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Hubert de Givenchy’s Surprisingly Cozy Mansion

How the French fashion legend married opulence and intimacy in his Paris salon—and how you can get the look

HARMONIC CONVERGENCE The dusky tones and flashes of gold that recur throughout fashion designer Hubert De Givenchy’s Green Salon in Paris keep the room’s décor from looking too haphazard and busy.

HARMONIC CONVERGENCE The dusky tones and flashes of gold that recur throughout fashion designer Hubert De Givenchy’s Green Salon in Paris keep the room’s décor from looking too haphazard and busy. PHOTO:FRANCIS HAMMOND

By 

TIM GAVAN

Updated Nov. 9, 2016 12:53 p.m. ET

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LONG BEFORE New York interior designer Alexa Hampton was traveling the world for clients—or, for that matter, taking her first steps—she was being molded by a master of the trade. Her father was Mark Hampton, named one of “The World’s Twenty Greatest Designers of All Time” by Architectural Digest. He was also a personal favorite of Presidents Bush, Sr., and Clinton, for whom he decorated rooms in the White House—an impressive and quaintly bipartisan résumé. At 13, Ms. Hampton started summer interning for her dad.

BIO IN BRIEF: ALEXA HAMPTON

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·         Her résumé: Fans of PBS’s Emmy-winning “This Old House” might recognize Ms. Hampton as the only female cast member in the show’s history. Off-screen she’s created an ever-expanding portfolio of interiors for clients. In addition, she is a member of the boards of trustees for the New York School of Interior Design, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art. Regularly included on Architectural Digest’s AD100 list, she’s also earned (among other distinctions) the swagger of Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Female Award.

·         Her clients: Ms. Hampton’s customers seek her out for her ability to combine taste, knowledge and a lack of pretension. Some recent projects have taken her to New Orleans, China, Denver, and Miami (she’s racked up 253,000 frequent-flier miles this past year alone) and she’s designed everything from apartments to country houses to private airplanes.

·         Her style: Comfortable elegance with a neoclassical bent. Rooms in which Mr. de Givenchy’s friend and muse Audrey Hepburn would have felt very much at home.

In her 20s, she came across a Christie’s catalog of items from the hôtel particulier (don’t try to book a room; that’s French for “mansion”) of fashion legend Hubert de Givenchy. “I became obsessed with his interiors. They were luxurious and enormous but cozy,” she said.

Ms. Hampton, who took over her father’s eponymous company when he died in 1998, sits on the Board of Trustees for the New York Landmarks Conservancy and for the New York School of Interior Design, which celebrated its 100th anniversary by asking designers to Instagram photos of rooms that have influenced them most. Ms. Hampton chose the “Green Salon,” in Mr. de Givenchy’s former home in Paris, still one of her favorites.

The room in the Hôtel d’Orrouer, named after the Marquis for whom it was built in 1731, teems with artifacts from 17th- and 18th-century France, including Louis XIV andirons, sconces, a table and a gold-framed mirror that evokes that monarch’s narcissistic hall at Versailles. The salon’s Louis XVI chairs, side tables and busts are thought to reflect the more elegant taste of that king’s fashion-forward wife, Marie Antoinette. The décor mixes rococo and neoclassical styles while 
adhering to standards of symmetry and harmony that keep the entire affair looking neat and purposeful.

But ultimately, said Ms. Hampton, it’s Mr. de Givenchy’s ability to combine grandeur with intimacy that makes the room special—the balance of structure and comfort, past and the present, book smarts and the invitation to curl up with a good book.

 

Cozier Than It Looks
A look at some of the pieces in Hubert de Givenchy's Paris mansion

 

 

Adopt a Tone
“The dark velvet on the walls makes this grand, formal room very cozy,” Ms. Hampton explained. “The fabric has that effect acoustically, too.” The consistent bottle- and emerald-green pigments keep the abundance of objects from becoming overwhelming, while the green silk-covered lamp shades soften light so the salon doesn’t feel like a spot-lit museum. Montgomery 35002 Velvet in Leaf, price upon request, Clarence House, 800-803-2850

Cut Mostly From the Same Cloth
The two-toned, monochromatic, silk damask used on the Louis XIV-style sofas in the Green Salon provides pattern, Ms. Hampton said, but is more calming than a high-contrast motif—ideal for larger pieces that could become noisy distractions. “But the patterned pillows are great, they keep the sofas from being big, unmitigated blocks of green,” she said. “They pick up the palette of the slipper chairs, but the more exotic flame-stitch fabric is used in small doses.” Hickory Chair Hepburn Sofa, from $5,622, Heritage Home Group, 800-225-0265; Beaufort Fabric in Vert, $220 per yard, Pierre Frey, 212-421-0534

Get High
“The increasingly higher placement of the sconces draws the eye up,” Ms. Hampton said. “If you’re blessed with a room with such scale, utilizing only the lower quadrant would be a lost opportunity.” With a smaller room, upward movement is even more important to give the illusion of height. Hand-Chased and Gilded-Bronze Sconce, $5,250, Marvin Alexander Inc., 212-838-2320

Swing Low
“The size of this room and the history in there are very imposing, but Mr. de Givenchy added low slipper chairs, a little velvet stool and a very short coffee table that create human scale and a zone of intimacy,” Ms. Hampton said. Recreate this effect with two low, carved mahogany tables. 19th Century Irish Low Table from Niall Smith Antiques, $12,750 for two, 1stdibs.com

Bring Light to the Black Hole
“If a room has a fireplace, the mantel always becomes like the altar,” Ms. Hampton said, noting that furniture and guests gather around it. But a focal point this cavernous—especially one framed by an original Louis XV marble mantelpiece—can be distracting, even in a room brimming with attention-worthy treasures. Like a blank television, it can stick out like a dropped anvil when not in use. Mr. de Givenchy mitigated the void with baroque gold andirons. Pair of 19th-century Italian Rococo-Style Brass Andirons, $5,500, Newel, 212-758-1970

Pull Up a Tiny Table
“This little round cigarette table is a staple for every designer,” Ms. Hampton said of the two flanking the sofas. Smaller side tables have more than enough surface area for drinks and knickknacks and “make the room much more navigable.” Mr. de Givenchy’s pair of Louis XVI occasional tables, which were popular for entertaining purposes in French salons, stay true to the aesthetic of the room, as does this 18th-century French table (that’s the Roman colosseum inlaid on top). Micro Mosaic-Top Table from Susanne Hollis, $11,500 for two, 1stdibs.com

Slip on a Skirt
Nothing detracts from the satisfying symmetry of a neoclassical room quite like a multitude of visually overlapping furniture legs. Strategically skirting chairs and sofas with fabric or fringe creates neat lines that don’t push or shove. Samuel & Sons 8-inch Orsay Silk Bullion Fringe in Cleadon/Cream, $143 per yard, The D&D Building, 212-759-5408 x 204; Arts and Crafts 33059 Fabric in Original, price upon request, Clarence House, 800-803-2850; Charlotte Moss Livingston Slipper Chair by Century Furniture, $2,085 for customer’s own material, 800-852-5552