The tastemaker: Peter Copping

The British fashion designer — who has just launched a homeware brand inspired by his French estate, La Carlière — is curating The Collector sales. We asked artist S.J. Axelby to reimagine the manor’s interiors with Copping’s favourite lots


Left: Portrait of Peter Copping. © Billal Taright. Right: Le petit salon at La Carlière. Painting by @sjaxelby. Inspired by photography of La Carlière by ©Billal Taright 

Peter Copping is one of fashion’s most influential figures. The British designer started his career with Christian Lacroix before taking on senior creative roles at Sonia Rykiel, Louis Vuitton and Nina Ricci.

In 2014 he was handpicked by Oscar de la Renta to become his successor.

‘I think my approach to femininity is what appealed to Oscar,’ Copping says over Zoom from his country estate in Normandy. ‘I think he thought I could follow his aesthetic.’

His eye for creative excellence, however, extends beyond fashion to the world of interiors. ‘I think my years in fashion have set me up quite well to work with homes,’ he says.

‘The creative process for designing a collection is quite similar to curating an interior: it’s all about the preparatory groundwork and extensive research into materials.’

The master bedroom at La Carlière featuring The Collector: Live lots 69, 104 and 244. Painting by @sjaxelby. Inspired by photography of La Carlière by © Billal Taright

And Copping would know. Over the past 12 years, the designer and his French husband Rambert Rigaud have transformed La Carlière, a dilapidated 15th-century manor in Normandy in France, into a magical six-bedroom home, brimming with antiques and decorative arts acquired at flea markets, antique dealers and auction rooms.

Since Copping stepped down as creative director of Oscar de la Renta in 2016, the couple have spent increasing amounts of time here, using their Parisian pied-à-terre as a midweek base.

There is a softness and femininity to the interiors at La Carlière that echo Copping’s design philosophy in fashion: floral prints and wallpapers, whimsical fabrics and striking colour pairings draw the eye every which way you look.

‘I love the dynamic of mixing contemporary pieces with antiques. It creates a strong dialogue that sparks intrigue’

‘The house is definitely not minimal, stark or hard-edged,’ he says with a laugh. ‘I have quite an eclectic taste, and I think La Carlière reflects that.’

The interiors combine periods, styles and pieces from all over the world, especially England and France — a nod to the couple’s respective roots.

‘I love the dynamic of mixing contemporary pieces with antiques,’ says Copping, gesturing to the grand salon where a lamp by Hervé Van der Straeten is placed on an 18th-century commode. ‘It creates a strong dialogue that sparks intrigue.’

Le grand salon at La Carlière featuring The Collector: Live lots 10, 68 and 291 and haute cushions on the sofa by La Carlière. Painting by @sjaxelby. Inspired by photography of La Carlière by © Billal Taright

Copping can trace his love of antiques back to his childhood in Oxfordshire. ‘There was a small antique shop in the village where I grew up,’ he recalls, ‘and I would drop in every Friday afternoon after school.’

It was from here that Copping, aged nine, purchased his first antique: a 19th-century plate that he still holds dear today.

‘I’m still very drawn to ceramics and china,’ he says. ‘I’m always looking out for 18th-century Chantilly blue-and-white porcelain to extend our service.’

He’d also like to start collecting 18th-century snuff boxes. ‘But at the moment we have moved on to developing the garden,’ he says. ‘Every time I see one I like, I equate it to how many box balls or topiaries I could buy instead!’

Today Copping tends to buy pieces to fit a particular room, taking into account the architecture of the space.

The grand salon, which is airy and bright, benefits from ‘pale, feminine upholstery’, he says, while the more intimate petit salon can accommodate a stronger, more sensual palette.

It features dark green walls covered with prints, paintings, books and intaglios, two plush sofas in red stripes and a black marble fireplace.

‘In winter we cocoon in the petit salon and decamp to the lighter grand salon in summer,’ he explains. ‘Each room has its own spirit, but the spaces flow easily into one another.’

Both, however, are accessorised with mementos and soft furnishings, including a selection from La Carlière Cushions, the couple’s recently launched range exclusively stocked in the UK at Cutter Brooks. The one-off designs feature tassels, fringing and hand-embroidery.

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Le petit salon at La Carlière featuring The Collector: Live lots 243 and 295 and The Collector: Online lot 91. Painting by @sjaxelby. Inspired by photography of La Carlière by © Billal Taright

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A large Wedgwood fairyland lustre 'Temple on a Rock' vase and cover, circa 1925. 20¼ in (51.5 cm) high overall. Sold for £25,000 on 19 May 2021 at Christie’s in London

‘These more personal items are what make a room feel lived in and comfortable,’ he notes. ‘They also allow you to play around with fabrics and colours without taking great financial risk.’

Talk turns to sustainable design, a philosophy at the heart of their new homeware brand.

‘We predominantly use upcycled vintage fabrics such as antique paisley shawls or curtains,’ says Copping. ‘The reverse sides of the cushions are often in organic cottons, and the embroideries are executed in India at certified factories.’

‘Fashion gets very bad press regarding sustainability, but to my mind the furniture industry should receive the same scrutiny’

For Copping, buying at auction is another route to sustainably decorating your interiors.

‘La Carlière is almost 100 per cent furnished with antiques,’ he says, adding that the English four-poster bed with Robert Kime embroidered curtains in one of the guest bedrooms came from Christie’s.

A guest bedroom at La Carlière featuring The Collector: Live lot 265 and The Collector: Online lots 97 and 98. Painting by @sjaxelby. Inspired by photography of La Carlière by © Billal Taright

‘The fashion industry gets very bad press regarding sustainability, but to my mind the furniture industry should receive the same scrutiny.’

He also enthuses about the excitement of an auction. ‘I enjoy perusing the catalogues and viewing the exhibitions,’ he says. ‘And the bidding itself, whether by telephone or in the room, is always thrilling.’

Which leads us to his collaboration with Christie’s.

Copping has curated the The Collector sales in London, selecting lots from the sales to reimagine six rooms at La Carlière, as depicted in mixed-media paintings by specialist interiors portraitist S.J. Axelby.

Among Copping’s favourite treasures coming to auction are a striking 17th-century Florentine cabinet and a Herend part dinner service, which he deems ‘hugely good value’.

‘The asymmetric floral motif would work perfectly in the country, but I can also imagine putting a few plates in the car and heading back to Paris,’ he says. ‘It’s perfect for summer entertaining.’

He also admires the large Wedgwood ‘Temple on a Rock’ vase and cover from around 1925. ‘In some ways, I surprised myself in choosing this piece as it’s not typically what I’m drawn to,’ he says. ‘But I love how romantic the depicted scene is, and the colours are in perfect harmony with the decor of the petit salon.’

A Japanese gilt and patinated-bronze jardiniere, by Miyao (the workshop of Miyao Eisuke of Yokohama), Meiji period (1868-1912). 12¾ in (32.5 cm) high; 15¾ in (40 cm) square.

Then there’s the Japanese gilt and patinated bronze jardinière by Miyao. ‘One great thing about being married to an ex-florist is that our house is always full of flowers,’ he says. ‘This jardinière would be the most perfect vessel for orchids.’

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Has lockdown revived interest in interiors? ‘Everyone’s into the home now,’ he says. ‘With more people investing in homeware, it was the perfect time to launch La Carlière the brand.’

But lockdown also enabled the couple to rediscover familiar spaces. ‘We did a lot of tweaking and continue to swap things around,’ he says with a smile. ‘It’s important that interiors gradually evolve over time.’

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