Interior Designer Alex Papachristidis on His Key Influences and Top Design Dos and Don’ts

By Meredith Mendelsohn

The lavish interior designs of Alex Papachristidis, with his love of gleaming lacquer, hand-painted wallpaper and mixing form and pattern, have earned him a devoted clientele around the world. He lives to spread beauty and happiness through each project. He will go to the ends of the earth to find something his clients will love, and he never forgets whose home it is. Here, Papachristidis talks about his mother’s influence, making decorating fun, and mixing contemporary art with antiques.

When did you first become interested in design?
I spent my childhood travelling with my family, shopping for antiques and buying beautiful things. My mother had a great sense of style and taste. As a child I had a whole private little world of Steiff figures and miniature furniture. Decorating really never crossed my mind until years later. I was 23 and one of my best friends and a great client for years came to my apartment and said, “Alex, you should be a decorator.” It was an absolute epiphany – I ran off to Parsons [School of Art and Design] and never looked back.

Papachristidis and his dog Teddy at Kips Bay, 18th Century French giltwood console from Dalva Brothers, originally collection of Countess Mona von Bismark, Christopher Spitzmiller ‘Alex’ lamp.

Who were some early influences on your sense of style?
Hubert de Givenchy, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Pauline de Rothschild. My mother was a great influence. Also, Yves Saint Laurent, Halston, Diana Vreeland and many of my friends.

Do you have a favorite period or style?
My heart is really in 18th-century France, but I adore it when those 18th-century shapes are pared down and made more contemporary. Being Greek, Classicism is also very important to my sensibility.

Have you ever had a change of heart about an object or a style?
Early in my career I loved zebra skin and horn furniture. Today I have a hard time with any form of taxidermy.

The entry hall in a client’s Connecticut country home features a Georgian giltwood mirror, a pair of polychrome Delft jars and a pair of parrot sconces that are replicas of ones at Versailles.

How would you describe your approach to creating interiors?
Extremely hands-on. I like to get to know and understand my clients and how they live in order to give them something that they couldn’t have imagined, but which still reflects their sensibility.

Can you share any dos or don’ts of decorating that you live by?
Don’t ever force anything on a client and remember it’s their home, not yours. Don’t waste too much on storage. Look at each project with a fresh eye, don’t repeat a print. And most importantly: love what you do. Decorating should be fun, so make the process enjoyable for everybody involved.

You’re known for using pattern and color. How to do you integrate bold elements into a contemporary home?
Through shape and form, use of metal, richness of texture and detail. Use of forms pared down to their essential elements.

The guest bedroom in a client's Connecticut country home, featuring a giltwood Georgian convex eagle mirror, custom upholstery and walls in a Manuel Canovas toile by Cowtan and Tout.

How do you integrate clients’ art collections into their homes?
Very carefully. I have some wonderful clients with amazing art collections and I’ve learned a lot about art through them. I find that contemporary art looks great with antique furniture and I love the juxtaposition of 18th- and 19th-century furniture with something modern. I try to add contemporary art to all of my projects.

What makes a piece of furniture great, in your opinion?
Quality, shape and finish; I love something gilded or lacquered or a painted finish. Also the mix of shapes and how a piece plays off its surroundings.

What is your advice for someone looking to buy an investment piece?
Furniture goes through fashions and phases and values go up and down. The best investment is something that you really love and never tire of.

The dining room for the 2016 Kips Bay Designer Show House, featuring custom handpainted wallpaper by Gracie, custom upholstery and artisanal furnishings, Roman antiquities from Galerie Chenel, Paris, coffee tables by Tony Victoria with panels by artist Nancy Lorenz, 18th Century Georgian chandeliers from Gerald Bland with decorative elements by Eve Kaplan, all fabrics by Cowtan and Tout.

Meredith Mendelsohn is a writer based in New York

Photographs by Tria Giovan

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