Designer Christian Astuguevieille is constantly in need of space. “Like many people who create things, I have the problem of where to store them,” he says. The solution he has found is to have not one, but two apartments, two doors apart, in the city of Bayonne in southwestern France. In both spaces, paintings are propped against walls, shelves are massed with an accumulation of objects, and entire rooms have been set aside to house his archives. Even a bathroom wall is lined with bookshelves.
In the master bath, floor-to-ceiling galvanized-iron bookshelves are reached with a metal library ladder; the sculptures and paintings are by Astuguevieille.
Astuguevieille is a man of many talents. He is creative director of Comme des Garçons Parfums (his latest scent, Concrete, recently launched in the U.S.). He paints, sculpts, and designs everything from jewelry to furniture; fans of the latter include architect Peter Marino and interior designer Nate Berkus. Astuguevieille’s signature material is rope, which he tightly winds around light fixtures, tables, and chests, among other pieces. “It’s wonderfully tactile,” he says. His most recent venture is a collection of earthy, unglazed pottery created with his assistant Frédéric Poircuitte, which will be unveiled at Astuguevieille’s Paris gallery this September. Many of the totem-like forms owe a certain something to one of his most important aesthetic influences — the tribal art of Oceania.
In the pottery studio, terracotta sculptures rest upside down atop Astuguevieille’s Bricba table.
Although he maintains a small apartment in the French capital, Bayonne has been Astuguevieille’s main base for the past nine years. In one sense, he sees it as a return to his roots (his family is from the neighboring Béarn region). He also loves the nearby Basque countryside, with its mountains and beaches, but favors living in an urban environment. “I don’t drive, so it’s easier,” he says. “And I need to be surrounded by activity.”
The kitchen’s buffet is by Astuguevieille, and the antique chair is Basque.
He actually lives in a skinny townhouse in the center of the city — a five-minute walk from the two apartments that he uses for a variety of purposes. The two spaces have much in common: both date from the 19th century, measure about 1,300 square feet, and overlook the river Nive. Architecturally, however, they are quite different: The first, which he mainly uses as an office, is simpler and more typical of Bayonne, with cased windows punched into several of its walls. The second, which houses his painting and drawing studio, is more elaborate, with a monumental stone staircase connecting its two floors. “The plaster moldings were so refined,” he says, “that I just left them as they were.” He did paint trompe l’oeil “rugs” onto the parquet floors, though, in the form of squiggly black doodles. “It was a way of making my mark,” he affirms. “They’re almost like tattoos.” The latter apartment also contains a bedroom; Astuguevieille retreats here when the busy square in front of his townhouse becomes overly raucous.
A studio in one of two apartments that the artist and designer Christian Astuguevieille maintains in Bayonne, France. He designed the sofa and its fabric, available through Holly Hunt, as well as the table and chandelier, and he created both the pattern on the oak parquet floor and many of the room’s artworks, using Chinese calligraphy ink.
Almost everywhere you look, you come across his creations. There are wooden tables and shelving units from his Bric & Broc collection. He also designed the simple cedar bed and conceived a plethora of wonderfully bizarre objects, including a glass-encased sculpture of a ladle coated with feathers.
The bedroom’s cedar bed, knotted-rope furniture, and sculptures are by Astuguevieille.
There are also several objects in a vivid “Yves Klein blue” — a color he has long treasured. “For me, it’s a symbol of both purity and force,” he says.
Astuguevieille designed the Afribaton chair, marble-topped table, hemp pedestal, Mira mirror, and sconce prototypes in the meeting room; the crystal chan- delier is from the early 20th century, and three of his 1992 glass sculptures in ultramarine blue fabric and bulrushes sit atop the 19th-century marble fireplace.
Apart from his own work, few of the furnishings are French. The globe-trotting mix includes a pair of 19th-century Korean thrones, an African marionette, a Biedermeier armchair, and a set of Gio Ponti chairs. That said, he is fond of Gallic engravings: In one of the bathrooms is a 19th-century series that previously belonged to the Comte de Paris, depicting relatives of King Louis-Philippe; in a work space, a set documenting the expeditions of the 18th-century navigator Jean-François de Galaup de La Pérouse hangs above a desk.
In the entry of the duplex apartment, the marble- topped console, Bunch of Grass rope sculpture, and artworks in the stair hall are all by Astuguevieille; the cement floor tiles are circa 1890.
When it comes to collecting, Astuguevieille is the first to admit he lacks control. “I have so many things that it’s almost indecent,” he jokes. He loves Creil et Montéreau creamware and has numerous stacks of the French faience maker’s plates and tureens. He has also amassed mounds of antique textiles, piles of prehistoric tools, and groups of birds’ eggs (he keeps the latter locked away so that sunlight won’t affect their color). At one time, he even acquired hundreds of inexpensive plastic children’s rings, but they are not on view. “My collections are not designed for display,” he says. “They’re simply meant to exist.”
On a stairwell landing, the table, cotton-rope sculpture, and wall of drawings are all by Astuguevieille; the flooring is molded glass.
He is, however, currently putting together an inventory of all the jewelry he has ever created, with the idea of donating it to a museum. In total, he believes there are some 2,700 pieces, but he is not yet certain of the final number. “I thought it would be easy to count, but it’s turned out to be complicated,” he admits. “Each time I think I’ve finished, I come across another box!”
Astuguevieille in one of his studios.
This story was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Siweb.