Working in a Dream

Decorator Robert Couturier has always done “big”—one of his first projects was the huge 60,000-square-foot Cuixmala estate for Sir Jimmy Goldsmith in Mexico, and that was just the main house. By contrast, the elegant French designer’s New York apartment is a pied-à-terre in Soho that serves a double duty—past the entrance, there is a gradual transition from home to office, where, through double doors, distant assistants can be seen hunched over computers, surrounded by piles of fabric swatches.

A pair of overscaled white statues of Roman muses bought from the Andy Warhol estate dramatically flanks the elevator doors, which open directly onto the apartment. No space is wasted; the entry can also serve as a dining room, with its elegant Savin and Adnet table, which allows for small dinner parties and occasional client meetings. (The suede upholstered Jansen dining chairs outlined in red paint only add to the sophistication.) When the double doors to the office are closed, this room has a different rhythm, and ceases to be a passage between the spaces.

Couturier’s own work space is in the middle of the apartment, which during the day becomes a glamorous head-of-the-company space, with its Jacques Adnet furniture and Leger tapestries. (The bedroom, bathroom and dressing room are hidden behind discrete curving walls, all handpainted by Paulin Paris.) Couturier’s desk is set into an alcove with a view of the main living space, where a flat-screen television doubles as a client presentation tool.

What sets this apart from the typical home office is the elegance of its appointments—no printers set on packing cases here. Much of the furniture is by Adnet, the famous French designer known for his luxurious take on modernism. In the living room, apart from the large photograph of Couturier by Gerald Incandela and a pair of chrome armchairs from the 1970s, you could easily be in Paris in the 1940s, when the French designers revolutionized office furniture. Back then, all the important design houses decorated commercial buildings, and the elegance of their desks, cabinets and chairs is unmatched today.

The staff departs at the end of the day, leaving behind Kugel, the office cat, who loves all the activity. Weekends are quiet for the rather overfed black cat, as Couturier returns to his 16 acres in Connecticut, where his country house, complete with octagonal library, overlooks a peaceful lake. Here the designer has a chance to step back from the office and think about the future—which includes projects in New York, a large Lutyens house in England, an apartment in the 7th Arrondissment in Paris and a house in the Caribbean.

“I love decorating, but I need my house in the country,” says the designer, with a sigh.

This article was featured in the Spring 2009 Home Observer. Working in a Dream