Valentino Garavani has been called the maestro of Italian couture and the epitome of Italian high fashion. So I was surprised to learn that the decorative style he admires most is not Italian but 18th century Chinese. Valentino told Architectural Digest, “When I was in Beijing for the first time, in 1993, I saw a collection of old Chinese costumes, and it was one of the great emotional moments of my life.” Valentino’s passion for Chinoiserie is so strong, he has re-decorated his grand 17th century château outside Paris in Chinoiserie style anchored by an exuberant needlepoint rug that perfectly complements his collection of English, Dutch, and Italian Chinoiserie objects.
Valentino, the very embodiment of refined Italian taste, re-decorated his 17th century Château outside Paris with objects inspired by the decorative arts of 18th century China. The red coffee table is Chinoiserie, which is French for “Chinese-esque.” Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Chinoiserie is a European decorative style that reflects Chinese artistic influences. The motifs are inspired by Chinese porcelain which began to arrive in Europe in the 17th century. By the 18th century European monarchs had developed such a fondness for Chinoiserie, they had it worked into the rococo style of the day. Louis XV had entire rooms in the Château de Chantilly painted with Chinoiserie themes.
Valentino’s Château de Wideville was originally built by Louis XIII’s finance minister and later became the home of one of Louis XIV’s mistresses. Valentino acquired the château in 1995 and worked with eminent interior designer Henri Samuel to decorate it in a regal style. Eventually Valentino decided to give full play to his passion for Chinoiserie and had the place completely re-done.
Valentino says his his favorite spot on the estate is the winter garden. This large room is anchored by an exuberant needlepoint rug that complements the green English Chinoiserie mirrors from the 1880s as well as Chinese porcelain jars, and coral fretwork in the arches. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Architectural Digest says the floral wool carpet is in the style of Jacques Moreno Pontremoli. Pontremoli needlepoint rugs were made in the 1920’s and 30’s in a workshop in Paddington, London. Some of his needlepoint rugs can still be found in the British Royal Household. He based some rugs on designs by the great American decorator William S. Haines, while others were copied from Jacobean crewelwork embroidery in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Needlepoint rugs in similar patterns to the one in Valentino’s winter garden were made in Portugal in the 1970’s but they were not as vibrantly colored.
This view of the winter garden in Valentino’s French estate shows French doors open to a terrace and topiary garden. Arched windows, wall panels and vaulted ceiling give the room a romantic atmosphere. The chandelier is 18th-century Piedmontese. The dining area is in the far right corner. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
The needlepoint rug has blue, green, coral, pink and gold accent colors on a cream ground and the pattern is reminiscent of Jacobean embroidery. To balance the floral pattern of the rug and the Chinese wall panels the sofa was upholstered in a striped fabric and a geometric fretwork pattern was chosen for the wall arches. Bamboo in the cocktail table legs, chairs and wall panels accentuates the Chinoisere atmosphere. Chinese porcelain and famille-rose plates inset in the cocktail table add layering. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
A close view of the dining area shows the lyrical border of the needlepoint rug and it curving vines which echo the arched panels and vaulted ceiling and the frame of the Portuguese dining chairs surrounding the Piedmontese table. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Rose goblets resonate with the pink accents in the needlepoint rug. The gold fretwork pattern on the walls enriches the room design and balances the floral patterns in the room. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Valentino Garavani’s interiors continue a tradition that began in the 17th century when Europe began to trade with China and fell in love with its decorative arts. In past centuries only princes of the realm could indulge in romantic excursions into an imaginary China and today it is a prince of fashion who has brought it back to life in a new way.