Over his 50-year career, Jacques Grange has designed homes for the world’s most respected collectors, artists, designers and tastemakers, from Yves Saint Laurent to François Pinault. In his new book, collector and Galerie du Passage founder Pierre Passebon examines Grange’s multiple inspirations and exquisite taste.
Extract of Jacques Grange: recent works courtesy of the publisher, Flammarion/Rizzoli New York. Words by Pierre Passbon. Photographs by François Halard.
As a child, Jacques was a dreamer who just loved to draw. His school work suffered, but, curiously, his teachers kept telling his mother that she had nothing to worry about for her son’s future. Despite everything, she continued to worry and, against her father’s advice, enrolled Jacques at the École Boulle, the superior school of fine arts and crafts in Paris. He was 15 years old, and for him it was happiness. All the weight of his high school education is lifted and instead comes a budding interest in the subjects taught at his new school: cabinetmaking, tapestry weaving, model making, printmaking, drawing, perspective and art history. After graduating four years later, he enrolled at École Camondo to specialize in interior design.
Jacques’ parents belonged to a generation for whom it was customary to furnish a dwelling for life when they married, at a time when divorces were rare. With the exception of an occasional magazine article, decorating and interior design was far removed from her world.
One of his student friends was Michel-Yves Bolloré. When Jacques first saw the interiors of the opulent family home mansion, decorated by interior designer Henri Samuel, it’s a shock. Impressed by his friend’s house, Jacques realized that interior design was a profession in its own right. Years later, after graduating from the École Camondo, he asks Michel-Yves’ mother, who loves him very much, to ask Henri Samuel if he would agree to take him on as an intern. And he did.
Working as Henri Samuel’s assistant was an exhilarating experience. Jacques took part in the impressive restoration of the Grand Trianon at Versailles, commissioned by the Minister of Culture, André Malraux, for President de Gaulle to receive his prestigious guests. Then came commissions to decorate the Château d’Armainvilliers, property of Edmond de Rothschild, and the apartment of Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, with its remarkable bronze bookcases by Diego Giacometti. Henri Samuel knew how to mix the classic and the modern by introducing works by contemporary artists such as Guy de Rougemont, Philippe Hiquily, François Arnal and Diego Giacometti. Jacques’ job was to oversee all these commissions, of which there were many, to monitor them carefully.
He remembers with amusement his visits to Diego Giacometti. The carver was charming and easy going, but he tended to prioritize any attractive client who came along, a chivalrous move that infuriated other clients and their deadlines. These projects taught Jacques how to perpetuate traditional French know-how by respecting the highest professional requirements and the astonishing know-how of French craftsmen.
Later, Jacques discovered Art Deco while on vacation with the Noailles in Hyères, in their modernist house commissioned from Robert Mallet-Stevens in 1925, with furniture by Pierre Chareau, Djo-Bourgeois and Mallet-Stevens. Life there was carefree and fun. The recognition of these artists began to invade the world of Parisian art galleries, launching a trend that continues today.
After Marie-Laure’s death, Jacques’ relationship with Charles de Noailles continued. A great horticulturist and passionate gardener who has created a magical garden around his villa overlooking Grasse, Charles is also very interested in the work of young interior designers. He tactfully offered them advice. Jacques remembers having reservations about the craze of the 1970s for ceiling lights. “Avoid the trappings of fashion” was his most valuable advice. Jacques still maintains a close relationship with the Noailles family. Friend of Natalie Perrone, the youngest of the children, he is also close to his son Carlo and his wife Polissena, who recently asked him to refresh the salons of the Ermitage de Pompadour, the prestigious residence which bears witness to the influence of the Noailles.
Like Carlo Perrone at the Hermitage of Pompadour and the family apartment in Rome, Pierre-André Maus, too, asks Jacques to decorate his houses, just as his parents Bertrand and Micheline did before him with their various commissions. .
Traveling has always been a source of inspiration and wonder for Jacques. Thanks to the Pahlavi family, he discovered Iran and India, and especially Mughal art, which remained for him one of the heights of civilization.
For Jacques, the 1970s were a decade of travels and discoveries that would influence fashion and decoration. Then came Morocco. During a stay with Yves Saint Laurent, he simultaneously discovered Marrakech and Andy Warhol. The result was an explosion of colors: the colors of North Africa and the Middle East, and the colors of pop art. With them, his universe is impregnated with colors. Having an eye is a gift; having a style takes work.
Andy and Yves were both voracious collectors. In Paris, Jacques accompanies them on their shopping sprees for the Art Deco pieces they make fashionable. Later, his relationship with Yves and Pierre Bergé became more professional.
He had the chance to decorate all their houses: the modernist workshop of Yves avenue de Breteuil; the apartment in the rue de Babylone; Pierre’s suite at the Lutetia hotel; the fashion house on avenue Marceau and the accessories shop on rue du Faubourg-SaintHonoré; Château Gabriel in Deauville and its dacha; and in Morocco, Villa Oasis at the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech and Villa Mabrouka in Tangier.
A SHARED JOURNEY
Interior design is above all a question of teamwork: without his loyal collaborators and the craftsmen whose exceptional skills he is passionate about, Jacques would never have been able to express his ideas or achieve such high standards. By their scope and variety, his projects – from palaces and private residences to public spaces and the restoration of historic sites – are for him so many fascinating exercises. As opulent as some of his designs are, he never lost his love of simple, welcoming homes. Her passion for cabins and wild places is widely shared in Comporta, Portugal, where her style has become a fashion benchmark.
Surprisingly, he finds as much inspiration in a Portuguese thatched hut as in a royal palace in the Emirates. He makes houses like others make poetry, music or painting. As he says: “Give love to your home, love works miracles!”
Excerpt from France Today magazine
Main photo credit: Portrait of Jacques Grange. Photo credit: JÉRÔME MACE