It was back in 1978, at the age of 15, that Paris-based 20th-century-design dealer and decorator Jacques Hervouet got his first glimpse of a remarkable interior. Through a family friend, he was taken to visit the iconic London flat designed in the early ’60s by David Hicks for Lord and Lady Cholmondeley. He still recalls being particularly struck by the entry hall, with its bright orange walls outlined by black stripes. “It was a real aesthetic shock,” he says. “It was like being plunged into an extremely idiosyncratic, graphic world. As if I’d found myself inside a Hermès box.”
Hervouet likes to endow the interiors he creates with a similarly strong visual impact. He is a fan of bright hues (“Without color in a decor, I’m miserable,” he claims) and is an avowed antiminimalist. Instead, he prefers to inject his work with a touch of impertinence and eclecticism. “For me, the worst thing is having a sense of déjà vu,” he insists. “You need to experiment, to shake things up and surprise. I like it when there’s a bit of humor and excess.”
A dose of lightheartedness is certainly in evidence in the apartment he’s furnished just a stone’s throw away from the Seine on Paris’s Left Bank. In front of the fireplace in the living room stands a papier-mâché bear. “It’s out of sync with the rest of the decor, but that’s exactly what creates a sense of wonder,” he notes. In the adjoining guest room is a Yonel Lebovici floor lamp in the shape of a gigantic safety pin, while the study is populated with bird sculptures. “They make me howl with laughter,” he says. “They’re so over the top, décalé, and thus interesting.”
Hervouet arrived at his current profession via a circuitous route. In his youth, he successively wanted to be a carpenter, a pianist, and a translator. He first studied English and Russian, then political science, and ended up working for a decade in advertising. Then, in 1999, he decided on a radical change of life and bought his gallery on Paris’s Rue de l’Université. In the early years, Galerie Hervouet specialized in 18th- and 19th-century objects and drawings. “It was like a cabinet of curiosities,” he remembers, “with thousands of picture frames on the walls.” Over time, he shifted toward 20th-century design. Among other things, he loves the work of Maison Jansen, such midcentury Italians as Gio Ponti, and is also a keen champion of ’70s French designers such as Philippe Cheverny, Marie-Claude de Fouquières, and François Godebski.
It was through the gallery that the owners of this flat initially discovered him. Previously, they had reconfigured the 2,500-square-foot space with the help of interior designer Sarah Lavoine, who split the former dining room in two to create a study and master bedroom. She also renovated the kitchen and bathrooms, removed some of the decorative moldings, and replaced all the flooring. In the entrance hall, she opted for a geometric pattern in stone underfoot. Another vivid element for the master bedroom was chosen by the owners—decorative wall paneling by artist Zoé Ouvrier.
In both high-volume spaces, Hervouet deliberately opted for a low-key approach. “What was there already was so strong that if I’d tried to shout even louder, the result would have been ghastly,” he says. In the master bedroom, he chose to integrate lighting by Serge Mouille. “It has a floral, plantlike spirit that fits well with Zoé’s work,” he explains. In the entrance hall, he placed a vintage bronze Stilnovo floor lamp and a kinetic artwork by Romano Zanotti, whose geometric forms are a perfect foil for the flooring. The rest of the rooms were based around what Hervouet playfully calls a “D-spot.” “The ‘D’ stands for decoration,” he explains. “You choose an object or a piece of furniture you love, and that becomes the focal point of the room, around which the rest is structured.”
The “D-spot” for the study was the small ash-and-laminate desk, by Jean Royère, which Hervouet paired with two Gio Ponti armchairs and a vintage chandelier manufactured by Raak. In the sitting room, it was a mirror of his own design, whose circular forms were inspired by Baroque earrings. A René Roche painting in the same space attests to Hervouet’s love of bright hues. “It reminds me of cutouts Matisse created towards the end of his life,” he says.
For him, however, the most successful room is the guest bedroom, the focal point of which is a photo by Gérard Rancinan of Chinese artist Yan Pei-Ming in front of an oversized painting of the Mona Lisa. Standing right beside it is the Lebovici safety-pin lamp—a rare artist’s proof. “There’s something extremely theatrical, unexpected, and playful about the composition,” states Hervouet. “I always love it when there’s something in an interior that really blows you away.” Rather like Lord and Lady Cholmondeley’s entrance hall.