The legendary interior designer Alberto Pinto was an inveterate collector. “I think he bought something every day,” says his sister, Linda, who took command of his decorating firm upon his death in 2012. “He would accumulate things without knowing what to do with them.” His passions included linen, silverware, and porcelain services from France, England, and Portugal. This legacy of collecting made Linda Pinto the right choice to design the apartment of an almost equally obsessive thirty-something who lives close to the Champs-Élysées. “Collecting requires a lot of patience and effort, but also brings great joys,” the client says. “It also adds a personal dimension to an interior.”
The accumulation of objects in the Parisian flat the man shares with his wife and children is both remarkable and wonderfully eclectic. There are paintings by Picasso, Pierre Soulages, Lucio Fontana, Jean Hélion, and Marie Laurencin (the latter placed, surprisingly, in the powder room). There are also a pair of exquisite 18th-century Japanese lacquered cabinets, an Ado Chale coffee table, a smattering of Georges Jouve ceramics, a pair of Garouste & Bonetti armchairs, traditional African sculptures, and a Charlotte Perriand dining table at which the kids eat their breakfast. “We wanted a very Parisian apartment in the same spirit as Monsieur Saint Laurent or Jacques Doucet,” he explains. “Not excessively modern, but rather with an intellectual atmosphere.”
The nearly 9,000-square-foot space certainly has an august past. It consists of what used to be two separate units, one of which previously belonged to an auctioneer. The Cabinet Alberto Pinto joined the two flats together and completely reworked the layout. Part of what was the former master bedroom is now a study, the former kitchen has become a dining room, and there is one immense sitting room in place of two smaller ones. “We love large spaces,” says Pinto. “We don’t have a problem with things being oversized.”
Sipping coffee while sitting on one of the sofas, she reminisces about her late brother, whose clients included financier Michel David-Weill and the royal families of Jordan, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. One thing she strives to maintain at the 60-person firm is her brother’s devotion to craftsmanship. “It’s our DNA, and we don’t want to lose it,” she says. The shimmering straw marquetry walls of the sitting room are a perfect example, as are the apartment’s custom rugs that each took up to two years to fabricate.
The decorating process of the Paris apartment was fairly organic. Some items were bought with a definite notion of where they would be placed, like the Jean Hélion painting in the living room and the two Art Nouveau armchairs in the family room. Others were acquired simply because they caught Pinto’s eye. A case in point is the pair of Eiffel Tower—shaped sculptures that ended up being used as plant stands in the entry hall. “We don’t know where everything is going to go at the beginning, but things find their place as if by magic,” marvels Pinto.
There was, however, a certain method to creating the mix. The art collection focuses mainly on emblematic figures of the post–World War II era, and there was an insistence on integrating works in different media. “That makes things more complex and visually interesting,” notes Pietro Scaglione, the interior designer who oversaw the project. At times, certain elements of the decor were directly inspired by the art. The animal prints in the living room, for instance, are an obvious nod to the collection of African sculpture. At others, the goal was to create a deliberate dissonance.
Pinto is keen to point out that not everything has to be of great value. The two sconces on either side of the Picasso painting above the fireplace were bought for a song at a Paris flea market. “They were lying on the ground and looked like nothing until they were regilded,” notes Scaglione. The Charlotte Perriand bench, meanwhile, was initially earmarked for the client’s villa on Ibiza. “I told him his gardener there wouldn’t understand its value and would chop it up for firewood,” he says.
Not everything initially acquired for the Parisian flat made the cut either. Two truckloads of furniture and objects ended up being placed in storage. “They’ll be for our client’s next house,” says Pinto matter-of-factly. She recalls the first dinner party her client held once the installation was complete. “All the guests said, ‘It’s incredible. Everything looks like it’s been here forever,’ ” she recalls. “For me, that was quite a compliment. Our goal is always to create homes that feel anything but brand-new.”