Thierry Despont talks personal taste: Part One

Architect and designer Thierry Despont has renovated some of the world’s most iconic hotels, including The Ritz in Paris, which reopens next summer

Thierry Despont photographed at his New York office
Thierry Despont photographed at his New York office | Image: Circe Hamilton

My personal style signifier is a watch – either my Calibre de Cartier, which is elegant and simple, or a classic gold Breguet that features the phases of the moon and has a ringing bell as an alarm. I am always on time. Breguet from $29,000; Calibre de Cartier from £5,700;

The last thing I bought and loved was a photograph of the moon by the American scientist and photographer John William Draper. I am a passionate collector of books, maps and pictures of the moon, and Draper was one of the first people to capture images of its surface.

Despont’s Calibre de Cartier watch, from $29,000
Despont’s Calibre de Cartier watch, from $29,000

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a first edition of Galileo Galilei’s Starry Messenger. This astronomical treatise features his telescopic observations and discovery of four of Jupiter’s satellites. I have a second edition of this rare book that has beautiful woodcuts and a first edition would complete my collection.

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Bodeguita Antonio Romero, a relaxed and authentic tapas bar near the famous bullring in Seville. This is my favourite kind of food: small plates of manchego cheese, jamón and house specialities such as anchovies en salazón and chipirones rellenos. Calle Antonia Díaz 19, 41001 Seville (+3495-422 3939;


The best souvenir I’ve brought home is a big, fat, navy blue lacquer fountain pen that I bought at Louis Vuitton in Paris. I love to write and correspond the old-fashioned way. €695; 6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris (+331-4549 6232;

The last music I downloaded was Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet – one of the most innovative albums in jazz history that’s become a classic – and Romanian pianist Rada Lupu’s recital of Schubert’s Moments Musicaux.

Starry Messenger by Galileo Galilei
Starry Messenger by Galileo Galilei | Image: Circe Hamilton

The grooming staple I’m never without is Vetiver eau de toilette by Guerlain. It has notes of wood and spices and I’ve worn it every day for years. £22.50 for 100ml;

My favourite room in my house is the art-deco-inspired, wood-panelled library on the top floor of my home in Tribeca, where I keep my collections of rare architectural books and leather-bound tomes on French history and literature. I love to relax and entertain here.

Louis Vuitton fountain pen, €695
Louis Vuitton fountain pen, €695 | Image: Circe Hamilton

In my fridge you’ll always find a bottle of Baron de L Pouilly Fumé from the Loire Valley. I also like to have oysters or fresh sea urchins on hand and plenty of broccoli, which I eat steamed and drizzled with olive oil for breakfast every day. Baron de L Pouilly Fumé, £55;

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Egon Schiele. He was a master draughtsman and there is a certain kind of poetry in his work – a combination of both happiness and tragedy.

Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet

The site that inspires me is the Place Vendôme in Paris, where aside from my work on the Ritz I am also involved with the restoration of the historic Vendôme Column. The energy and light here are fantastic and the surrounding buildings by Jules Hardouin-Mansart mark the apex of French baroque architecture.

The best gift I’ve given recently is a pair of large linden trees to Barbara, the woman I love and share my life with. I gave them to her for her birthday and we planted them in our garden in the Hamptons; they frame the view from our bedroom window.

Guerlain Vetiver eau de toilette, £22.50 for 100ml
Guerlain Vetiver eau de toilette, £22.50 for 100ml

And the best one I’ve received is a box of steaks that my friend and client Ralph Lauren sent me from his ranch in Colorado. He sends a parcel of delicious, organically raised meat every year and I always look forward to this special gift.

My favourite websites are Via Libre for rare books and eBay for the old farm artefacts that I incorporate into my sculptures and artworks. I also like YouTube for a bit of gossip and entertainment, and 1stdibs for a wide array of furniture and design.


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