It may be the dead of winter, but at Barneys New York, summer party season preparation is in full swing. Kicking off the festivities, a new pop-up shop entitled Life by Muriel Brandolini has opened its actual and virtual doors, offering the very best in luxurious living and entertaining.
Named one of Architectural Digest’s top 100 designers in the world in 2016, Brandolini’s eye for mixing colors and textures is legendary, as is the surprising touch of whimsy that adds an element of ease to the elegant living spaces she creates.
Brandolini’s style can perhaps best be described as global: Her father was Vietnamese, her mother, French-Venezuelan. She spent her formative years in Martinique, lived in Paris, married an Italian aristocrat, and currently resides in New York City. Elements of her personal life are on view in Brandolini’s installation at Barneys’ Madison Avenue store, including a marble table top from Brandolini’s home in the Hamptons, and a romantic day bed, also from her private collection.
“All of this fits with the theme of the shop: Putting your own stamp on entertaining,” explains Dina Smallman, a buyer for Chelsea Passage. “Muriel’s work is about being versatile, and being able to put things together in new and surprising ways when it comes to home design, and that very much speaks to the way our Barneys customers approach entertaining.”
Barneys’ first collaboration with Brandolini was initiated after the designer published her book, The World of Muriel Brandolini: Interiors, in 2011. This time, the inspiration for the collaboration comes from Brandolini’s successful pop-up shop in Southampton, NY, which opened last summer. Dubbed Life by Muriel Brandolini, the store featured a curated selection of table décor, place settings, and home accents, all designed to capture the relaxing nature of beach house entertaining along with the elegance her clients have come to expect.
“We decided to extend this concept of Life by Muriel Brandolini to our shop in Barneys,” says Smallman. “It is a mix of Muriel’s original products and ones that were created especially for this installation.” The core of the collection is hand-blown Murano drinkware, but the line also includes pillows, trays, and boxes covered in vintage fabric designed by Brandolini. The style, says Smallman, is mix-and-match. “When you are speaking to people with a high level of taste, you give them the very best quality and let them decide how to put the pieces together in a way that makes it their own.”
The Chelsea Passage installation is configured into three vignettes to create entertainment environments with different vibes. The first is a moody vintage story: Deep pinks, dark greens and ripe oranges fill the space. Next: Natural living—an earth-tone story. And finally, summer brights: a collection of Brandolini’s beach house must-haves in lighter blues and whites. There is something for everyone, and endless opportunities for those bold enough to experiment. “Each of these stories is collectible, yet accessible,” says Smallman.
As for Brandolini, she admits designing these pieces has solved a problem in her own life. “I love to entertain, and I find it so hard to find special pieces to decorate the table,” she says. “So I created this collection with my needs in mind!”
The Window: You are incredibly well-travelled: Vietnam, Martinique, Paris, New York…. How have your travels have shaped your design aesthetic?
Muriel Brandolini: I particularly identify with Vietnam, where I spent my childhood. I am greatly influenced by their textile traditions, especially the embroidered garments of the Northern tribes. And of course India, where I produce my block-printed fabrics, has also been a wonderful source of inspiration, particularly with color.
During the design process, how much thought do you give to how various pieces will work together or play off each other?
Something that I personally dislike is the concept of ‘matching’ tableware. I just don’t believe in it! There is a difference between strictly coordinating pieces, versus having them appear in a harmonious arrangement. During the design process, I do think of the entire range as a whole, but I am not looking to make sure each individual piece perfectly matches another! The freedom to put together unexpected combinations is what creates a beautiful setting.
What are the essential ingredients for a perfect atmosphere for entertaining?
A fantastic soundtrack, plenty of candles, and good wine!
How involved have you been in creating the Barneys installation space for your pieces?
As an interior designer, I approached this with an overall vision, which I have been very involved in translating to the installation space. I wanted to include the personal pieces—the table top and day bed—to help “paint the picture,” and really transport people and trigger their imaginations. Both of those pieces are designed by Marie-Anne Oujedans, founder of Tocca, and are available for sale through Barneys.
Do you have a favorite piece in the collection?
It is impossible to choose! It was definitely more exciting for me, however, to explore products I have never had the opportunity to design before, such as the dishware. It was a different exercise and approach.
Your collection includes djellabas, for which you are known. What was the inspiration for them?
I launched my first range of djellabas in 1999. The idea blossomed during a trip to Jaipur. I had been immersed in all of these incredible fabrics, and I simply wanted to wear them! That was the “birth” of my ready-to-wear collection.