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.

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.’

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.’

‘To me, it’s too much when it’s too perfect. Imperfection can be beautiful’ — Pierre Frey

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.’

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.’

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.’

Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week

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.’

Related departments

Related lots

Related auctions

Related content