Bringing Interiors to Life with Art

By Rose Anne de Pampelonne

Feb 08th, 2017 9:11 AM

The painting by Philippe Decrauzat on the wall counterbalances the more classical elements in this room design. Photo credit: Massimo Listri

A Parisian of Philippine origin, Rose Anne de Pampelonne has been celebrating the skills of the artist and artisan in an understated sophistication that balances ethnic and Asian refinement with European know how for the last 20 years. Her commissions have ranged from opulent penthouses to private estates in Europe, a palace home in the Middle East and in her home country, she has ventured outside private projects to design commercial show flats and is involved in an on-going nature reserve resort hotel and marina. Projects have been featured in numerous architectural magazines, which in their words celebrate “an eclectic classicism” of which “the result is always elegant and ebullient and often a bit mischievous.” She was invited in 2012 to be one of the 14 designers in the prestigious AD Intérieurs exhibit in Paris. She has moved recently to Singapore and she spoke to SAC International about her ideas on art and design.


To begin, let us try to understand the force behind all art. Robert Hughes, the art critic in his  book “The Shock of the New” wrote:

“The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning. (…) It's done by individuals, each person mediating in some way between a sense of history and an experience of the world.”

All art is contemporary in its time, but the 21st century has become very different from the past. We have witnessed changes in the relationship between the artist and patrons or collectors. It belongs to a globalism where art is no longer viewed solely by its aesthetic values but within its geographical entity like a response to its culture, ideology and history. The last decades witnessed also the beginning of art as an investment, challenging us further to educate ourselves on the quality of art outside the context of its market value while artists began to use the tastes of the market rather than their own vision as their motivation. “The new job of art is to sit on the wall and get more expensive” is how Hughes acidly described it.

Passage area with marble sculpture "Pure" by Benito Tarabella, table by Mangiarotti and painting by Philippe Decrauzat. Photo credit: Richard Powers

Contemporary art reflects the art of our times and living with it depends on the purpose and vision you have for your home.  A museum’s primary objective is to display its art, while a private residence is bound by many givens. 

A home no matter how beautiful it is succeeds when it is comfortable – an ease that its function, its scale and proportions, its natural light and character as well as the owner’s needs and preferences are harmonious so it reflects the owner’s deepest feelings.

Dialogue is necessary whether between client and designer, between the art and the decoration surrounding it, between the historic character, the comfort and technological innovation used.  Therefore, a successful interior is one where there is a flow of communication or sharing of ideas with a dash of risk, which I like to call “spontaneous error” so that its result is not too perfect which is inevitably cold and bland or at worse just an expensive show piece with no soul. 

Dining room paintings commissioned to Russian painter, Valery Nikolaec Koshlyakov. Table by Eric Schmitt and rock crystal chandelier by Herve van der straeten. Photo credit: Massimo Listri

If I look back, almost all my clients were avid or important art collectors. We start these projects by creating a photo catalogue of their art with dimensions, provenance, price etc. so that as the interiors are being laid out, we have on file each of the artwork at hand so that discussions with client, architect or lighting designers are thoughtful of the art to highlight. You realise too that these works may need to be shifted around so it is indispensable to select which sets of paintings or sculptures have probabilities of being rotated per room, so a flexibility is required.

On designing this duplex penthouse in Paris with stunning views to the Eiffel Tower, the only pre-requisite art from the client was their commission to a wonderful Russian painter to create paintings for all walls of the dining room. It was exciting that a collaborator Florence Lopez showed me a Hiquilly chrome table and from there we decided to ask Eric Schmitt to create an asymmetrical table with five different table tops in different metal colours and marbles as the dining table.  A few more paintings were brought by the client but all other paintings and sculptures were offered as my choice. 

