Meet the trio (mom and daughters!) behind the obsession-worthy beauty brand, Chantecaille, and find out their fresh design tips.
You are a visionary in the beauty industry — and as such, you’ve developed an eye for aesthetics and an unerring sense of what’s fresh and new. How does this translate into the way you approach designing your home, or perhaps finding great pieces of furniture or works of art for your home?
When I first moved to New York, I brought so many pieces from my parents’ home in France. They all had emotional connections to me. Although beautiful… did I really need them with me? Today I still love some of these pieces, but this is a common mistake that many of us Europeans make. We think we need to be surrounded by the traditions that we loved growing up. But when we move to the United States, our style changes and these pieces don’t really work. Much of it often ends up in storage. How many French armoires does one really need?
Your parents were art collectors who traveled frequently. How did growing up in this environment help inform your eye for beauty and art?
I became a minimalist. I grew up in a home where there wasn’t an inch on the wall for a new painting. I now live in a home that has clean white lacquer floors. Over the years my sharp, minimalist American aesthetic has also evolved into very clean style with beautifully curated objects.
How would you describe your current home? What is your favorite room and why?
My house is an early American whaling home built in 1780. We have designed it to maximize the light. We have added so many windows and introduced so much white into the space that light now bounces everywhere. I adore my bedroom, which has ten windows facing south, east, and west. I love lying in my bed and looking out onto the terrace; it gives me the feeling of being on a yacht.
When did you start your collection? What did you initially focus on?
Growing up with parents who were collectors didn’t rub off on me. Part of my American journey was to simplify. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a gorgeous painting from 1550, but I don’t have a collector’s mind. I focus on pieces that I find interesting.
I have been married for 45 years, and my taste has become intertwined with my husband’s. We share an affinity for many things. My husband loves silver. The first thing he does when we arrive in France is to make an incredibly fast beeline to his favorite silver shops. He’s constantly adding to our collection. We both gravitate towards modern pieces and both really like Sipek. The last piece we bought was an unusual pair of candelabras designed by Sipek in the 1990s that we found in an antique store in Barcelona.
We enjoyed a story you related to The Telegraph a few years back, about when you launched Prescriptives in 1979 and the mantra of “having it all”: “We were the first generation of women to do this, because our mothers didn’t work. We did everything — we went to the office, we had children, dinner parties, I did the wallpapering, the garden, and worked at full tilt. I always thought, ‘I can do everything’. That is my gift and my curse.” Do you still find this true in 2018? And did this insight inform the way you ran the business — and your home life?
Absolutely! It’s still my mantra. Now I am just more tired and don’t hang wallpaper.
What pieces on Viyet are the most exciting to you?
What is the best advice — whether it’s about décor or life in general — that Sylvie has given you?
Trust your instincts, follow what brings you joy in life, and focus on quality.
We’ve long admired your sense of style — especially your knack for getting color so perfect, both in interiors, but also when it comes to your personal style, and of course, makeup. What are your secrets to getting color right?
For me, understanding colors and how they relate to their surroundings is very much instinctual — it’s a feeling. I see color very clearly and know immediately if something works or not — whether that be a paint color, a fabric, a shade of eyeshadow, or lipstick. Trusting my instinct and not second-guessing myself is a lesson my mother taught me at a young age, and over the years I have become more confident with my choices.
My style is French traditional meets modern downtown New Yorker. My home feels like an airy sunlit oasis with classical French influences. I like to be surrounded by flowers, natural light, neutral pale tones, and milky whites. The interior is a palette of soft neutral tones accented with pops of color from art I have collected through the years.
What color palettes appeal to you most right now and why?
Pastels are a huge trend right now. I like to pair them with whites and surprising touches of metallics. Floral patterns are also a big trend, but reinvented in a modern way with touches of neon or metallics. An easy way to give your home an on-trend update is with accessories, either with new throw pillows or a collection of vases in a single color or pattern. Another chic tip to avoid wallpapering or painting is to use a decorative screen. I recently introduced a beautiful de Gournay screen into my living room. It has three 8-foot-tall panels adorned with gilded butterflies.
How has becoming a mother affected the way you approach the décor in your home?
We have been so lucky with our daughter in that we have not had to change our furniture. We did add rubber corners and the essential baby proofing. Although recently I purchased vintage Louis XVI dining chairs and I purposely left the original muslin fabric as is, knowing it would soon be covered with tiny handprints. When my daughter gets a little older, I will recover them.
My daughter’s room is a playful extension of the rest of the home. I have decorated it with her favorite things: florals, butterflies, and shades of pink. An easy way I decorated the walls was to hang an oversized flower painting by our family friend, the artist Alex Timchula, over her bed to create the feeling of an indoor garden.
