Designer Spotlight

Jean-Louis Deniot Shares Inspiring Interiors from around the Globe

Jean-Louis Deniot
Jean-Louis Deniot’s new monograph, Destinations (Rizzoli), highlights 18 of his projects from around the world, including his offices in Paris, a triplex in Bangkok and a villa in Miami Beach (portrait is by Sophie Delaporte). Top: The living room of this villa in Corsica includes a pair of Vladimir Kagan sofas and a trio of custom coffee tables by Deniot. The artwork over the sofas is by Bharti Kher, who created it using bindis. The space also includes a Poul Kjaerholm PK24 chaise longue and a 1950s chandelier by Austrian designer Oswald Haerdtl.
Photos by Stephan Julliard

“Very early on in my career, I made it a personal challenge to work in as many locations as possible,” recounts French interior designer Jean-Louis Deniot in his recently published monograph, Destinations (Rizzoli), written by Pamela Golbin. 

The book itself is proof that, at 48, he has already gone at least some way to achieving his goal. It features 18 different projects in 13 different places, ranging from his own home in the Hollywood Hills to an 18,000-square-foot triplex at the top of a Bangkok skyscraper. Others include a modernist villa in Miami Beach, the dacha on Yves Saint Laurent’s former property in Normandy (which Deniot refurbished for its current owners); an apartment in Moscow; and the gardens of his vacation home in Tangier, Morocco.

One of his earliest commissions abroad is also highlighted: an extremely grand ground-up house that sits on a five-acre plot on the outskirts of Delhi. For the architecture, Deniot took his inspiration from the buildings of Edwin Lutyens, who was responsible for constructing New Delhi in the early 20th century. Both the portico on the front facade and the colonnades that wrap around the sides are reminiscent of the English architect’s work. 

“It was a really fantastic project,” recalls Deniot. “In India, they can make anything you want and very quickly. So, everything is possible.” A carpenter even set up his workshop on the building site, which allowed Deniot to sketch designs and have prototypes made up within 15 minutes.

Today, he remains a fan of commissioning custom furnishings by local artisans, whenever possible. Yet his interiors never over-embrace the vernacular style of a particular country or region. Instead, he weaves in influences subtly and adds more than a dose of Gallic style. “People generally come to me in the first place because they want something French,” says the Paris-based Deniot.

Bangkok living room by Jean-Louis Deniot
This living room in a Bangkok triplex features a custom sofa and an iron-and-gold-leaf side table by Deniot. The Vincenzo De Cotiis coffee table, composed of marble and cast brass, is topped with candlesticks and vases by Alexander Lamont.

East and West certainly come together in the Bangkok triplex, although the Western influences stretch beyond France. From the East, there’s a gilded meditation room that references the shiny gold leaf of the Buddha sculptures in the Thai capital’s temples. Doors have been fitted with handles in the shape of bamboo stalks, and another Asian nod comes by way of the central engraved-glass staircase, whose angular, folded forms are origami-like. The furniture, meanwhile, is very much Western. Among the pieces are a Piet Hein Eek dining table surrounded by Kelly Wearstler chairs, a Vincenzo De Cotiis cocktail table and a pair of Télémaque armchairs Deniot designed for the French furniture manufacturer Pouenat. Stunning though the interiors are, the property’s most spectacular feature is to be found outside — a swimming pool with sweeping views of the cityscape, housed within a faux grotto made from painted plaster.

Water is also very present in another of the book’s projects — a 5,400-square-foot villa overlooking the Mediterranean on the French island of Corsica, whose design was largely inspired by the unique natural surroundings. The tones of the local soil and olive trees made their way into the palette, and Deniot commissioned the Paris-based decorative artist Florence Girette to paint the vaulted ceiling in the dining room the color of the local lauze stone. Underneath it, Deniot set a Jean Prouvé table, placing it diagonally. “Otherwise, it would have looked too much like a canteen,” he explains. The other furniture includes a pair of curvaceous Vladimir Kagan sofas, Poul Kjærholm’s iconic PK24 chaise longue and a dramatic 1950s chandelier by the Austrian architect Oswald Haerdtl that is composed of several dozen white-glass globes. “It looks like pills on the ceiling,” quips Deniot.

dining room in Corsica by Jean-Louis Deniot
The Corsica dining area contains a teak table by Pierre Jeanneret and a set of ca. 1950 rush-and-ebonized-wood chairs by Charlotte Perriand. Deniot designed the oak shelving system on the left; on the right is a Hans Wegner Flag Halyard armchair. The mobile above the dining table is by Xavier Veilhan.

On another Mediterranean island, Capri, a revamped vacation home for an Italian art collector was, he says, his most arduous commission to date. The work was complicated by the fact that the house cannot be accessed by either car or truck. Instead, rubble had to be transported away in crates on scooters and deliveries carried up through narrow alleyways from a point more than 300 yards downhill. “Everything we bought or designed for the house could not exceed a certain size,” he notes. Thus, sofas were delivered in kit form, as was the more than nine-foot-long travertine-topped outdoor dining table.

