Designer Alessandra Branca's New Private Client Atelier by the Seine

The designer weaves a little Paris intrigue and channels the 18th-century splendor of Catherine the Great into her new fabric collection for de Gournay.

Upholstered banquette in room with red curtains
Simon Upton

The designer Alessandra Branca, who has just completed the first of four seasonal fabric collections for de Gournay, chose to start her series in the way that each year begins: with winter. Her fiery interpretation gives new life to that lackluster season. It’s a color-shot fantasy of 18th-century Russia, built out of the intricately embroidered textiles for which Branca is known.

Console with geometric carpet and floral wallcovering
In the Winter Garden, Branca used a cool palette of creams, blues, and browns. The Elisavetha wall­covering, with its metallic and silk threads on India tea paper, was inspired by 18th-century court dress. The rug was a collaboration between Branca and the Rug Company and draws its pattern from the parquet wood flooring in Russia's imperial palaces.
Simon Upton

To realize the collection, the designer conducted deep research into the life of the Prussian-born Catherine the Great (1729–1796), who had an outsize influence on Russian design. Working with architect Charles Cameron at the Tsarskoye Selo palace and other sites around St. Petersburg, the empress “created an architectural iconography that became a standard,” Branca notes, one that melded Byzantine and neoclassical styles. Catherine left her stylish imprint on interiors, too, and even costume design.

Bar with red table skirt and mineral wallpaper
A recessed bar is backed in wallpapers featuring mineral motifs by Branca for de Gournay. The rug, by Branca in collaboration with the Rug Company, is inspired by Catherine the Great's meticulously arranged parterres.
Simon Upton

Branca’s new designs are on display in a private apartment above de Gournay’s flagship showroom in Paris’s Saint-Germain neighborhood. The space, which is used for private events and can be visited by appointment, comprises two formal living rooms. The first, known as the Winter Garden, has a coolish palette. The next one—the Catherine Salon—is alive with color, an eye-popping array of bright reds and blues.



Craftsmanship here is on rich display; almost every surface seems to be thrillingly worked—from decoupage to emballage, gauffrage to gilding. “We wanted to celebrate these crafts and show their depth,” Branca says, noting that the rooms were originally conceived “for celebrating de Gournay’s amazing new embroidery workrooms in India.” There, cutting-edge techniques bring time-honored ones to life, with results that now sparkle just steps from the Seine—and that are ready to be adapted to any interior.

Alessandra Branca
Designer Alessandra Branca.
Simon Upton


This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Siweb.

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