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François Catroux: The disappearance of the Master of High Decoration

Internationally renowned decorator, husband of Betty Catroux, François Catroux, passed away on November 8 at the age of 84. Let’s take a look at the career of one of the great French masters of interior design.

French elegance

Curious by nature, lover of anything avant-garde, courteous and discreet to the point of seeming distant, endowed with an innate sense of harmony and proportion, François Catroux was an outstanding decorator, embodying French elegance for more than fifty years. With a style often ahead of his time, that reflected the richness of his aesthetic and his encyclopedic knowledge of beautiful objects, the interior decorator was able to make a Senoufo bird and a cold metal mantel coexist in his Parisian apartment, creating an atmosphere of sober opulence and softness.

Born in 1936 in Algeria, grandson of General Catroux and student in the same school as Yves Saint Laurent, who would later become one of his great friends, François Catroux began a career in journalism in New York. Passionate about decoration since his childhood, he was first commissioned by Elle magazine to photograph interiors. It was during this period that he met the architect Philip Johnson and the decorator Charles Sevigny, both of whom had a significant influence on him and his taste for mixing the old and the contemporary.

Francois Catroux

In 1968, François Catroux was entrusted with the decoration of fashion designer Mila Shön’s showroom in Milan. This project – a futuristic space almost devoid of furniture – as well as the décor he created for his apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis, where he lived with his wife Betty Saint Lage, inspired by their bridal room, covered with diagonal yellow and white striped vinyls, aroused the enthusiasm of the press and launched his career internationally. François Catroux attracted a circle of elite clients, including industrialist Atinor Patiño, art dealer Aimé Maeght, Thierry van Zuylen, and the latter’s sister, Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, who entrusted the interior designer with the decoration of the chalet in the park of her château de Ferrières. In addition, with his wife, Yves Saint Laurent’s androgynous muse, they became one of the most prominent couples in high society.

Francois Catroux

In the early days of his career, François Catroux’s style was marked by soft tones, neutral colors and an inclination for minimal futurism. The year 1975 marked a turning point, when he decorated two apartments of the brand-new Olympic Tower skyscraper in New York, inserting exceptional antique objects into these modern and minimalist spaces to create an atmosphere of timeless elegance. In the 1980s, he began to integrate bright colors and rich prints before returning to his natural inclination for the avant-garde in the 2000s. François Catroux enjoyed mixing eras, integrating 18th century neoclassicism with modernity and bringing comfort, luxury and refinement to the spaces he designed through his personal aesthetic. Adored by the greatest, he remained active until the end and worked notably for Barry Diller and Diane von Fürstenberg, Marie-Chantal of Greece, the Santo Domingo family, and Roman Abramovitch. In 2016, his main works were presented in a monograph published by Rizzoli, with texts by David Netto. Each illustration of his work emanates a natural glamour and chic through which this prince of high decoration has defined a new form of elegance.

Francois Catroux

François Catroux at Rizzoli Editions

Released October 25, 2016

Texts by David Netto, preface by Diane von Fürstenberg

240 pages

Available with Click & Collect from any good bookseller