You and your husband have a fantastic (and eclectic) art collection. When did you develop an interest in collecting?
I grew up surrounded by art. My grandparents had a passion for collecting, and every inch of their walls in their home in France was covered with art. My mother also has an appreciation for art. When I was growing up, my parents painted the most magical scene filled with jungle animals all along my bedroom walls. I use that as my inspiration when decorating my own daughter’s room. I remember waking up to that mural every morning and feeling inspired!
In college, I studied Art History at the Sorbonne in Paris. During those days, I think I spent every free moment I had in museums.
Now, art is a passion that my husband and I share. We have fun together discovering artists and curating our own collection. We hope to pass this on to our daughter, Delphina, who is a little artist in her own right.
What was the first piece you purchased?
“Falling Birds” by Ross Bleckner, a dear friend of mine and my husband’s. My husband bought the piece for me for my birthday when we started dating, and it’s very special to me for many reasons. The birds have a romantic allure to them.
What advice do you have for beginning collectors?
Only buy what you love and don’t follow trends. I also think it’s important to look at a lot of things — see as much as you can! Visit galleries, look online, visit shows, and local art fairs… you never know where you will fall in love.
If you could buy five things on Viyet right now, what pieces would you select and why?
How does your design/style sensibility differ from Olivia’s — and Sylvie’s?
My style is more eclectic and patterned than Olivia’s. I use color and influence from my travels more. I’ve learned to weave in fabrics and comfort from my mom. It has to be attractive and cohesive, color-wise, but still livable, not too precious.
What is the atmosphere of your home?
Learned… a lot of books. It’s a place you can spend hours listening to music and reading by the fire or watching films. My brother just gave me a record player, so I’m really stoked to fill out my album collection. I think the mix of natural colors and materials makes it comfortable and livable while still feeling elegant.
What is your favorite piece in your collection and why?
For several years my favorite pieces have been my Gio Ponti wooden dining table and my Swedish mid-century white suede chairs. I also quite like my set of wooden ash blonde American-made dressers from the 1950s. They have wave-like front handles carved into each piece.
Just this weekend, I purchased my first “grown-up” piece of art at the Independent Art Fair, a side fair during the annual Armory show. The piece, by Christoph Schellberg, is all diaphanous colors in abstract, large-scale basic shapes. It works perfectly with the colors in my apartment: Belgian linens, gray canvas, turquoise, touches of cool pink, and a trompe l’œil frame.
Before you took on your role as VP of Sales and Promotions, you worked extensively in the fashion industry. Did your immersion in the fashion world (and developing your eye in that world) influence how you approach styling your own home?
My studies of art history taught me how to mix and layer, and about the eras of furniture design. My experience with shoe design gave me an appreciation for craft, materials, and lines. I have a lot of natural linen with touches of baroque, like velvet, and my parents’ Chesterfield couch my mom had made in the late 1980s by David Hicks is re-upholstered in a jute muslin with velvet peach embroidery.
My travels have really affected my style. I love bringing back elements of exotic trips to remind me of the gorgeous places I’ve visited and the stories of the people who made the items. It feels really good to support them, as well. I have repurposed a lot of African textiles as pillows and poufs, alpaca blankets from Peru, and a slew of colorful textiles from the Sacred Valley. I can’t wait for summer to use the ceremony cloths as backyard blankets for afternoon picnics in East Hampton. I very much lean towards unique handmade, natural-dyed, and well-made pieces.
I love lighting! It’s one of the most important elements to enjoying one’s space. I’m a bit of a freak about it… I’ll adjust lighting at a friend’s house, at a party, or even at a restaurant. My friends chide me that it’s an awkward request to insist on, but once I’ve made my key changes, everyone celebrates the difference made.
My new apartment has wonderful dimmers, which is a godsend! My friends gave me a wonderfully elegant FLOS bubble lamp by Michael Anastassiades as a birthday gift this year, and that is on a dimmer! It makes me super happy. It’s very Art Deco in its contrasting, clean minimalist shape, but in an opulent bronze and almost warm, peachy light. Light evokes feeling, and ambiance is all about feeling — for example, I really like candles at dinner, in sort of a Caravaggio warm yet dramatic way! That comes from years of studying art history.
We’ve read about your love for travel — what destinations do you love exploring and why?
