The tastemaker: Alex Papachristidis

The New York-based interior designer shares his design philosophy with Christie’s, together with his choice of items offered in the online Collector sale from 28 April to 7 May


Alex Papachristidis with pieces offered in the online Collector sale from 28 April to 7 May

Interior designer Alex Papachristidis describes himself as ‘a grand tradition’ decorator with ‘a fresh hand’ whose interiors are homey and approachable. ‘There’s nothing I like more than a gilded antique chair next to a wicker basket,’ he says. ‘I strongly believe in mixing contemporary or modern art with 18th- or 19th-century furniture and artisanal pieces in my interiors.’

Born and raised in New York, Papachristidis got his first major commission while still a student at Parsons School of Design. ‘I’ve never looked back,’ he says of his decision to enroll at the prestigious arts college in Greenwich Village. ‘Deciding to be a decorator was like being struck by lightning.’

Papachristidis traces his interest in interiors back to his childhood, when summers were often spent exploring Europe. ‘My mother took me everywhere with her because I was the youngest child,’ he recalls. ‘I saw all this beauty and this incredible range of objects in Europe. We were constantly going to auction houses and antique stores — it really marked me.’

Papachristidis established his eponymous firm in 1987 and has since completed projects for a distinguished roll call of residential and commercial clients across the world, from the Hamptons to London to Saudi Arabia.

‘I want my clients to enjoy their furniture, china and silver,’ he says. ‘Things bought at antique shops and at auction are meant to be used: they should become part of your everyday life.’

Accessories such as flowers and plants are fundamental to the overall effect the designer strives to create. ‘They make the difference between a house feeling personal and a house feeling commercial,’ he says. ‘They bring an interior to life and make it feel loved and lived in.’

Papachristidis has curated the online Collector sale from 28 April to 7 May, creating a series of vignettes with pieces from the auction. His creative vision was shaped by a desire to make strong 19th-century pieces feel relevant and stylish.

Splashing modern, youthful colours on the walls and investing in bright, vibrant fabrics is a way of doing just that, he says. ‘It’s important to remember that antiques can still look new. A little bit of upholstery can go a long way.’

Among the treasures coming to auction are a 19th-century French ormolu, verde antico and Siena marble clock (above left) and a striking late Louis XV mantel clock (above right), featuring a magnificent gilded lion.‘They are real beauties,’ says the designer of the two antique timepieces. ‘I love things that have a dual purpose: not only is a clock a beautiful object, but it’s also something that you can use.’

Papachristidis also admires a set of gilded Italian dining chairs and the sculptural form of a pair of Italian commodes, pictured below. He’s particularly taken, though, by a group of Grand Tour souvenirs. ‘I love the confluence of travel and history,’ he says. ‘I think these objects add such a wonderful layer to a room.’

For Papachristidis, the hunt for storied relics is one of the most exciting parts of the decorating process. ‘I love finding, I love discovering and then I love bringing pieces all together,’ he says. ‘The best thing about doing this is that at the end of it, your clients live in a way that they never would have lived without you.’

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The designer also underlines the environmental benefit of buying at auction. ‘In a world where everybody is striving to be more sustainable, buying antiques is the best thing you can do,’ he says. ‘You’re not making a new piece of furniture. You’re taking something old and you’re re-using it.’

And, of course, there's the added bonus of exquisite craftsmanship. ‘You just don’t find the quality today that you had in the past,’ he notes. ‘Antiques have stood the test of time for a reason.’

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