“It was the very movement that gave artists freedom. So basically, you were able to do whatever you wanted without any explanation,” said French interior designer Cyril Vergniol, founder of the Paris-based interior design firm Stylelagos.
The movement in question is surrealism; it was developed in the 1920s by writer André Breton in Paris who championed the liberation of the human mind of all the boundaries of the enlightenment that advocated rationalism. Some of surrealism’s most notable figures are René Magritte, Jean Arp, Joan Miró, and of course, Salvador Dalí.
“It was a period when artists wanted to break the rules,” adds Vergniol.
So when the developer of 200 East 59 Street, a 35-story luxury residential tower in Manhattan, asked him to come up with “something very daring and very unexpected” for the decoration of the two model apartments, he immediately thought of surrealism.
To achieve that signature bold look, Vergniol mixed and matched vintage and custom-made furniture (“We didn’t want people to have a déjà-vu.”)
In the living room, for example, he found a vintage Italian sofa from the 1950s and paired it with two modern chairs that he bought in New York City and a custom Vincenzo de Cotiis table. He styled antiques from Africa with contemporary works of art such as a rocket clock he found at Carpenters Workshop Gallery.
“It is also in the spirit of surrealism to mix furniture and art pieces from different periods. It’s just a matter of balance,” he explains.
In one of the guest bedrooms, Vergniol opted for a custom headboard inspired by Venetian palaces that he had upholstered in blue velvet. Then, he hand-painted two eyes on both sides of the headboard for a profile-like trompe l’oeil effect.
“If you take out the eyes, you really can’t tell that’s a profile,” he adds.
The beautiful nightstands were also custom-made from pink glass and bronze.
“I wanted to show that, for example, if a young couple is living in that apartment, they can mix different pieces of furniture that have nothing to do with one another but it would still look nice. It’s about being free, and being able to like different things even if they are not all the same color, style, or from the same period,” Vergniol said. “Nowadays, because of social media, everything looks the same whether it’s in Dubai, New York, or Paris. It’s good to have some personality.”