Elsa Schiaparelli, the infamous fashion designer who embraced Surrealism in her designs, shared a few things in common with interior designer Jean-Michel Frank: both designers collaborated with artists Diego Giacometti and Christian Bérard. When it came time for Schiaparelli to decorate her Paris hôtel particulier Frank was who she called on. He would go on to help Schiaparelli decorate two more homes. While Schiaparelli was outgoing and Frank demure, they collaborated successfully and became lifelong friends.
Though form and texture, not color, are generally associated with J-M Frank interiors, he did occasionally introduce color in his work . In his own shop on the rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré some of the lamp shades were executed in transparent colors – apple green, lemon yellow, or cherry red – breaking his own rule that lamp shades should be simple and unseen. He felt that color worked best in all-white environments.
Around the same time that Frank had opened his new shop Schiaparelli had taken a large apartment on the rue Barbet-de-Jouy in 1931. The dining room, above, exuded the ambiance of a supper club, with banquettes and black lacquered Directoire-style chairs pulled up to square black lacquered tables. Van Day Truex wrote for Architectural Digest in his essay Jean-Michel Frank Remembered, that it was the first time he had seen banquettes, which were upholstered in quilted blue chintz.. The walls and chairs were white, the latter with white rubber cushions.
For Schiaparelli’s living room (1934) on the boulevard Saint-Germain bold strokes of color played off a crisp envelope of white and almond-green plaster: an orange leather sofa, black rubber curtains, chairs slip-covered in canary yellow and white quilted chintz.
Schiaparelli’s bedroom featured the same bark fabric that she used for dresses. White walls and a polar bear rug set off lavender-blue fabric.
In 1937 Schiaparelli purchased an eighteen-room hôtel particulier at 22, rue de Berri, which was decorated over time by both Jean-Michel Frank and Maison Jansen. The walls were covered in a series of eighteenth-century chinoiserie tapestries, taken from Boucher cartoons, with bookcases in each corner, designed as white and gold pagodas. The sofa was purple, the chairs scarlet. The eclectic decor mirrored Schiaparelli’s own sense of style and fantasy.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see these rooms today, in all their colorful glory? Knowing the background of his work through articles written in the past opens up a new appreciation for Frank’s unlimited breadth of talent.