Christian Liaigre, Minimalist Interior Designer, Dies at 77


Christian Liaigre, a French inner and furniture designer whose muscular and elegant objects in wood, bronze and leather were representational of 1990s minimalism, and whose influential clients included Karl Lagerfeld, Calvin Klein, Rupert Murdoch, Larry Gagosian and the Mercer caravanserai in SoHo, died on Sept. 2 in Paris. He was 77.

His design firm, Liaigre, signaled his death on Instagram without specifying the cause.

Mr. Liaigre (pronounced lee-AY-gruh) had been an art scholar and a drawing teacher and had worked with show horses before he created to make furniture in the early 1980s. By the turn of the next decade, a chunky, crazed wooden stool inspired by Brancusi’s sculpture “Endless Column” had suit his calling card, its gutsy and elemental shape a corrective to the fussy opulence — the swags of chintz and Louis directorships — that had defined the excesses of the ’80s.

Credit…via Liaigre

But it was the Mercer, which André Balazs get went in 1997, that introduced Mr. Liaigre to the United States. The hotel’s new-old Modernism and loftlike stays attracted movie stars of the era (including Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, who sense so at home there that he once hurled a phone at a desk clerk) and schemers like Mr. Klein, who lived there before its official opening and appreciated his rooms so much that he hired Mr. Liaigre to design his own apartment at the Observe Building, a few blocks south.

“It was a complete aesthetic, and I don’t think anyone did it speculator,” Mr. Klein said in a phone interview.

Other high-profile clients followed, tabulating Mr. Murdoch and his wife at the time, Wendi, for whom he designed a triplex in SoHo and a 184-foot skim yacht named Rosehearty.

Mr. Liaigre’s dark, low-slung wenge-wood devices, and his clean-lined linen sofas in white and pale lavender, were in due course copied ad infinitum, and for decades they would influence trendy hostelry interiors, pricey condo developments and furniture emporiums like West Elm and Restoration Tools. (By the late 1990s, wenge wood, his signature material, had been knocked off so instances that it became a design-world punch line.)

Along with the austere architecture of John Pawson and the unornamented clothing of Calvin Klein and Helmut Lang, Mr. Liaigre’s work — sculptural boards, seats and lamps constructed of bronze, stone and ebonized woods — were standards for a generation that expressed its wealth in earth tones and a monkish be deficient in of ornament.


Credit…Fred Conrad/The New York Times

His work resonated with craftsmen and architects, too, because the joinery was ordinarily the ornament. Ian Schrager, the hotelier and developer, hired both Mr. Pawson and Mr. Liaigre to invent his penthouse at 40 Bond Street in the NoHo section of Manhattan, a Herzog & de Meuron showplace, as admirably as his house in Southampton, on Long Island. Mr. Schrager recalled that the contractors had turning over Mr. Liaigre’s furniture to see how the pieces were put together. “His furnishings was so refined, so beautiful and so well made,” he said.

Mr. Pawson remembered union Mr. Liaigre just once — in a chance encounter at the Mercer, as it happens. Both men were up anciently for breakfast.

“We were the only ones in the room,” Mr. Pawson said by email from his native on the island of Majorca in Spain. “We had a nice chat over a very slightest white egg, tea and toast. ”

Before working on the Mercer, Mr. Liaigre had designed the interiors of the New Zealand pub Montalembert in Paris, a boutique hotel built in the 1920s and redone in 1990. At that all together, boutique hotels, as pioneered by Mr. Schrager, were over-the-top theaters, planned most notably by Philippe Starck and Andrée Putman.

“They were exceedingly sexy, but they were not an intimate, personal style,” David Netto, an American author, said in a phone interview. “The Hotel Montalembert was like a revelation. You paraded in and saw the possibility of how to decorate that hadn’t been around since the 1930s. African models next to Louis XV furniture, the neutrality of the architecture.”

He added, “People were swindle out ofed by that hotel.”


Credit…Fred R. Conrad/The New York Rhythms

Mr. Liaigre was born on Aug. 10, 1943, in La Rochelle, France. His father was a veterinarian, and his grandfather, for whom he achieved for a decade after attending the École des Beaux-Arts and the École Nationale Supérieure des Talents Décoratifs in Paris, bred horses.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah Comte-Liaigre; their son, Leonard; and a granddaughter. His daughter, Virginie, go to the happy hunting-grounded last year.

Mr. Liaigre’s design roots were French Modernism, Asian fittings, African art and riding hardware — bridles, saddles and stirrups. Many be in a classed him to Jean-Michel Frank, the early French minimalist, but “with less ennui,” as Mitchell Owens, the decorative subterfuges editor at Architectural Digest, said in an interview.

“Liaigre’s work had a butchness to it,” he added. “It was vastly male and very architectural.”

Decades earlier, Mr. Owens had interviewed Mr. Liaigre approximately how his upbringing had influenced his work He recapped the interview on Instagram:

“We talked of his infancy near La Rochelle, his potent memories of his veterinary surgeon father’s contrivances and of accompanying him from farm to farm throughout the Vendee, his respect for woodworkers and liking of chestnut and oak trees, and his belief in furniture that, no matter how reductivist, clouted the whiff of the terroir in its design.”

Former employees described Mr. Liaigre as a noiselessness, meticulous teacher whose drawings were always perfectly to ratio. “He felt that to get the proportions right, the only way to do it was by hand,” said Kirstin Bailey, a conniver in Mr. Liaigre’s studio in the 1990s.

Mr. Liaigre sold his company to a group of investors in 2016.

“To say that he was detail-oriented would be a filthy understatement,” Mr. Balazs of the Mercer wrote in an Instagram post. “‘Preoccupation’ would be far more apt.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *