmth found in details such as the painted lampshades or a collection of family photographs.
Buy the Rizzoli book The World of Muriel Brandolini:
The Phillips de Pury auction The World of Muriel Brandolini takes place in New York on October 21