Rhapsody in Blue (and White)
BY SARA RUFFIN COSTELLO
Juan Pablo Molyneux pulled this room together with two William Kent benches covered in reproduction Prelle fabric from the 18th century, an Italian table and an Aleksandr Rodchenko sculpture.
To make a legendary room you have to have extreme conviction. The power decorator Juan Pablo Molyneux’s blue and white tiled vestibule at his 17th-century house in Paris, which he shares with his wife, Pilar, rates as epic. It’s a perfect example of the designer’s dedication to the vernacular of place, historical mastery and pure creative rapture.
Molyneux says he was ceramically inspired “by two famous examples of architecture.” One was a small pavilion at Versailles called the Trianon de Porcelaine, whose interior and exterior were covered in blue and white faience that existed for roughly 17 years. The second is a tiled palace in St. Petersburg built by a Russian Prince, Aleksandr Menshikov, in 1710.
For the imagery, Molyneux extensively researched 18th-century engravings from which he commissioned paintings of scenes from three vanished châteaus to be transferred to tiles for each wall.
After more than 9,000 five-inch square terra-cotta tiles were individually cut, sanded, washed, dried and coated with liquid enamel, they were finally ready for the process of perforation — the transfer of the drawing to each tile. This was no easy task. It involved copying each scene onto tracing paper, making thousands of pinpoint holes in the paper, then layering it over the tiles and brushing the surface with powdered charcoal, which transferred the sketch onto each tile. Next, the hand-mixed cobalt-blue color was applied. Finally, all the pieces were individually numbered and installed onto each wall, top to bottom. The process took three artisans working full-time one year to complete.
The west end features the opulent gardens at Liancourt, a bygone castle in the north of France. The east wall, which has invisible doors that lead to the library, portrays the welcoming of King Louis XIV by guards and musketeers at Château de Marly, while the south wall represents the king’s brother, making his regal entrance at the Château de Saint-Cloud. The north side features double doors that open to the courtyard, and was the original entrance to the building.
The decorator recently decided to serve dinner in the vestibule. “I had never used it as a dining room,” he says. “We redirected the entrance to the house so that our guests wouldn’t walk through the vestibule as they arrived, and would be surprised. It was magical.” Molyneux continues, “The acoustics in that room are so divine. I took it one step further and had singing waiters.”
A version of this article appeared in print on 04/14/2013, on page M2122 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Rhapsody in Blue (and White).