Legend of French decoration, François Catroux passed away this weekend. Return on a course and a style with timeless elegance through some images of its Parisian interior. Mischievous eyes, hieratic profile, silvery mane, the character emanated an undeniable charm. With a rare courtesy punctuated by a touch of distance, François Catroux seemed to float, as in weightlessness. With his timeless elegance, the man had reigned over French Haute decoration since the 1960s. CovetED brings you some of the best moments of the french designer.
The name of François Catroux made the front pages of decoration newspapers from the 1960s to 2000s, but also in social gazettes. To François Catroux was eternally linked his wife Betty, the androgynous model with blonde hair, the friend and muse of Yves Saint Laurent, whom she had met in 1967 (the YSL museum in Paris is currently devoting an exhibition, which has just been extended).
Grandson of General Catroux, this colourfast Parisian grew up in Algeria. When he started out as a New York-based journalist, Hélène Lazareff commissioned him to report on apartments for Elle magazine. He then made a primordial encounter in the person of the architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005). This disciple of Mies van der Rohe makes him discover the infinite games between volumes and light which will become a constant in his approach.
Another major influence for François Catroux, the decorator Charles Sévigny, who associates with a lot of spirits the contemporary furniture of Knoll with well-chosen antiques. It was through the creation of his own apartment on the Quai de Béthune in 1967 where modernism, comfort and tradition define a new form of elegance that François Catroux immediately imposed himself.
In 1968, its minimal futuristic arrangement of the salons of the seamstress Mila Schön in Milan made the cover of L’Œil, a highly influential art magazine at the time. François Catroux is definitely launched, success will never leave him. He creates for a handpicked clientele. Rothschild, Van Zuylen, dos Santos … long is the list of beautiful people to order apartments, villas, yachts or jets from him. His wife’s unwavering friendship for Yves Saint Laurent, of whom she will be the muse, further reinforces the aura of glamour inherent in this devastatingly beautiful couple.
Since 2000, his natural inspiration for the contemporary and even the avant-garde has taken over and opened up the work of a new generation of clients, sometimes even the children of his first sponsors. With a keen eye, experience and curiosity always present, he worked until the end of his life on exceptional sites, driven by his passion for timeless chic interiors.
Strong and graphic objects, highly structured spaces, fluid arrangements, soft tones, and silky textures had become his hallmark, the mark of his style, the very essence. of his art. Its Parisian interior with sinuous lines – mixing pieces by Ron Arad with sofas by Vladimir Kagan and Jean Royère – is the perfect illustration of this.
Catroux’s coveted style, which encompassed not only electrifying contemporary gestures but also sumptuous traditional takes that client Diane von Furstenberg described as “grand cosiness,” grew out of his early career scouting interiors for magazine articles. His was a seasoned journalistic eye, seeking out the new while, at the same time, subconsciously honing his own aesthetic vision, a catholic approach which admitted the most rigorous metal mantel as it did a magnificent piece of André Boulle furniture from the 17th century or a Senufo bird sculpture. As the self-taught designer told a newspaper reporter on a visit to New York City in 1970, “I am just resting and observing but of course careful observing is a kind of work.”
In addition to his wife—who once called him “an immensely talented man with a heart of gold”—Catroux is survived by their daughters, Flammarion editor Maxime Catroux and Christian Dior executive Daphné Catroux (Countess Charles-Antoine Morand), and two grandchildren.
“François was an encyclopedic decorator, and in a funny way, that counted against him in being understood properly,” Netto continues, adding that some of his hero’s most astounding work was the design of private jets and yachts for the likes of retail mogul Leslie Wexner and others. “They used to say that Picasso was a genius with no message, and like him, François evaded categorization for many years. It’s hard to say what he’ll be remembered for other than good work—which is all he wanted to do.”
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