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Real Estate / Home + Design

The Cult of Castaing

A French Decorating Legend Lives On After Her Death With a New Line

BY // 05.03.16

After a long hiatus, Brunschwig & Fils has reintroduced the bold and atmospheric fabric designs of French decorating legend Madeleine Castaing, freshened with new colorways and matching wallpapers. Castaing’s designs, including a jungle pattern and faux moiré, were originally created for venerated French textile house Hamot — an exciting addition to the tired salons of war-torn Paris in the 1940s.

Her trademark palette of red, blue and green, used in combination or in monochromatic schemes amid Neoclassical and romantic French and Russian furnishings, was a gutsy move at a time when the design world was moving toward neutral-toned modernism. Throw in wall-to-wall leopard-print carpet, taxidermy and an oddball touch like plastic flowers, and you have le style Castaing. Her thoroughly original eye transformed rooms into exotic landscapes full of mood and wit.

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The salon in Madeleine Castaing’s manor house in France is awash in turquoise and leopard print.

Nowhere was her style more prominent than at her shop on the rue Jacob in Paris, where she orchestrated dramatic settings of antiques and flea-market finds and experimented with color and scale. Castaing, who died in 1992 at age 98, was as much the attraction as her store: She ruled over her whimsical larder wearing comically long false eyelashes and a wig secured by a prominent black chin strap.

Her clients were the artistic luminaries of her time, including Jean Cocteau and French New Wave filmmaker Roger Vadim. She seemed born with a flair for the dramatic — in her younger days, she starred in a silent film and later became Russian expressionist painter Chaim Soutine’s most important patron. Unconventional, yes, but Castaing was always more performance artist than interior designer.

She drew inspiration for her textile designs from Hamot’s centuries-old archives and antique originals discovered at Paris flea markets, yet most of her creative genius was sparked by the novels of Proust and Balzac and by strolls through French gardens and museums. Anything dreamy and evocative fed her muse.

“My braids, fabrics and carpets are the colors of my palette, but I can take inspiration from a scene in Chekhov as from a dress by Goya,” she once said. The design of her Rayure Fleurie pattern for Hamot was said to have arisen from an allée of sycamores outside the window of her home near Chartres.

Brunschwig & Fils offers the Madeleine Castaing collection of fabrics and wallpapers to the trade, in Dallas and Houston by special order. Lee Jofa/Brunschwig & Fils, Decorative Center Houston, 5120 Woodway Dr., Suite 150, 713.961.3391, brunschwig.com.

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