Thursday, August 15, 2019

Decorative Artist to Watch: Marie Christophe

I’m delighted this week to introduce Marie Christophe, a French designer who crafts chic and charming and functional sculptures from steel wire. She’s a favorite of my friend, designer Jean-Louis Deniot and has attracted a loyal following among the luxury fashion houses of Paris.

Come with me this week to meet Marie Christophe and see how her witty and charming and artful handcrafted and custom-made wire sculptures, often in classical forms, are persuading her followers to lighten up.

I first discovered the light-hearted works by Marie Christophe in the Left Bank studio of Jean-Louis Deniot. He has placed her crystal and gem-studded wire chandeliers in his international residences. And quietly, working in the French countryside, she has attracted the attention of leading fashion houses in Paris.

“Marie Christophe makes wonderful, whimsical works in wire. It’s such an ordinary and practical and unexpected material to turn into something so fantastically beautiful,” said her agent, New Mexico-based Lisa Fontanarosa. “Her Cinderella-at-the-ball chandeliers and her frisky animal sculpture are delightful to encounter.”

Christophe often punctuates her sculptures and imagery with glass beads, crystals, faux coral, shells, and ceramic pieces.

Working in strong iron wire, Christophe, who lives on a farm in South-west France, crafts functional chandeliers, along with decorative insects, airy birdcages, birds, chickens, crocodiles, angels, and other diaphanous creations.

Bees and elephants and butterflies shimmer with crystals. Some large-scale sculptures are light and transparent, as ephemeral as a sketch.

Marie Christophe’s colossal new chandelier, created for Guerlain’s new boutique Cours des Senteurs (Court of Scents) in Versailles, is a confection in gold and clear crystal. The LED chandelier is 7’ H x 4 ‘ in diameter and made with antique gold crystal, sourced from local flea markets, and also embedded with gold paper. 

“Marie has an eye for turning the functional into the extraordinary and every piece she creates is a fairytale filled with wonder,” said Fontanarosa,  who has represented Christophe for two decades. “The wire is the perfect substance for her imagination. She usually works very spontaneously, even skipping the sketching and moving straight onto engagement with the wire. She is able to coax movement from a length of wire, and she convinces it to twist and curl into something gloriously unexpected.”

Fontanarosa observed that the sculptures’ very ‘nothingness’ and near invisibility are what makes them charming and humorous and very admired by French and American designers.

About Marie Christophe

She attributes her interest in design and art to her father, an architect with a passion for Japanese gardens and African art.

Marie says that ‘a good design is for me to get the right balance between style and substance, so that the object organically finds its inherent function, be it aesthetic or utilitarian.’

She considers herself a creative artisan rather than a designer.

Lisa Fontanarosa said she admires the singular beauty of an artist’s touch and especially loves the spontaneity of Christophe’s work.

“I always look for the unexpected, and sometimes what’s not there catches my attention. When I discovered Marie Christophe, it was love at first light,” said Fontanarosa.  “I was stunned by the elegance of her curves, the cleanness of her lines. Marie’s delicate, airy silhouettes fit perfectly in a large loft space, country kitchen, contemporary living room.”

Lisa discovered Christophe in 1999. She was strolling on the Left Bank in Paris when she saw one of Marie’s chandeliers.

“It was suspended from the ceiling of En Attendant les Barbares, 35 rue de Grenelle,” said Lisa. “My heart skipped a beat. I inquired who the artist was and contacted her immediately. I knew I had to share her whimsical wire works with the world. She was the first artist I signed to my design agency, so she and I really started together. I continue to look for others like Marie who create powerful pieces that mesmerize me.”

Marie Christophe’s Bio

She attended the prestigious graphic design and interior architecture school Penninghen in Paris. She studied drawing and sculpture and decided to blend the two disciplines in scribble-like wire objects that grew more complex over time. Working in wire followed naturally from Christophe’s progression through art school.

She immediately set herself up to work simply with wire, as she likes its transparency.

Marie Christophe was discovered by Hermes’ Jean-Louis Dumas at a group exhibition in 1996. Her collaboration began with Hermes when she made a horse sculptures in 1997.

Her work has been showcased by France’s greatest luxury houses-- Dior, Cartier, Roger Vivier, Baccarat, and Guerlain as well as hotels, spas and private home throughout the world. 

