While some of the big-name designers who work for well-known companies with large marketing budgets become international bywords for style – the rock stars, if you like, of the design world (Philippe Starck, Marcel Wanders and Karim Rashid, to name just a few) – there are other, lesser-known creators who work privately with a coterie of sophisticated and knowledgeable clients. Word is passed around, from a collector to a gallerist to a picky interior designer, and so they gradually develop a loyal but discreet following.
Paul Mathieu is one such creator. French born and educated, he now works and lives on three continents (with houses in New York, Aix-en-Provence and Udaipur in India), producing very beautiful high-end furniture, bronze, wooden and glass objects, as well as textiles and carpets. In 1991 Mathieu worked with the legendary French designer Andrée Putman, producing a collection of furniture for her. These days he’s better known in New York, where he lives most of the time. He has created a range for Ralph Pucci, furniture, rugs and textiles for Stephanie Odegard and Donghia, and The Mark Hotel recently commissioned him to design a sofa and chair in gold velvet for its entrance hall.
To see Mathieu’s work at its most lyrical, you need to go to Aix-en-Provence, where he has made a series of one-of-a-kind pieces in marble, rock crystal, bronze and Murano glass for a 17th-century church. From this commission grew the Aria collection of hand-cast, signed bronze furniture and the Madeleine lighting range, both of which can now be seen for the first time at Rebecca Willer’s gallery in London. Given the refinement of his aesthetic, it is extraordinary that he’s thus far been so little-displayed. Willer, however, has loved and followed his work for years, and now they are embarking on what is hoped will be a fruitful collaboration. In her gallery is a small selection of chairs, chaise longues (example in first picture, £50,280) and cabinets, as well as lamps (example in second picture, £9,240) , and one of Mathieu’s Murano-glass pieces – a vast floor-standing candelabra (third picture, £22,920). Prices range from £4,400 for a bronze wall sconce to £19,500 for a club chair with a back, while the glass works start at £10,200 for a table lamp. The designs are all handmade to order and are the furniture equivalent of haute-couture clothing – precious one-offs, for people who want something truly special.