After a decade working on men’s fashion lines for Pierre Cardin, Yovanovitch has quickly built a solid foundation in design, opening his namesake firm in 2001 and establishing himself as a modern master of spatial composition, design history, and custom furniture with a keen eye for elemental-yet-luxurious materials and color.
“With a strong architectural statement,” Pierre Yovanovitch once told AD, “you can go on to build an interior with simple but luxurious furnishings.”
A self-described “opera fanatic,” Yovanovitch has created exhibitions for Hermès and the Rive Gauche auction house Piasa, designed the interiors of La Patinoire Royale Museum in Brussels and the five-star Hôtel Marignan in Paris, and commissioned installation artworks by the likes of Felice Varini, Tadashi Kawamata, Pieter Vermeersch, and Claire Tabouret.
In 2017, he launched his Oops! range of furniture and lighting and is currently working with a client on a historic vacation home in the Hamptons. Here, he chats with AD PRO about everything from his childhood home to his penchant for pink.
AD PRO: Tell us about your childhood home.
Pierre Yovanovitch: The interior of my parents’s home was not marked by any style in particular. My mother’s family lived in Algeria until the independence, and my father’s family emigrated from Serbia, so there were very few heirlooms. This is probably why I need to create my own spaces. However, my grandmother’s home in Valberg, in the Alps, had a distinct aesthetic featuring a lot of rattan furniture, as well as Vallauris Picault ceramics from the 1950s. This decoration will always evoke the feeling of the holidays for me.
In the atrium of a Belgian townhouse, Yovanovitch paired a work by Jonathan Horowitz with a Paavo Tynell lamp and benches of his own design.
AD PRO: What childhood possessions do you still have to this day?
Yovanovitch: I still have an electric toy train, several German airplane models from the 1950s, and all of my drawings.
AD PRO: When you worked for Pierre Cardin, did you ever visit his Palais Bulles, designed by Antti Lovag?
Yovanovitch: Of course. It’s an amazing, absolutely exuberant experience – a real jewel of architecture inspired by troglodyte housing.
AD PRO: What other kinds of vernacular architecture inspire you?
Yovanovitch: Through my projects, I have studied both Swiss chalets and Provençal farmhouses in depth. I love both. The Swiss chalet for the architecture that takes into account how the massive wood dimensions change as it dries up over the years, and the Provençal for the almost miraculous harmony of its somewhat disorderly facades.
AD PRO: You have said, “If I listened to my true self, I’d live with nothing but white walls and a bench.” What holds you back?
Yovanovitch: Well, I was talking about one part of my true self. The other part loves artifacts and their makers so much that I can’t resist the urge to live with some of them.
Yovanovitch’s desk (of his own design), beneath “In the Days of War I (Korzhhev),” by Georg Baselitz, is flanked by circa 1960 Esko Pajamies armchairs.
AD PRO: What does your desk look like?
Yovanovitch: My desk doesn’t often look like this picture I sent [above]. It is a mess, and here it is very clean.
AD PRO: What’s the most useful tool in your work space?
Yovanovitch: My smartphone. Principally because it allows me to find and look at images, the raw material of my work.
In a renovated 17th-century guesthouse in Provence, Yovanovich designed a custom sofa and collaborated with ceramist Armelle Benoit on the coffee table. The artwork is by Stephan Balkenhol.
AD PRO: What does a room need to make you feel good?
Yovanovitch: It needs to feel spacious with a perceived simple, convex shape. Objects and furniture need to have found their natural place, as if they had always been there. A whimsical piece that does not quite fit in – and somehow shows that the rest is in harmony – also helps.
AD PRO: Does that explain your fondness for pink?
Yovanovitch: Pink is not a serious color. This is why I like to use it seriously. It is lovely and at the same time it brings in a certain distance, as if the decor made fun of itself.
AD PRO: Why is wood so primal in your work?
Yovanovitch: The beauty of massive wood is that it shows the skill of the cabinetmaker in predicting how the wood will evolve as it lives on. It shows the strength of nature and the adaptability of man. I have used a lot of oak and larch wood, now I move to darker, slightly more graphic woods, such as chestnut.
A dramatic wine cellar and guesthouse Yovanovitch designed in Portugal.
AD PRO: You have championed Scandinavian and American Art Deco, and midcentury design. Why do they resonate?
Yovanovitch: They are well built, functional, comfortable, and durable. And they are beautiful and often free-spirited. What more does one want? I sense that there is now a return toward more decorative and ornate styles. This trend is somewhat in conflict with Scandinavian and American Art Deco pieces, but I think that a lot of these objects are so well designed that they can work easily with other styles.
AD PRO: Why did you call your first furniture collection Oops!?
Yovanovitch: Oops! is an understatement, to show that I don’t take my work too seriously. I always liked to give nicknames to people (mostly using animals and fictional characters); why not do the same with objects? The Stella table is named for my oldest dog. The Stanley sofa does indeed come from A Streetcar Named Desire – mostly because he is sexy and says things quite clearly.
Yovanovitch’s Madame Oops chair in oak.
AD PRO: You once told AD, “Useless ornament must give way to the essential.” What ornaments make you cringe?
Yovanovitch: Curtain tiebacks.
AD PRO: What small luxuries can you not live without?
Yovanovitch: Blackout shades. Proper morning tea. Time to get ready every day. Time by myself.
The living room of a Belgian townhouse gets a soft feel thanks to linen curtains, a monochromatic artwork by David Altmejd, a Viggo Boesen easy chair, and a silk-and-mohair-upholstered sofa of Yovanovitch’s design.
AD PRO: If the best things in life are free, then what are the best things in life?
Yovanovitch: Love, of course, and friendship. A warm welcome by one of my four dogs – Fuji, Mikki, Kim, and Stella – also ranks quite high.
AD PRO: What kind of bed – and bedding – do you sleep in?
Yovanovitch: A classical king-size bed with a quilt and white cotton sheets. I have never been a good sleeper. The good thing is, it does not get any worse.
AD PRO: How would you design your “final resting place”?
Yovanovitch: I am not sufficiently interested in my own death for that. I love Gunar Asplund’s cemetery in Stockholm; the one in Sète, in the South of France, overlooking the sea; or the tomb of my great-grandparents, on a peaceful hillside of the French Alps. I think I will let others – if they are interested – take care of my final resting place.
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