Tony Cragg “cast glances” bronze sculpture, mirrored bronze panel walls, van der straeten mirrors, Eric Schmitt consoles and Rapdeche carpet. In the sitting room armchairs by Gio Ponti, table by Mangiarotti, Willy Daro lamp, Katya Strunz painting. Photo credit: Richard Powers 

The various challenges we faced were numerous as we gutted the duplex from a six bedroom flat to a reception, guest and utility floor below while upstairs as a private suite with its reception, office, bedroom, dressing, hammam and bathroom.  It had a dark entrance that opened up into a terrace so we played with mirrored panel walls and a geometric carpet I designed to make this room connect towards the terrace. From the powerful Tony Cragg sculpture greeting you in the entrance, the dialogue of metal energy continues to the Katya Strunz painting situated in a “murky pastel” fabric walled room.  Counterbalanced on the opposite side I hung Tracey Emin’s nervous and personal painting from the Venice Biennale with a sculpture of a “Longing Fox” by Pierre Voturiez. 

To create a passage from the public to private area, I employed the clean palette of a Decrauzat painting with a Mangiarotti organic table with the Tarabella sculpture “Pure”, both in white marble, before leading to the upper salon with the Lanskoy and Yakovlev paintings dotted with Vienesse Secession small tables centered by a Giano green marble coffee table by Polidori with adjusting heights.  

Pierre Voturiez’s “Longing Fox” looks up at Tracey Emin’s painting. Coffee table by Philippe Hiquilly. Photo credit: Richard Powers

This inevitably brings us to the small office but one my client and I adore. The bronze Mouflon desk by François-Xavier Lalanne balanced by an Ico Parisi chair, an Angelo Lelli floor lamp across – its roving eye animating the mat teal blue green walls and a delicate rug by Andre Sornay. The different layers make up the whole but the dialogue remains the same – try to look for the best in the budget, create a tension of textures but keep it coherent and always comfortable to function…the icing on the cake – the Mouflon desk bought in 2006 has now been valued by recent auctions seven times more.

Having moved back to Asia, the new challenge that I face is odd albeit one I am happy to face. I grew up in Manila apart from my early years at school in Europe, but I now sense ambivalence in my understanding contemporary architecture in Asia. I definitely love much from Asia and have used it to the point in France that it was described as “ethnic opulence”, so I understand that I like a past Oriental opulence which in Europe resounds as exotic. However, I realise this is not pertinent here so an Asian Exotic transforms into a Tropical Moderne.  There is the omnipresent outdoor space entering inner spaces, so I have to take into consideration the colours: the yellow greens and vibrant jade greens of the surrounding as well as an architecture which is often not symmetrical nor proportioned to height and volume with tall windows, doors etc.

Mouflon desk by François-Xavier Lalanne, floor lamp Angelo Lelli. Photo credit: Richard Powers

I am currently helping a client in Manila decorate her 1950s house, which was built by an American architect at that time. It was renovated twenty years ago in a mixture of Balinese style with Southern California shabby chic furnishings and the house was then featured in Architectural Digest.

My client has an important collection of Philippine paintings especially of Anita Magsaysay Ho. She recently loaned one to the National Museum for the Reframing Modernism show with Pompidou last year.  One of the rooms we are renovating is a library where the Taga-Nayon (Country Folk) painting by Magsaysay Ho dominates the room as does the leafy courtyard it looks out to. We clad the library shelves and the niche walls in zebrano wood and used a bi-coloured velvet sofa to create a fumoir like atmosphere – an evening room to receive in contrast to the main sitting room which is delicate, subtle and full of light.

Rendering and elevation plan of study with Anita Magsaysay Ho's 1949 oil on wood painting, "Taga-Nayon", in a client's study in Manila. Design by Rose Anne de Pampelonne.

So continues my quest to discover how to dialogue with Southeast Asian residential architecture – to seek a modern interpretation that balances layer upon layer, like the food we know in Asia which can combine the rich history of colonial-inspired influences adapted to the indigenous heritage so when combined with our contemporary “globalist” viewpoint, it does not become an east meets west that speaks cheap easy glamour but resonates with how a rice field can relate to a haystack so we glean inspiration by texture, proportion, scale, colour and definitely art so a genius loci or the deepest feelings are stirred, shaken, shared and savoured.

Rose Anne de Pampelonne