A pioneer of modernity, Christian Liaigre was known for his elegant and minimal approach to design. Regarded as a trailblazer, the French interior and furniture designer believed in the ideal of simplicity. Although the late designer began his journey in furniture, over the course of his career, Liaigre developed interiors for residences, holiday homes, offices, yacht cabins and more. His clientele includes the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein, and Rupert Murdoch

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Liaigre in his Paris apartment ©Claire Delfino/Paris Match via Getty Images

Born in 1943 in the coastal city of La Rochelle in Western France, Liaigre developed his knowledge of design when he enrolled in Beaux-Arts de Paris at age 17, post-which he went on to study at L’ecole des Arts Décoratifs. He was led to the workshop of Constantin Brâncuşi by Alberto Giacometti but left to help his grandfather breed racehorses; a time that prominently influenced his design aesthetic. Liaigre taught drawing techniques at the Académie Charpentier and in 1981 took the artistic direction of Nobilis, subsequently designing his first line of furniture. In 1985 he opened the doors to his first showroom on Rue de Varenne in Paris and established his eponymous studio. 

Modernist Palace in New Delhi  ©Liaigre.com

Liaigre is known for luxurious designs without ostentation that impressed and garnered an international clientele on the quest for authenticity and subtlety. 

Dedication to Beauty and Balance

‘decoration should not be a fashion’ – Christian Liaigre.

In a time of opulent interiors, Liaigre stood on the opposite end of the spectrum and chose to celebrate simplicity and perfection in detail. Minimalism was not just a disinterest in the avant-garde, but a celebration of a way of life that was dedicated to beauty and the search for balance. He believed that modesty and visible restraint indicated a sophisticated production process; a sense of serenity from the clarity of lines. He intended to highlight the depth and discretion that was brought in by the accuracy of proportions. 

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Wendi and Rupert Murdoch’s triplex in SoHo ©Fred Conrad/The New York Times

“Christian Liaigre preferred to let his designs speak for themselves,” said Liaigre’s studio in a statement.

While his earlier designs catered to the French aesthetic, all of Liaigre’s international ventures saw an incorporation of the culture of the place. Behind the ascetic lines was a concept of an art of living that was concerned for the well-being of its residents. 

Made in France

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French Furnishing ©Liaigre.com

Liaigre’s work was based on his knowledge of traditional French furniture and he aimed to celebrate the arts and crafts through the same medium. His designs married the widely sought after contemporary stylings with the excellency and refinement of French furnishings. Made in France, his work is known for its expert craftsmanship and use of beautiful natural materials. The absence of excess ornamentation left behind simplistic forms that were crafted to perfection. His attention to detail meant that every product was well thought out and expertly made; it is what set him apart. It was ‘style without being stylish’. 

Equestrian Aesthetic

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Equestrian Aesthetic ©Liaigre.com

Liaigre’s connection to the equestrian world greatly impacted his designs, most notably, in the choice of materials. His appreciation for barn wood and saddle leather stayed with him. Wood, leather, and bronze echo a palette of natural tones – maroon, beige, white, off-white, grey, or black revived by bold colours. Without any superfluous additions, these selections were tailored to the clients’ lifestyle. The masculine elegance portrayed in his work became a signature. His work reflected the importance of grounding in our spaces and connection to the natural world. 

The Mercer, Soho

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The Mercer Lounge  ©The New York Times

Nestled discreetly at the corner of Prince and Mercer in New York City’s Soho district, The Mercer is a luxury hotel that offers an authentic taste of loft living. Promoted as both a home and a hotel, the landmark Romanesque revival building put Liaigre on the American map. He designed a space that was elegant but also comfortable and devoid of a snobbish tone. The parting of the heavy grey drapes at the doorway reveals a spacious lobby that resembles a living room more than a check-in box. Floor to ceiling bookcases with white painted brick walls brings warmth into the space. The contemporary luxury mirrors the lively neighbourhood and its artistic past. 

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The Mercer Kitchen  ©Michael Mundy

Rosehearty

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Rosehearty Interior  ©Liaigre.com

The 56 meters sailing yacht built by Perini Navi was handed to Liaigre to have its 157 meters of cabin space designed and decorated. He took inspirations from the novels of Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and French naval officer Pierre Loti chronicling their grand, adventurous tales of gargantuan storms, unknown lands, and mysterious islands. The traditional interiors are clad in mahogany, pine and teak and the white linen sofas and Hermes leather banquettes portray classic nautical themes. But keeping functionality in mind, each piece of furniture doubles as storage and is bolted down for safety. The ambience of a sea voyage is enhanced by the African and Oceanic art scattered throughout the cabin.

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Rosehearty Interior  ©YachtingLifestyle365.com

References

1stDibs Introspective. 2021. The Talents We Lost in 2020 and the Indelible Marks They’ve Left on Design. [online] Available at: <https://www.1stdibs.com/introspective-magazine/design-industry-deaths-2020/>.

Boatinternational.com. 2021. The Greatest Christian Liaigre-Designed Yachts. [online] Available at: <https://www.boatinternational.com/luxury-yacht-life/interiors/christian-liaigre-yachts>.

Liaigre.com. 2021. Back to New York — Liaigre. [online] Available at: <https://www.liaigre.com/en/magazine/back-to-new-york/>.

Liaigre.com. 2021. New Classics — Yachting — Liaigre. [online] Available at: <http://www.liaigre.com/en/new-classics/>.

Liaigre.com. 2021. Our world — Liaigre. [online] Available at: <http://www.liaigre.com/en/our-world/>.

Mercerhotel.com. 2021. Welcome to the Mercer Hotel in the heart of Soho New York City. [online] Available at: <https://www.mercerhotel.com/features_ameneties.php> [Accessed 2021].

Nytimes.com. 2021. Christian Liaigre, Minimalist Interior Designer, Dies at 77. [online] Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/arts/design/christian-liaigre-dead.html>.

Vaibhav Gurung
Author

Currently pursuing his Bachelor's in Architecture, Vaibhav Gurung is a writer, conservationist, and artist. He aims to bring the worlds of sustainability, indigenous culture, and design philosophies closer together through his work. A vivacious conversationalist, he takes pride in his aesthetical and empathetic abilities to guide his designs as well as his daily life.

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