The tastemaker: Pierre Frey
Pierre Frey discusses his grandfather’s iconic Parisian fabric house, his design philosophy and his favourite lots from The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art on 9 April in New York
From left: Pierre Frey; part of a room set featuring Pierre Frey wallpaper and lots from The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art on 9 April at Christie’s in New York
Founded in 1935, the House of Pierre Frey creates, edits and manufactures upholstery fabrics. Quality, in the purest French tradition, is the cornerstone of the business, which has been built on the inventive and eclectic design philosophy of its founder.
Pierre Frey collections mix materials and motifs, and draw on the skills of master weavers, printers and embroiderers for clients that range from private individuals to leading decorators, upholsterers and cultural institutions. For the room sets created using lots from our The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art sale on 9 April, House of Pierre Frey kindly supplied a selection of its signature wallpapers and fabrics.
Here, Pierre Frey, the firm’s Communications Director, discusses his grandfather — the company’s founder, his tips for creating eye-catching interiors, and his favourite pieces from the auction.
William Hughes (British, 1842-1901), a pair of still lives with apples and plums in a Japanese vase. Oil and gold paint on canvas. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. A late Louis XV giltwood canapé en corbeille, by Jean-Baptiste Gourdin, circa 1760. Estimate: $7,000-10,000. A late Louis XV ormolu-mounted tulipwood, sycamore and marquetry writing table by Guillaume Kemp, circa 1765. Estimate $4,000-6,000. A Dabir Kashan carpet, central Persia, first quarter 20th century. Estimate: $6,000-8,000. Offered in The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art on 9 April at Christie’s in New York. Fabric used as wall covering: Pachira by Pierre Frey. Fabric on couch: Ndebeles by Pierre Frey
How would you describe the design style and philosophy of the House of Pierre Frey?
Pierre Frey: ‘Our design style is very eclectic, and our point of view is often inspired by art, travel and culture. Pierre Frey is audacious, whether it is an unexpected colour or a bold design. Most design houses keep their designs safe whereas our clients understand that what we offer is more daring.’
What can you tell us about the history of the House?
PF: ‘I am named after my grandfather, Pierre Frey, who started his company in 1935 in Paris. We are still headquartered in the same building, near the Palais Royale. Over time the company has grown to include five brands [Pierre Frey, Braquenie, Boussac, Fadini Borghi and Le Manach], which produce fabrics, wallpapers, carpets and furniture. Our designs are influenced by elements from around the world, but our perspective is always French.’
A George III ‘Gothick’ black and gilt-japanned bookcase, third quarter 18th century, the japanning probably first half of 19th century. Estimate: $20,000-30,000. A Leeds Pearlware model of a horse, circa 1810-1820. Estimate: $7,000-10,000. A Meissen porcelain nodding pagoda figure, late 19th/early 20th century. Estimate: $4,000-6,000. A pair of Empire giltwood bergères, attributed to Jacob D. Rue Meslée, circa 1805. Estimate: $6,000-10,000. A pair of Paris porcelain platinum-ground vases, circa 1880, the painting attributed to Narcisse Vivien. Estimate: $4,000-6,000. Offered in The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art on 9 April at Christie's in New York. Wallpaper: La Comedie by Pierre Frey. Fabric on chair: Libellule by Pierre Frey
What sort of influence did your grandfather have on your own design outlook?
PF: ‘He was always surrounded by artists; his friends included painters, sculptors, set designers, fashion designers. He was not an artist himself, but he would transform their art into fabrics for the home. This passion and appreciation for creativity, and for nature, is still present in the company today.
‘We work with contemporary artists from all over the world. It is a modern interpretation of what Pierre Frey was doing in the 1930s, and I’m sure my grandfather would approve of some of the bold choices we make.’
What projects are you currently working on?
PF: ‘We have an amazing collection coming that we worked on with Christian Astuguevielle. It is exactly the type of collaboration that my grandfather would be excited by.’
Your motto is ‘eclecticism as a choice’ — how do you put that into practice when you style a room?
PF: ‘Personally, I would begin with the curtains and rugs. Then I’d add art, furniture and lighting. Lighting is so important; when the lighting is poor it affects the whole room.
‘In terms of eclecticism, the elements don’t need to match. It has to be a mix and match, which could mean Art Deco with flea-market finds, or Christie’s items with vintage pieces from your grandmother. Mixing makes things much more interesting.’
A Worcester Porcelain ‘Dragons in Compartments’ part dessert service, comprising 46 pieces, circa 1800. Estimate: $6,000-8,000. A pair of Saint Cloud porcelain salts, circa 1710-30. Estimate: $3,000-5,000. Offered in The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art on 9 April at Christie’s in New York. Fabric: Tombouctou by Pierre Frey
Can you ever have ‘too much’ design?
PF: ‘To me, it’s too much when it’s too perfect. Imperfection can be beautiful, so adding something that’s not perfectly shaped for the room can add character and make a room look lived in. Too much perfection is just not interesting.’
A French ormolu-mounted Kingwood, bois satine and coromandel side cabinet, late 19th century. Estimate: $8,000-12,000. William IV silver Warwick Vase wine cooler and plinth, mark of Paul Storr, London, 1834. Estimate: $50,000-70,000. A set of four Regency silver-gilt candlesticks, mark of Joseph Craddock and William Reid, London, 1819. Estimate: $10,000-15,000. A Regency giltwood and parcel-bronzed convex mirror, early 19th century. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. A coalport porcelain iron-red ground part dessert service, circa 1820. Estimate: $3,000-5,000. A pair of French ormolu-mounted Japanese black and gilt-lacquer pot-pourri bowls and covers, 19th century. Estimate: $2,000-3,000. Offered in The Collector: English & European 18th & 19th Century Furniture, Ceramics, Silver & Works of Art on 9 April at Christie’s in New York. Wallpaper: Chandernagor by Pierre Frey
What are your favourite pieces from the sale in each vignette, and why?
PF: ‘I like the classic element of the cutlery. It would work with my table setting, which is more modern. The flamingo is really cool, too. Flamingos are elegant, and this would be completely unexpected in most rooms — plus my kids would love it.
‘I would have the mirror in my home. I’ve always loved antique rugs, and the one I’ve selected from the sale is large-scale, in a classic style that always works with any type of décor. Finally, I love the marble busts. At home I have a plaster hand and a marble foot. I’ve always wanted a bust; in my modern décor it would look amazing.’
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If you could only purchase one piece at the auction, which would it be, and how would you use it?
PF: ‘Of the pieces pictured here, I really love the mirror. It’s so elegant. The style is quite ornate, but the large size somehow makes it feel more modern.’