At Home with Florence Lopez
A
At Home with Florence Lopez
VIEW ALL PHOTOS

With her petite stature and rare eye for colour, materials and design, Florence Lopez is an uncaged exotic bird in the closed world of antiques. When in 1992 she left her position at Jacques Garcia’s interior design agency to open up her own by-appointment antiques space in a modernist artist’s atelier in a rooftop apartment in Saint-Germain des Prés (accessible by a higgledy-piggledy narrow flight of stairs) many took the idea as completely harebrained. But Florence, who found there was “a magic to this place,” stuck to her guns. “I’m a nonconformist and the fact that anyone who takes an appointment with me is willing to walk up those four flights of stairs is already a sign that they, too, are nonconformist, they have a lively sense of curiosity.”

at-home-with-florence-lopez at-home-with-florence-lopez
Florence Lopez
Philippe Garcia
 

She spent the next couple of years getting connected with the space, even sleeping in it empty in order to study the changing light and atmospheres. In time, the cube-shaped space, with its huge atelier windows, was to transform into a theatre of sorts, serving over the past 22 years as the stage for a revolving set of decors filled with Florence’s rare and exquisite antique finds. As a woman who works by instinct, always pushing the boundaries of expression, for Florence, whose clients include Charlotte Gainsbourg, François Pinault and Gerard Depardieu (yes, they climbed those stairs), a composition must never look contrived, or as if an interior designer has been there. “Very few sincere places exist,” she says.

Florence, who describes herself as a “scenographer” or “ensemblier” (the old French term for interior decorator), likes to see the atelier as a box that she can open and close. She reinvents the space roughly once a year. Her first decor, she recalls, was “a bit Addams family” a mix of beautiful Vietnamese and English Arts & Crafts pieces, a Neo-Gothic fire screen and a pair of gigantic armchairs.

Anything can inspire a theme, be it an object or a wall decoration, which Florence then likes to build a story around, often playing with intense colour on the walls to create contrast or researching new ideas for window coverings, such as banner-like screens inspired by a system she discovered on a recent visit to a Palladian house north of Venice. She also likes to play with mirrors.

Today, the atelier’s walls are an intense shade of Prussian blue, setting off pots of giant cacti dotted about the room, a black fabric window screen in a Nina Campbell print of parrots and roses, and the colour tones of the furniture, from a Yves Klein-blue 1920 chest of drawers with brass slats by André Sornay to a grey sofa with honey arms honed from rare olive tree burr. “Such pure design. I don’t usually like lightwood but I like to be surprised; I’m my own first client,” says Florence. For her next décor, geared around finds from a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro, she’s in the mood for a palette cleanse.

Unlike a theatre, Florence, who inherited her sense of fantasy from her mother – a “bourgeois woman with a creative spirit, who made dresses out of curtains” – actually lives in the space when in Paris. (She has a home in Bordeaux that she shares with her architect husband Patrick Hernandez.) And the unique thing about her concept is that every single item in the apartment is for sale – bar her bed, after having too many times found herself sleeping on a mattress on the floor, weeping into her pillow. (Her current bed is by Charlotte Perriand.)

“When I know I want to live with something, it works,” says Florence who twice in her career has had a client snap up an entire décor. There are only two pieces that she will “always regret” parting ways with: two sculptures by Jean Arp. But for the veteran dealer, there’s something therapeutic about this idea of not being able to get too attached to a piece, of letting go. Pieces come to and leave you for a reason, she says, with each owner adding on another layer of the story.

Albeit strong spirited, there’s as sense of joie de vivre, a live-wire energy to Florence who, with her palpable passion for what she does, can lead clients places they wouldn’t usually go. A case in point is her recent venture with interior decorator Christian Liaigre, selecting antiques and creating ephemeral decors for his boutique on Rue de Varenne. “We wanted it to resemble a living room, the challenge was to take away this gallery aspect,” recounts Florence, who came up with the idea of installing a fireplace. But not any old fireplace. Gearing herself up to present a selection to Christian over dinner one night during the planning phase, she was chuckling to herself at the reaction one particular design might provoke. “I thought he’d dismiss it as something for a Smurf or a garden gnome, but when I pulled out the photo he declared “That’s it, that’s the one,” laughs Florence of the unusual piece: a charming theatre prop from the Thirties in wood, black leather and studs. She even convinced him to use its mini cupboards as a bar, stocked with “elegant glasses and vodka to serve to clients on chilly days”. It makes for quite a centrepiece against the room’s striking color-blocked ivy-green and black walls. “I always serve my guests coffee and little chocolates or croissants, he’s really come round to the idea,” says Florence who effortlesssly mixed in design masterpieces, including a set of rare Joe Colombo curved bamboo chairs upholstered in black velvet mohair, a beautiful Art Deco rug and a Bauhaus desk, offset by purist designs by Christian. Florence’s talent lies in creating unique universes that make the pieces sing. Just like her life story, it’s that magic combination of a love of freedom and risk – and a wonderful eye.

at-home-with-florence-lopez at-home-with-florence-lopez
A hint of the new decor in Florence Lopez’s atelier
Philippe Garcia
 

Other articles you will appreciate

  • M
    MAISON&OBJET INSPIRATIONS FOR THE FALL
    MAISON&OBJET INSPIRATIONS FOR THE FALL
  • F
    Florine Asch, Doyenne of the Bespoke Greeting Card
    Florine Asch, Doyenne of the Bespoke Greeting Card
  • T
    The New Craftsmen – Luxury Now
    The New Craftsmen – Luxury Now
  • E
    EL Wrap - PAD London
    EL Wrap - PAD London
  • L
    London Design Festival Wrap
    London Design Festival Wrap
  • L
    BLUE MOOD
    BLUE MOOD