Marie Christophe lives with her husband, an interior designer, and two children in a remote historic corner of France called le Gers, home to large farms, vast fields of wheat. It’s west of Toulouse and north of the Pyrénées, and notoriously inaccessible (especially by fast train).

In the heat of summer, and beneath the intense July sun, the fields of Gers wheat smell like baking bread. It’s a heavenly part of France. Perfect for this artist to work at her craft undisturbed.

She admits, however, that her work often brings her to Paris and she and her husband keep a studio for their visits. She continues to work closely with Jean-Louis Deniot and other designers, and often work for Hermes and other fashion houses.

Marie Christophe began developing artistic and functional wireworks and likes working with wire because it is very easy, clean and light to work with. She twists her sculptural bespoke commissions one by one, with a simply a ball of wire, her grip and pliers.

Colored ceramics and antique beads and handblown crystals are added to heighten the piece’s visual with and charm. Her pliable wire menagerie — dogs, elephants, birds, octopuses, owls, flamingoes and alligators find homes around the globe. 

Above, Marie Christophe made a special chandelier for the bedroom of Jean-Louis Deniot in Los Angeles.

Deniot, has been a devoted collector of Marie Christophe’s work, including decorative garden animals, chandeliers and table lamps.

His firm has commissioned bold and witty sculptures, whimsical decor, and a series of custom chandeliers for his international clients and also his own residences.

For the airy bedroom of his new residence in Los Angeles, Marie Christophe made a custom chandelier in his favorite pale golden hue. It feels both classical and modern, and adds a light and witty note hovering above his bed. The custom chandelier has four lights and is shown in black, white and honey gold ceramics.


Lisa Fontanarosa
Lisa Fontanarosa Collection

Marie Christophe
Tél. +33 6 03 22 77 48

Marie Christophe also works closely with the Studio of Jean-Louis Deniot in Paris:

Photos courtesy of Marie Christophe and Lisa Fontanarosa.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Travels with The Style Saloniste: Where to Stay Now in London — The Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury, an architectural landmark, offers literary thrills and tranquility in the heart of stylish intellectual London.

The culture-rich London neighborhood of Bloomsbury has emerged as a secret find for those in search of a quiet but very central location. And it now offers an elegant new place to stay. The Bloomsbury hotel recently opened in an historic landmark building originally designed in the twenties by the revered English architect, Sir Edward Lutyens.

Surrounded by leafy garden squares and elegant classical Georgian townhouses, the handsome Bloomsbury has a handsome brick exterior, a sense of London history, and a colorful, fresh and comfortably indulgent style.

The Bloomsbury’s Edward Lutyens’ grand architecture superbly reflects the refined classical architecture of the neighborhood, with a columned entrance. And a series of tall and ultra-symmetrical windows create a harmonious effect to the exterior.

Lutyens originally designed The Bloomsbury building with the patronage of the Duchess of York, as the Central Club, a residence for county ladies residing in London. The exterior was modeled on Queen Mary’s doll’s house - which Lutyens himself designed for the monarch. 

Rooms have a comfortable residential feeling—more like a private apartment and each individual.

The Bloomsbury’s new interiors were created with great style by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, the internationally acclaimed interior architecture and design studio firm. The Studio has a reputation for creating interiors including The Beekman in New York, The Ivy, Soho Beach House Miami and Scott’s.

The Bloomsbury has put on the razzle-dazzle with designer Martin Brudnizki’s Coral Room. Known for his maximalist interiors, Brudnizki has pulled out all the stops. The grand double-height room is warmed with lacquered coral pink walls and lit by a series of bold handcrafted Murano chandeliers.

The Bloomsbury Group—or Bloomsbury Set—was a group of associated English writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists in the first half of the 20th century, including Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster and Lytton Strachey.

At The Bloomsbury Club, a paneled library stocked with London-related leather-bound editions, is a fine place to rest and relax after a day of visiting museums.

Bloomsbury is a location that invites exploration. The British Museum is just a brief walk away, and a twenty-minute stroll leads to the enchanting Wallace Collection private museum in Marylebone. Twenty minutes away, Piccadilly offers Fortnum & Mason and the dramatic galleries of the grand Royal Academy of Arts. There’s the neighborhood of Fitzrovia, and just beyond Oxford Street is Mayfair.

