The French Luxury Furniture Brand That's Found In The Homes Of Designers And Celebrities
Dark wood, bronze hardware, neutral tones and rectilinear lines—this sophisticated combination has shaped minimalist interiors as we know them. It’s the signature design scheme of Christian Liaigre and his eponymous brand, and it is a look that has endured for nearly 40 years since the founding of the interior architecture and furniture company in 1985.
This pared-down approach has been a winning formula, so much so that Liaigre became the interior designer of choice for fashion legends Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld and Kenzo Takada, as well as a favoured design name in the yachting world.
While Liaigre has stepped down from helming his namesake company since 2016, his elegant ethos still holds true for the brand. Today, the firm is led by CEO Christophe Caillaud, with Frauke Meyer shaping the brand’s artistic direction as its creative director. Meyer has rich and deep ties to the company—she was headhunted by Liaigre himself in 1998. The German-born interior architect had just completed her studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs (ENSAD) in Paris, when she first met the company’s founder on her graduation day.
From the very beginning, Meyer had felt an instant connection with the “pure and elegant simplicity” of Liaigre’s aesthetic and was thrilled to join the company just as it was on the cusp of change. “At that time, the company was only known by few and on its way to become what it is today,” recalls Meyer. Liaigre had just completed the design of the loft-inspired rooms of The Mercer Hotel with hotelier André Balazs in New York, a landmark project that drew international acclaim. Other key projects that followed in the ‘90s include the Hotel Montalembert in Paris and the Selfridges store in London. Today, the brand has 29 showrooms around the world, with boutiques in Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok, and most recently, Seoul.
“Liaigre is now undergoing an evolution, not a revolution,” says Meyer. “The new creative direction we are taking today is meant to help us examine our roots and the sources of Liaigre’s creations, which have made us so successful, while reinterpreting them in the context of current times and maintaining the artistic and creative heritage we leave behind.”
Taking inspiration from interior projects for future collections
At the heart of Liaigre’s design philosophy is the unique symbiosis of its interior architecture services and furniture production, in so much that its collections are inspired by the needs of spatial design of past and upcoming projects. Be it a residential home, a retail boutique, a luxury yacht or hotel, the firm’s interior projects become the source of inspiration for future collections.
“We introduce in our collection about 20 new pieces every year, each of them reflecting the unique needs of an interior design project and of a cultural context,” says Meyer. Recent examples include the Nagoya desk, which was originally designed for a meditation house in Nagawa, Japan; the Hestia lounge chair that was crafted for a residence in Munich; and the Soupir sofa that was first conceived for a snow-capped Swiss chalet in St Moritz.
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“Our style is synonymous with high standards and refinement,” states Meyer. “It encompasses a thought process about design alongside a concept that conveys arts and crafts in the spirit and tradition of French culture. In our processes and know-how—whether in cabinetmaking, upholstery, bronze work—the prestigious made-in-France guarantee is essential.”
Today, its exquisite pieces continue to be collected by tastemakers and celebrities including fashion designer Alexander Wang, supermodel Cindy Crawford and Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece.
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The importance of yacht design and art
With Christian Liaigre being a sailor himself, the nautical influence of the brand continues to be felt in the yachting projects that the firm takes on. Led by Guillaume Rolland, the principal of the yacht design section at Liaigre, the brand’s boating segment similarly represents discreet luxury and understated elegance.
“Yacht design is an amazing opportunity to explore freedom and luxury at their utmost,” says Meyer. “Constraints differ a lot from a boat to a house, but our philosophy and way of thinking about a project remains the same—to maintain the perfect balance between efficiency and elegance, providing solutions while combining them with the Liaigre way of life.”
Another notable feature is the presence of art and photography in its showrooms. “Liaigre’s taste for art is a quest for harmony and beauty, of discovery and quality, and of respect for architecture and purity of the proportions,” says Meyer. “Art is in dialogue with furniture and objects. In this spirit, Liaigre develops privileged relationships with modern and contemporary art galleries through a selection of works installed in the showrooms.”
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Experimenting while preserving the legacy
At the same time, innovation is still part and parcel of the brand’s design framework, as the team continues to experiment with new materials while embracing time-honoured techniques. “I am seeking to work more with natural finishes, be it wood or leather, leaving more space to patina,” shares Meyer. “We have introduced colours and some patterns while remaining faithful to our palette of natural tones.”
Adapting to the growing density of cities, the French brand has also added more multifunctional pieces that contribute to the seamless look of each interior while maximising the square footage of these urban homes. “We are exploring more modular approaches with the Mirabeau walk-in closet and the Varenne library (a bookcase named after the first showroom at Rue de Varenne in Paris); these are both furniture pieces and interior architecture,” explains Meyer. “A modular sofa will also be introduced in 2020.”
As testament to the brand’s enduring appeal and timeless look, projects such as The Mercer Hotel continue to be a preferred destination for the jet-set. A 1,400sqft Corner suite designed by Studio Liaigre in 2017 was, as she highlights, a part of the new direction that sees the “brand being more firmly and consistently anchored in current times but without being a trend-follower”. She adds: “My main preoccupation is to preserve the legacy and the essence of Liaigre and ensure it endures. To create surprise, be more relaxed, while maintaining elegance.”
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Here are key pieces from the firm's storied history: