The Aesthete: Hervé Van der Straeten talks more personal taste

The designer concludes his list of likes with a 1920s painting, a vintage-style barber and homage to modern-day Tokyo

Hervé Van der Straeten at his home in the Marais, with a skull sculpture by Xavier Veilhan
Hervé Van der Straeten at his home in the Marais, with a skull sculpture by Xavier Veilhan | Image: Léa Crespi

My style icon is Rick Owens. I have a few of his clothes, and although it isn’t exactly my taste, I very much admire his personal style and his whole lifestyle; the way he looks, the way he lives, the way he works and his partner Michèle are all of a piece.

The last thing I bought and loved was a painting called Sogno dell’Appeso by a contemporary Italian artist called Nicola Samorì. I like it because it’s tragic and mysterious at the same time. It shows a martyr painted in the 17th-century style, but in the middle there is a void – so it looks like the body has been ripped in two. It’s both soft and aggressive.

Bubbling pots designed by Van der Straeten
Bubbling pots designed by Van der Straeten

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a greenhouse for my garden in Burgundy. I’m designing it and the base is already made, but now I’m looking at how to finish it with glass and ironwork. The person I have in mind to make it, Philippe Soeuvre, is a fine craftsman; it will be a new toy for me to play with.

If I didn’t live in Paris, the city I would live in is Tokyo, because it’s exciting and surprising – the contrast between Japanese respect for the past and the city’s extreme modernity is striking. It’s a busy, crowded place, but I feel completely comfortable there. The 21_21 Design Sight museum, the first Japanese museum dedicated to design and created by Tadao Ando, is an incredible place to visit. Itoya in the Ginza district is the best place for stationery in Japan; the display is beautiful and the variety of papers and pencils is huge. And Tsutaya Books is the most beautiful bookshop I’ve ever seen, with an amazing selection. 21_21 Design Sight, 9-7-6 Akasaka, 107-0052 (+813-3475 2121; Itoya, 2-7-15 Ginza, 104-0061 (+813-3561 8311; Tsutaya Books, Daikanyama T site, 17-5 Sarugakucho, 150-0033 (+813-3770 2525;


The site that inspires me is the Alps. I go there every year to ski – sometimes to Courchevel, sometimes St Moritz or Gstaad – and it always feels healthy and fun. Just being in the mountains is inspiring.

The best gift I’ve given recently is a pair of pots of my own design, which have a bronze holder for flowers or plants resting on several crystal balls. They’re called Bubbling and I gave them to friends as a present.

Les Mauvais Garçons barber in Paris
Les Mauvais Garçons barber in Paris

And the best one I’ve received recently is a painting from the 1920s by René-George Gautier, for my 50th birthday. It’s called Officier de Cavalerie and shows a messenger on horseback during the first world war. It’s a great painting, which now hangs on the wall of my library. 

A recent “find” is an art dealer in Stockholm, a gallery called Andréhn-Schiptjenko, which I discovered at the Art Basel fair. It has a good list of artists and a strong, interesting selection of pieces. I’ve already bought three works by French artist Xavier Veilhan – a large mobile of different-sized black spheres; a sculpture of a man, in a cubist style, called Jeanroch; and a large orange skull – and I’m also looking at another sculpture by Mexican artist José León Cerrillo called The New Psychology. Hudiksvallsgatan 8, Stockholm 113 30 (+468-612 0075;

Officier de Cavalerie by René-George Gautier, in Van der Straeten’s library
Officier de Cavalerie by René-George Gautier, in Van der Straeten’s library | Image: Léa Crespi

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose where I live right now, the Marais; everything is within a 10-minute walk from home. Thaddaeus Ropac is my favourite art gallery for its curated selection of works. My butcher is Gardil on Rue Saint-Louis, where I can buy pretty much everything I need to cook a Tournedos Rossini, as well as pigeons, the best Bresse poultry and Sud Ouest duck breast fillets. I also love the BHV, which is like a hardware store where they have everything – cooking utensils, secateurs and products to keep slugs away. And I often go to Les Philosophes, a bistro where everything is homemade; it’s essentially my daily canteen. BHV Marais, 52 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 (+339-7740 1400; Boucherie Gardil, 44 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, 75004 (+331-4354 9715). Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 7 Rue Debelleyme, 75003 (+331-4272 9900; Les Philosophes, 28 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 (+331-4887 4964).

In my fridge you’ll always find all sorts of vegetables, goat’s cheese, crème fraîche and – just in case – champagne. There’ll also be some homemade jam that I make from the fruit in my garden – it’s cassis and rhubarb at the moment.

Designer Rick Owens
Designer Rick Owens | Image: Gregoire Kalt

The last meal that truly impressed me was cooked by an Iranian friend at his home. It started with a soup called ash, an intricate dish with many ingredients and herbs – nothing like French soups. That was followed by a lamb stew with tahdig, which is a delicious rice with a saffron crust.

The people I rely on for personal grooming and wellbeing are my hairdresser and my personal trainer. I’m not a grooming maniac, but I wear my hair very short, so I need a good barber. I go to Les Mauvais Garçons, which is a fun, vintage-style place; I get a clean, military-look haircut there. And I see my trainer Hoiri Nezouani twice a week. I don’t feel like I’m doing exercise because all we do is talk about decorative art, which he’s passionate about, so my sessions go very quickly. Hoiri Nezouani, Les Mauvais Garçons, 34 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile, Paris 75004 (+331-4805 7358;

Design Sight museum in Tokyo
Design Sight museum in Tokyo | Image: Masaya Yoshimura

My favourite room in my house is my office. I’m always doing something, so I like to have lots of table space. I also have all my books in there and some of my sketchbooks. I still work by hand, not by computer, and I keep my sketches on record. It’s basically an office in a library.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a chef. I’ve always loved cooking and it can be similar to design. Putting together an interior is a bit like putting together a dinner or dish – you have different elements to combine in harmony, attempting to find the perfect balance.


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