Design Spotlight: Interior Designer Madeleine Castaing (1894-1992)

M Castaing

While she may not yet be a household-name in the UK, the influence of French
interior designer Madeleine Castaing has never been greater, from insta-worthy
turquoise velvet cushions found on the high street, the universally popular appeal of
all things leopard print, to the playful, Madeleine-shaped chairs of the tea Parlour at
Sketch, London.

Sketch

The Parlour at Sketch, London

Castaing was a Parisian designer with a singular flair for pattern and colour, which she rendered simply as “I use three colors: red, sky-blue, and the green of the gardens”.

Castaing - Leves Country House

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Castaing details

The effect of her unique vision, and her ability to tread a fine line between glamour and chaos through the arrangement of mismatched ornaments, striped walls and fur rugs, is still unparalleled in the design world. She was able to cultivate a roster of stellar clients from among Paris’s literary and artistic circles, including Nouvelle Vague film director Roger Vadim and artist and poet Jean Cocteau.

Dining room in Villa Santo Sospir by Castaing

Dining room in Villa Santo Sospir by Castaing

Her enormous influence on the art world is testified to by the fact that Castaing
appears in her characteristic fur coat and red lipstick in a painting by the French artist
Soutine (La Petite Madeleine des décorateurs, The Metropolitan Museum, New
York), whose work was recently exhibited in a retrospective at the Courtauld Gallery.

Soutine-Madeleine-Castaing-expertisez

Portrait of Madeleine Castaing, c.1929, oil on canvas

Today she is frequently name-dropped by contemporary designers, such as Anna Sui and Christian Lacroix. The hip Saint James hotel in Paris has a suite decorated in her honour, for true devotees.

Saint James Hotel 2

Suite at the Saint James Hotel, Paris

The designer’s talent lay in her ability to juxtapose 18th century French antiques, such as upholstered banquets and round poufs, inexpensive porcelain ornaments, and luxurious furs and exotic textiles, in a single room. Perhaps most famous is the Salon at her country house, the Maison de Lèves, in Northern France.

While the rooms may at first appear disordered, there is a natural kind of logic to her choice of largely
organic patterns and colours. She was totally obsessed with Tiffany-blue, adorning
curtains, lampshades and bedspreads in her signature hue. Around each room, the eye
is drawn to springs of colour, a vase of bright purple, a yellow bedspread, or a red
armchair.

Castaing Interior 2

Castaing’s circular salon featuring her distinctive Tiffany blue on a silk conversation seat, standing on a leopard print carpet

Castaing

Recently, her most committed devotees have been sourcing Castaing’s original textile patterns for Brunschwig & Fils, which have been restocked. While she may have gone to the Saint-Ouen flea market in Northern Paris to find treasures for her clients, it is easy to recreate her signature style much closer to home… Gilded frames, 19th century glassware, textured wallpapers and patterned fabrics can also be used to imitate le style Castaing.