The Bloomsbury Hotel Architect Sir Edwin Lutyens

The Bloomsbury was designed in 1928 by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the greatest British architect of his time. His notable works stretch from the northeast English island of Lindisfarne to the Indian capital, New Delhi. The hotel building, on Great Russell Street, is lauded as his finest neo-Georgian building and was built as the Central Club for county ladies residing in London. 

For the literary set, the Bloomsbury neighborhood will always be associated with writers including Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, and artists including Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. And the handsome Georgian terrace houses and lovely garden squares of the ‘Bloomsbury set’, as these highly influential intellectuals were known, and a brief walk from the Bloomsbury hotel. The original flight of Portland Stone steps leads guests into the new reception area, an intimate space that includes a beautiful Lutyens-inspired Living Room.

The hotel is like a private home more than a traditional hotel. A color palette of muted greens and pinks is accented with artwork and lighting, as well as the boldly graphic heritage-inspired botanical wallpaper. A Lutyens designed fireplace provides a focal point to the space.

Design Notes

The Coral Room is located within a 2,100-sq. ft. double height space at the front of the hotel. 

Mindful of the original Lutyens design and the building’s listed status, this bar area has been sensitively reimagined. The original paneled walls were retained and given a high-gloss lacquer finish in vivid coral – a color that Lutyens was fond of. A striking feature of the new interior is the five bespoke Murano glass chandeliers, which were specially created for the space.

British illustrator Luke Edward Hall was commissioned to create 36 original pieces of art inspired by the surrounding Bloomsbury area and the architecture of Lutyens. The bar itself features a Calacatta marble top with a high-gloss molded timber front, and the back bar features antique mirror and brass detailing, to reflect the iconic heritage of the hotel and building.

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace quickly became one of London’s most sought after alfresco dining places, serving brunch, lunch, and dinner and afternoon tea. The quintessentially English space, named after the eponymous character created by Virginia Woolf, is an indoor/outdoor restaurant, fully heated in winter, offering the peace and charm of a secluded garden.

The Bloomsbury Club

The Bloomsbury Club Bar has a members’ club feeling and is furnished with plush leather armchairs, atmospheric lighting and rich mahogany paneling, taking inspiration from the lives of the famously hedonistic Bloomsbury Set.

The bar leads to a twinkling grotto perfect for lunch or evenings. The drinks menu takes influence from the 1920s and 1930s, with a selection of original cocktails named after literary icons such as: ‘Virginia Woolf’, ‘Leonard Woolf’ and ‘Vanessa Bell’.

Exploring Bloomsbury, Mayfair, Marylebone and My Favorite London Spots

The neighboring British Museum completed a refurbishment, with plans to open three new galleries. An integral part of the renovation is the museum’s Round Reading Room.

I also recommend walking over to Lambs Conduit Street to find Pentreath & Hall design shop. Decorator Ben Pentreath is avidly followed on Instagram and is said to have advised the Duchess of Cambridge on decorating Anmer Hall, the family’s country estate in Norfolk.

And at 10 Curzon Street, there’s my favorite London hangout, Heywood Hill bookstore (owned by the Duke of Devonshire)…where you might run into the duke himself, or Nicholas Haslam or various lords and ladies picking up books on hunting or wine or even delights by Nancy Mitford. The lovely men and women working at their desks here are ready to recommend the newest books of delight. And sign up for their ‘year of books’ packages. The best.

Newest on a chic corner of Mount Street (where Erdem has his art-filled boutique) is Pasticceria Marchesi 1824, the first London outpost of the classic Milanese pastry/cake/sweets/coffee restaurant/ bakery. Exquisite little fruit tarts and chocolates and pretty gold-embossed cakes are all displayed like the crown jewels. Mount Street is the chic street of the moment, with highlights including Christian Louboutin.

And a must visit is the Wallace Collection on Manchester Square. Currently, through September 1, there is a delightful exhibit curated by Manolo Blahnik, in which he pairs his ‘haute couture’ shoes with paintings by Gainsborough, Hals, Greuze, Velasquez, Reynolds and Landseer and others. This is an exceptional museum for art and design lovers. It’s usually quiet…and it’s free. Highly recommended. There’s also a stylish restaurant in the central courtyard.

Then of course walk back to The Bloomsbury for drinks at the Coral Bar or afternoon tea on Dalloway Terrace. Home away from home, indeed.

Photography courtesy The Doyle Collection/The Bloomsbury

For More Information:

The Bloomsbury
16-22 Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London