Legendary French interior designer Christian Liaigre, known as the “great minimalist”, has passed away at 77.
The creative director and founder of the design studio Liaigre, in his 35 years of work, designed homes for icons like Rupert Murdoch and Calvin Klein. He died on Wednesday 2 September and Liaigre’s studio took to Instagram to announce the passing.
Liaigre was known for his clean aesthetic vocabulary at a time when bodacious designs were in vogue. His luxurious, stark designs attracted a large international audience and were seen for their originality when he came up in the 1980s.
“Christian Liaigre preferred to let his designs speak for themselves,” said Liaigre’s studio on their Instagram post, adding, “He created furniture and objects that reflected his dedication to beauty, a search for balance, and accuracy for proportions and perfection in detail.”
“His origins, his background, and his passion for riding horses and the equestrian world were shown through a simple and fluidic design style enhanced by the high quality of his favorite materials: wood, leather, and bronze.”
Christian Liaigre, born in 1943 in La Rochelle, a seaport city in southwestern France, studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and the École des arts décoratifs. But his love for horses took him to his grandfather to help him breed racehorses. After designing a collection of cabinets in 1981, he established his studio in 1985 and opened up his first store on Rue de Varenne in Paris.
Liaigre initially started making furniture and then gradually designed entire interiors for holiday homes, residences, and even interiors of private jets and yachts. A guru in modern minimalism, Liaigre’s perfectly proportioned designs led to the likes of Larry Gagosian, Bryan Adams, and Karl Lagerfeld seeking him out while on the quest for original, high-quality, French craft furniture. His preference to work largely with private clients is clear because he had few public-facing projects. His public projects such as the 1990 overhaul of Paris’ Hotel Montalembert, and 1997 revamp of New York’s Mercer Hotel substantiate that they knew him on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Surrounded by the best craftsmen, he imagined and delivered spaces that expressed simplicity, sincerity, a modern and timeless style, alongside natural attention to wellbeing,” said his studio.
His keen sense of light and its influence on space, inspiration from local cultures and traditions, his meticulous research of the perfect materials for his furniture, coupled with his affinity towards artisanal work, Liaigre combined the art of subtle expression with great elegance. Liaigre believed that interior architecture and design should not depend on the latest fads and trends but embody timelessness, tranquil beauty, and subtle luxury. His ideology derived from the belief that comfort does not lie in trivial affluence but delicacy and rareness. His admiration for arts and minimalistic designs led to the highly sought after and copied Christian Liaigre Signature; one of the unique styles over the last three decades.
His influence from the equestrian world could identify a few of the first creations that Liaigre made. The functionality and simplicity are enhanced by the cabinetmaker and saddler using his traditional knowledge, reflecting the comfort and subtle elegance of a masculine world. His influence from Giacometti’s bronze and plasters, Brancusi’s endless column, the minimal American art, the radicalism of primitive African and Oceanic arts naturally made him the preferred choice for an interior designer amongst many art collectors, designing interiors and furniture that blended and complemented their key collections.
As Christian Liaigre’s studio grew well into the third decade, Liaigre, concerned about the continuation of his heritage, set up a creative and managerial transition in his studio in 2009. Promoting his long-time collaborator and associate Frauke Meyer in 2014 as the creative director of the studio, Liaigre parted ways with the firm in 2016 to take time to himself and his wife and son. Meyer and the studio under her creative leadership have been faithful to the pure spirit characteristic of Liaigre. Her interiors reflect both a rigorous design and special consideration for functions.
When studio Liaigre posted the news on Instagram, tributes poured in from anyone who had met, worked with, or influenced the iconic designer. Designer Ronan Bouroullec commented, “He was so gentle, so simple and nice with me. Someone formidable.” Bouroullec recalled meeting Liaigre at L’ecole des Arts Décoratifs where Liaigre showed interest in one of his early furniture models. Hotelier Ian Schrager also commented, “The world is less without him. To me, he was the best and most talented designer in the world.” Adding, “His taste and style was unmatched, and his refined simplicity and elegance stood above everybody else. There is only Christian and no one else.”
Remembering Christian Liaigre, Elle Decor ran an article with many close friends and interior design luminaries expressed their tribute to him. “Christian was a dear friend and a lovely soul with incredible taste. We will miss him and his genius, but his work will endure far beyond his lifetime. My family is fortunate to live in a home he designed everyday. Thank you, Christian.” Said Wendi Murdoch. Lee F. Mindel, the New York-based architect wrote, “Never distracted by pyrotechnics, he created spaces and the components of spaces that stand the test of time. We all still look up to him and thank him for his stewardship and understanding of what’s important—and above all, what’s human.”
Vincent Van Duysen, the Belgian architect, celebrated the life of Liaigre on Instagram, revealing he had been a fan of the late designer’s work since the end of the 80s. “Since then, he’s been a great source of inspiration to me, not only as a creative mind but also as an overall stylish yet humble human being.”
As stated on their website, Liaigre’s studio, under the leadership of CEO Christophe Caillaud and creative director Frauke Meyer, enters a new era and continues to design luxury homes, ships, and yachts in Europe, USA, Asia, and around the world.