Anywhere with serious nature, culture, and excellent fresh food! Peru was seriously mind-blowing. The mountain air, the palimpsest of ancient cultures connected to both the cosmos and Mother Earth, the brash unapologetically joyful colors in their traditional clothing, the endless variety of healthy organic food! The people are very sweet and grounded — even the wild dogs are happy and healthy-looking. The nature, specifically in the Sacred Valley, is so gorgeous with the white capped mountains in the background and endless green fields. It’s really exhilarating. Plus Machu Picchu is sort of life-changing to experience.
I’m planning a trip to Morocco with friends this spring, too, hoping to bring home more fun textiles. I cannot wait to experience that culture and I cannot wait to eat the food. I try to plan a couple of big “never been there before” trips each year. A few years ago, it was Rwanda to see the gorillas, which was amazing. Hopefully this year, I’ll get to both the Arctic to see the polar bears and down to Patagonia/Bariloche to ride horseback among the glaciers and lakes.
I’m lucky enough to make it down to Saint Barth’s a few times a year with my family, where we swim and hike often. Even our intrepid adventurer, my 4-year-old niece Delphina, joins our excursions. Her favorite phrase is, “I want to go, too!” We love to cook and relax at home as much as we love to leave the villa and dine out to see friends (which inevitably happens within ten minutes). It’s such a friendly and beautiful place.
What is the one item in your home that you can’t live without?
My dog, Ella, and a drawing from my Parisian grandfather from the mid-1700s.
If you could live in any era, which would you choose and why?
Art Nouveau always seemed steeped in opulence but elegant in its restraint — fun but not gaudy about it. That time of science and learning, the post-Victorian interest in the spirit world, and women’s rights were all so interesting. I love how it was a total way of living among art — everything was so elaborate and well-made.
One rainy Sunday, I recently found myself in the Richmond, Virginia, Fine Arts Museum, happily soaking up their outstanding collection of Art Nouveau, emphatically wanting to languish on the chaise lounges and to get ready at the carved wooden vanities.
I’ve always been head over heels with Scottish architect and furniture maker Charles Mackintosh and early Frank Lloyd Wright, and how they designed for the entire home experience. They decorated it and lit it, because they wanted to control how it was experienced. It’s like a great filmmaker or restaurateur; you control the entire experience to show your vision in life to others. You want to share what you see.
What pieces on Viyet are the most exciting to you?
What do you find most appealing in a living space?
Sylvie: Light, view, and space.
Alex: Access to natural light, natural materials, plants, and flowing water or fountains.
Olivia: A bright and joyful space with fresh flowers and sunlight.
What is your definition of beauty?
Sylvie: Calm, elegance, and great features that all work together.
Alex: Health and joy
Where do you find inspiration?
Sylvie: From everything!!
Alex: Art, movies, novels, but mostly nature.
Olivia: It comes from everywhere in our culture. Art, fashion, nature, the street, my daughter, to name a few.
Where is your favorite place to find antiques — or perhaps new pieces for your home?
Sylvie: It used to be Hong Kong, but now it’s off-the-beaten-path European cities.
Alex: Exotic and traditional cultures like Peru, Morocco, Africa, Bhutan.
Olivia: Paris and Argentina
What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
Sylvie: @netaporter, @dswt, @sandylamu, @justinepicardi, @spaceforgiants and my friend @maxdgraham, @lindafargo
Alex: @majesticdisorder, @saipua, @returntofreedom, @paulnicklen, @dream_casa, @joshuatreecabin, @cabinporn
Olivia: @chantecaille, of course! @degournay, @delpozo, @littlebigcompany, @ashleytstark, @layered_official, @jilliandempsey, @itsmatin, @natgeo, @putnamflowers
What do you like most about Viyet?
Alex: The range of vintage and contemporary. And the lighting, haha.
Olivia: How well it is curated!
What design rule do you think should be broken?
Sylvie: Things that match.
Alex: Neutrals rule — not true!
Olivia: Trend-following: decorate your home as an extension of yourself and what makes you happy.
Chantecaille has become as widely known for its support of philanthropic causes as it is for beauty. Why did you make the decision to align the brand with philanthropic causes? And, what causes are closest to you and why?
Sylvie: It began when I noticed the butterflies in my East Hampton rose garden disappearing. But truly I believe everyone can make a difference, no matter how small; every effort matters to help our planet and the creatures we share it with.
What do you enjoy most about working together as a family?
Sylvie: Seeing my children flourish, each so successful in their own talents. And we read each other’s minds!
Alex: We get to laugh a lot, and we also can work at the speed of lightning as we instantly know what the other means — it’s efficient and cozy!
Olivia: We trust and respect each other, and genuinely want to see each other succeed. Plus, I get to see them all the time, and we have fun together.