Modern chinoiserie

Mr. Valentino, who also maintains luxurious footholds in London, Rome, New York City, and Gstaad, Switzerland, acquired the eight-bedroom château in 1995 and commissioned eminent interior decorator Henri Samuel to make it comfortable yet regal.

Taking the chinoiserie theme in a slightly more modern direction, Valentino installed a decor redolent of 1920s Shanghai, employing sharp lines and graphic contrasts. Down came the pigeonnier’s rickety wood steps and up went a curving staircase with a handmade fretwork railing of vibrantly painted metal that wouldn’t look out of place in a staging of Turandot. Colorful Qing-dynasty ancestor portraits scale the walls, while the staircase’s narrow landings and galleries display folding screens and statues of cranes.

Windows and bookcases are crowned by gilded pediments that mimic thatched roofs, iron lanterns hang throughout, and even the cinnabar-red bindings of the Christie’s auction catalogues filling the bookshelves fit in with the Far Eastern atmosphere. There are 19th-century lacquer chests and hand-carved tables gleaming with inlaid mother-of-pearl—plus velvet-clad tufted armchairs ready for admiring it all. “Almost everything is Chinese,” the couturier says brightly, relaxing in the comfortable sitting area that takes up the pigeonnier’s lowest level. “I think it is quite harmonious.”

When I was in Beijing for the first time, in 1993, I saw a collection of old Chinese costumes, and it was one of the great emotional moments of my life. – Valentino Garavani


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