Corsica outdoor dining area by Jean-Louis Deniot
Deniot designed the custom outdoor dining table, which is made from brushed waxed cedar and surrounded by Michel Buffet chairs made from blackened metal and rope. The 1960s pendant lights are by Gino Sarfatti

Ask Deniot the main difference between working in France and abroad, and he’ll mention the fact that you often need to accommodate large numbers of staff in certain countries, such as India and Thailand. “You have to find ways to preserve your clients’ privacy while allowing them to have the help they desire,” he says.

Jean-Louis Deniot's Paris office
Deniot’s Paris offices include a pair of Piet Hein Eek armchairs and Jacques Adnet floor lamps. The large abstract painting behind the sofa is François Brunet’s Campagne, and the flag is by Sol LeWitt.

His own employees are certainly well accommodated, as illustrated by another project in the book — Deniot’s own offices, located in a 4,300-square-feet space directly on the Left Bank of the Seine, close to the Invalides, that had formerly housed a firm of notaries. He completely reconfigured the space, creating an elegant enfilade of rooms separated by a succession of wired-glass doors whose watery appearance is meant as a direct reference to the river below. Deniot says he wanted to create the “least decorated space” possible. By that, he means no rugs, few patterns and little in the way of architectural detailing. However, the rooms are certainly not spare. In a hallway, a Hans Hartung lithograph hangs above an Angelo Mangiarotti console table with a 16th-century bust on it. The library features a 1930s Bauhaus daybed and a pair of Robert Mallet-Stevens armchairs, while a lounge-like meeting room is decorated with a pair of Piet Hein Eek armchairs, a side table by Philippe Hiquily, a Sol LeWitt flag, a Jacques Quinet desk, a marble bust of Juno and a couple of Gio Ponti chests of drawers. A different vintage chair, meanwhile, has been placed for guests in the office of each of Deniot’s team members.

Among the projects currently on their drawing boards — or more precisely, their computers — are five commissions in Hong Kong and a 54,000-square-foot house in Bangkok. Deniot is hoping to sign up others in Australia, Taiwan and Brazil in the near future, but the country where he’d most like to work is Japan. “I’ve never yet set foot there, but something tells me that I’ll love it,” he explains. “Their philosophy when it comes to crafts is something I’d adore taking the time to discover.”

Jean-Louis Deniot Destinations book from Rizzoli
Rizzoli recently published Destinations, by Pamela Golbin and Deniot.

Jean-Louis Deniot’s Quick Picks

Oval wool rug with geometric pattern, new, offered by Hommés Studio
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Oval wool rug with geometric pattern, new, offered by Hommés Studio

“I love green, and the striking half-moon shape of this rug will break up the cubic geometry of any room and freshen it up.”

Erwine and Estelle Laverne for Laverne International pair of Tulip chairs, 1960s, offered by Automaton
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Erwine and Estelle Laverne for Laverne International pair of Tulip chairs, 1960s, offered by Automaton

“These sculptural armchairs are like birds in a Matisse painting. They have a fabulous silhouette and a sense of sleek comfort.”

Neoclassical console table, 2014, offered by Kelly Behun Studio
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Neoclassical console table, 2014, offered by Kelly Behun Studio

“Neoclassical pieces bring a sense of stability to any room. I love the graphic black-and-white motifs and the nod to Fornasetti, which adds an extra touch of energy.”

Michel Buffet B206 wall sconce set, new reedition, offered by DADA
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Michel Buffet B206 wall sconce set, new reedition, offered by DADA

“These sconces are like sculptural abstract leaves, which provide indirect light with a golden glow.”

White marble bust of Dionysius, 1800, offered by Galleria Serrao
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White marble bust of Dionysius, 1800, offered by Galleria Serrao

“Historical items and ones with archaeological references are a grounded and sophisticated addition to any interior.”

Angelo Mangiarotti for Skipper White Carrara Marble Eros Consoles, 1970s, offered by Davidowski The Netherlands
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Angelo Mangiarotti for Skipper White Carrara Marble Eros Consoles, 1970s, offered by Davidowski The Netherlands

“I love Mangiarotti. His work is the perfect combination of architectural symbolism and futuristic levitation.”

Metal potted-plant sculpture, ca. 1970, offered by FS Henemader Antiques Inc.
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Metal potted-plant sculpture, ca. 1970, offered by FS Henemader Antiques Inc.

“Any nod to the sun and nature, whether with plants or a hint of gold, instantly brings a space to life.”

Danish settee, 1940, offered by Greenwich Living Antique & Design Center
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Danish settee, 1940, offered by Greenwich Living Antique & Design Center

“Curling up in a fluffy mid-century sofa like this is like embarking on a voyage on a cloud.”

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