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Decorators’ Private Domains

Gentleman of the Old School: Robert Couturier

“I was brought up to inhabit a world that no longer exists,” says Frenchman Robert Couturier earnestly, though he is only in his early thirties. “My mother’s life, like that of so many French women, passes in a Louis XV drawing room. My father is devoted to conservation; people from my background spend their whole lives afraid of losing something. I came to New York to escape.” At one level Couturier did escape: he now designs interiors, furniture, and buildings and has a staff of six working for him. But there is still an echo of his upbringing in everything he does. His apartment is a mix of the very comfortable — a divan covered in pillows as though for some Eastern potentate — and the hideously uncomfortable. The precision of the arrangement, even of the most baroque items, provides clarity, as does the absence of color from the walls. “It’s not a question of whether something is beautiful or not. Of what does it remind you?” says Couturier. “I have a very close relationship with my things, probably more than I have with people.”