Savonnerie Rugs: How to Decorate in Grand Style of J P Molyneux

Why Savonnerie Rugs are once again the height of fashion

On the cover of the September 2012 issue of Architectural Digest published today is an exuberant floral Aubusson rug in the newly designed New York penthouse living room of White House interior designer Michael S. Smith. Smith updated the duplex with the help of architects Ferguson & Shamamiam. According to Architectural Digest “the decorator finds inspiration in the savoir faire of 18th-century France”. The apartment feels modern even though the inspiration is 18th century France. We can see two antique Aubusson Rugs and several other antique rugs.

Aubusson rugs and Savonnerie rugs share the same design aesthetic, but have two notable differences- Savonnerie rugs are pile rugs while Aubusson Rugs are flat woven rugs ,and secondly, very few Savonnerie rugs were ever made which makes them carry a much higher price tag than Aubusson rugs.

The fact that Michael S. Smith is “updating” his New York City penthouse with 18th century floral Aubusson Rugs, sends a signal that floral Aubusson rugs, Savonnerie rugs and floral needlepoint rugs are the new fashion look that is eclipsing minimalism, something I predicted six months ago in a February 3, 2012 blog post.

As leading interior designers turn to 18th century France for inspiration, John Pablo Molyneux now looks way ahead of the trend. He is widely acknowledged as a master at decorating with Savonnerie rugs.

According to Architectural Digest, Molyneux “has earned a reputation on several continents as the guru of grandeur” and, “His clients are rarely, if ever, minimalists in taste or budget..”.

After electing Molyneux to the coveted AD100 numerous times, Architectural Digest concluded “If Juan Pablo Molyneux had been working in the 18th century, his clients undoubtedly would have included Catherine the Great and Louis XV”.

With offices in New York and Paris, Molyneux’s projects span Central America, Europe, the Middle East, North America and Russia, with clients such as the royal family of Qatar, several of Russia’s government ministers, actors and actresses, and families of prominent international jewelry empires. One of Molyneux’s largest projects was an approximately 150,000-square-foot manoir in northwest Quebec inspired by the Kuskovo Palace, on a property almost as big as Belgium.

Last month a three story penthouse designed by Molyneux in Midtown New York was put on the market for $100 million. A few weeks before Molyneux listed his own New York apartment for $48 million.

How to Decorate with Savonnerie Rugs in a Grand Style that is also Modern

The key to the new decorating style with Savonnerie rugs and Aubusson rugs is to avoid the mistake of making the rooms feel stuffy or overly formal. Juan Pablo Molyneux is a master at creating rooms that feel airy, light filled and inviting. We can learn a lot from studying Molyneux’s interiors with Savonnerie rugs.

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Juan Pablo Molyneux custom designed two large Savonnerie rugs in a Directoire design in blue, cream, gold and red to create a light and airy ambiance in the main dining room of the Cercle de l’Union Interalliée, one of Paris’s most exclusive social and dining clubs. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.

Molyneux made the interior all French but gave it a surprisingly light and airy feeling that is hard to pull of when working with period design. The rooms feel welcoming, inviting and very elegant. Molynuex achieved these multiple goals firstly through his choice of colors- lots of blue with cream, balanced by gold and red to add warmth. Secondly, Molyneux mixed pieces from several different French decorative periods. This immediately gives the visitor a feeling of ease. Nothing looks more stuffy and lifeless than rooms in which everything is from the same period or in the same decorating style.

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The Savonnerie rugs for the Cercle de l’Union Interalliée were inspired by the Directoire, the ten year period of the 1790s that followed the French Revolution. Directoire Savonnerie rugs have neoclassical patterns, such as the Greek-key border that can be seen in this Savonnerie rug. Note the decorative impact of the multiple borders. 

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The Savonnerie rug has two major borders and several minor border bands. This arrangement of multiple borders creates a feeling of grandeur, and yet the color scheme of blue, cream, red and gold feels friendly and inviting. Molyneux makes it all seem effortless.

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The Savonnerie rug has a blue field with small repeating squares which create a feeling of energy and movement.

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The foyer of the three story penthouse Juan Pablo Molyneux spent two and a half years and over $4 million outfitting. Located at CitySpire in Midtown New York, it is listed for $100 million. The foyer and all the rooms have spectacular views of almost all the bridges of Manhattan. The dining area beyond is defined by a cream, tone on tone, Savonnerie rug.

Note how the expanses of white marble floors, white columns and white ceiling create a feeling of an airy lightness. The New York Times commented that the apartment has low ceilings. Molyneux tried to mitigate this by constructing the pale blue cupola in the foyer ceiling. Similar ceiling treatments were deployed in the dining and living areas.

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A tone on tone cream Savonnerie rug and white ceiling was chosen for the living area to continue the theme of the white marble floor and white ceiling in the foyer. 

The 360-degree terraces on three floors have 135 windows through which light streams in from all angles. The sofa and chairs are from a mix of different decorative periods and styles.

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The dining area has a cream Savonnerie rug that is warmed by a yellow border and gold scrolls tinged with coral. The yellow, gold and coral in the Savonnerie rug balance the wood in the dining table and chairs.

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