French designer to the stars, Valerie Pasquiou, invites us into her casual loft, shows us her favorite pieces, and tells the Cinderella tale of finding her passion.
Q & A by Cate West Zahl
Photography by Tom Ackerman
LoftLife: Let’s start at the beginning. This cool, sophisticated, and oh-so-cultivated design sense you instinctively have . . . Where is that coming from and when did you first leave France to bring it to America?
Valerie Pasquiou: I came here when I was 22 years old. Actually, I’ve been in the States for 20 years, and the last four have been in New York. So it’s pretty incredible.
LL: But you started out in Los Angeles, is that correct?
Valerie: Yeah, I started out in L.A. sort of by chance. It’s a long story, but basically I lost a bet, the terms of which involved me traveling somewhere I hadn’t been before. I ended up in Los Angeles and ended up staying. That’s when I started to get into styling for photo shoots, and then I got into set design.
LL: I’ve always wondered how to become a stylist.
Valerie: So my background is art and advertising, which led me very naturally into set design. I got noticed by a few people, mostly photographers, who said things like “you have such a good eye,” and really encouraged me to start doing set design full time. One thing lead to another, and I started to work with people like Ben Stiller, Sheryl Crow. That said, it was an amazing training in terms of interior design because I learned how to be extremely efficient in a short period of time.
LL: Well then how did you end up getting your big break into the business?
Valerie: If you can believe it, my big break came on my second job. Essentially, for the last year that I was doing set and production design, a friend of mine came up to me and said, “I have a 5,000-square-foot house, and would you consider doing it?” And I said, “Okay, I’ll help you.” Of course, two months later she left me hanging with a project. And then the completion of this project got me my second job, also my big break, with k. d. lang.
LL: This is starting to sound like a Hollywood fairy-tale that’s too good to be true!
Valerie: I know. She had only hired me to do a bed and to design a bedroom. And then two days later she said, “You know what? You are doing the house.” So it was very natural. I never really pitch any people for my work. It’s really all about the chemistry you have with your client. It starts with trust, just like a new relationship. You are basically deciding to get married to this person for duration of this project.
LL: So the relationship really does matter the most?
Valerie: It really does. I think there’s a distinct psychology behind what we do as designers. Especially when you do residential. It requires you to be extremely attentive and you have to be a good listener. And you have to be sensitive to the person’s desires. It’s a permanent thing, you have to work through the details to make the client happy. The overly polished or artificial look never has character. It can turn into a showroom.
LL: Speaking of showrooms, here’s a quote you once said: “I’m anti-showroom look. Having a mix of things gives the home more personality. In Europe, you keep your family antiques and mix them up with contemporary pieces. That’s where you can push the edge.” Talk a little bit more about this.
Valerie: First of all, let’s face it. The whole minimalist thing is a pretty snobby way to look at design. I mean, come on. No one really can pull that off. I think the two most important factors in interior design is staying true to the personality of the client and a willingness to keep pieces they are attached to. You have to be working with their art. You have to tell the story of the person who lives there. It gives the space personality, and I think personality can actually bring high-end results.
LL: It’s refreshing to hear you say that, especially since it does feel like high-end modern décor is usually equated with a sparse, cold aesthetic. So, if every space tells the story of the person living in it, what’s yours? Why did you choose this loft?
Valerie: I was born by the beach in France, and we lived in a spacious house, so I guess if I am going to live in a city, then I love the feel of being in a big space. You have lots of light, it gives you room to be free and think. It nourishes the creative spirit. Personally, I like warmth, and I like elegance. I like details. I like comfort. I like timeless. And I like modern, but always with a mix of old and new.
LL: So, modern furnishings with your family antiques, for example. Is that what you mean?
Valerie: Not necessarily. Mix of different things, a mix of objects of things that you like, some of them from the past and some of them now. For example, that’s a bench from the 1890’s. And no one can sit on it! Which doesn’t make it that functional. But it’s something that I have carried with me from the past. So, I like a mix like that, of old and new.
LL: Now that brings up a great question. Where did you find these amazing pieces? Because here is the story of the typical American designer. They go to the D & D building for their clients, and pick out their furnishings for clients there.
Valerie: I rarely go to the D&D building. I have gained resources in Europe and here for lighting, carpeting, furniture. I like to find little shops when I travel, I like to find the little shops in New York, I am always open to new designers. I like to support them. I myself am starting a very upscale furniture line myself that will incorporate leather, bronze and wood. More noble materials. This is something I am finally ready for.
LL: Well, we will be looking out for it. Now, it’s time for the favorites part of this interview.
Valerie: The favorites part? Like, what’s my favorite breakfast?
LL: Yes. But let’s start with this: What’s the favorite part of your space?
Valerie: Well, I love my library. I need to be around books, I love my books. So I spend a lot of time in my library.
LL: What is your favorite color?
Valerie: Oh that’s hard. If I have to pick, I would say black and white. It’s so classic, and sophisticated. I also love warm grays.
LL: What’s your favorite thing you own?
Valerie: That’s hard . . . I guess, at the moment I really love the Thonet bench.
LL: Who is your favorite designer?
Valerie: Andrée Putman. I just love her. I hope I can work into my old age like she.
LL: Favorite artist?
Valerie: Louise Bourgeois. I love her for art and for her who she is. As she established herself as a woman in the art and design world. Because I think a lot of designers are very cautious about what others think, and she never has. She has expressed herself and is still working at 95.
LL: What’s your favorite flower?
LL: What’s your favorite city?
Valerie: New York!
LL: Really? That is awesome.
Valerie: Well, New York and Paris. But New York is home.
LL: We are happy to have you, especially since you have brought so many European sensibilities here.
Valerie: I will say that I’m much less cautious than other designers from the America. I’m not really concerned with having everything match. I never have been. I’m not quite sure where the myth that things must or should match came from.
Post a Comment
- March 2011
- July 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008