When the eminent interior designer Alberto Pinto died in 2012 after a long illness, his closeknit staff and loyal clients – many of whom had been with him for decades – were heartbroken. After a period of mourning, reality set in, and with it the question that any venerable creative firm inevitably faces when its founder passes on – what next? Would Linda Pinto, the designer’s sister and longtime right-hand in their 80-person Paris office, the one upon whom everything now depended, keep Alberto Pinto’s legacy alive?
Four years later, the answer is yes. With Linda at its helm, Alberto Pinto Interior Design has continued to flourish. Indeed, its recent projects have ranged from designing the interior of a private Boeing 747 to renovating The Lanesborough, London’s most expensive hotel, to decorating public spaces in Monaco’s new 49-storey Tour Odéon, while outfitting its 35,000-square-foot, five-storey penthouse, which is reportedly set to go on the market for $387 million.
This autumn, the company’s legacy and future are beautifully woven together in a new book, Alberto Pinto: Signature Interiors (Flammarion), which showcases eleven lavish residential projects that Alberto had started and Linda and the staff completed to his impeccable standards. (The text is by Anne Bony, with an introduction by Linda herself.) In his foreword, couturier Hubert de Givenchy underscores how the Pinto siblings’ relationship allowed the firm to keep growing. Speaking about Alberto, de Givenchy recalls, “His delightful sister, Linda, assisted him with love and talent, and the affection between them was touching to see. This devotion to his memory is evident […] in the enthusiasm and loyalty with which she continues to honour his life’s work.”
After studying at the prestigious École du Louvre, Alberto began his business in the late 1960s. His sense of disciplined opulence and ability to work in all styles – Classical, Modern, or Orientalist – made him a favourite of monarchs and moguls the world over, including the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. His outsize personality and legendary hospitality – he entertained countless celebrated friends, including Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé – made him a star of international society.
Like her elder brother, Linda was born in Morocco. At age seventeen, she followed him to Paris, where she began managing a furniture gallery Alberto had opened. Aside from the short breaks when she had her two children, Pinto worked side by side with her brother and, as he travelled widely, she kept the office ticking. But respected as she was, she remained out of the limelight. All that changed upon Alberto Pinto’s death. Linda’s situation was not unlike that of another famous designer’s sister, Donatella Versace, a figure who had once been in the background but then had to take the reins of her brother’s company. After facing some initial skepticism, both women went on to prove themselves eminently capable of carrying on their brothers’ visions.
“I had two options when he died: to close the doors or to continue,” Linda recalls during a recent interview in her office. “For all my colleagues – and for him – I said, ‘We have to continue.’ Four years later, here we are,” she declares. “I am the boss. Nobody has left. We thrive, with a well-oiled operation.” Marquise Jackie de Ravenel, a longtime Parisian tastemaker and friend of the Pinto family, seconds that assessment: “Linda is an amazingly effective person,” she says. “After [Alberto] died, the staff and their clients recognised how competent she is and how well she knew the business. So everybody has stuck with her.”
For all my colleagues – and for him – i said, ‘we have to continue.’ four years later, here we are. I am the boss.
On a visit not long ago, the Hôtel de la Victoire, the firm’s enormous headquarters in Paris’s 2nd Arrondissement, was buzzing with activity as Pinto conducted a tour. “Here we come to ‘the planes,’” she says as we reach a vast room devoted entirely to the design of private aircraft, including the aforementioned 747. A glimpse at a video tour of the massive plane reveals a veritable airborne mansion. Also on the drawing board is a private Airbus 320: “In commercial usage, it seats 130,” says a designer working on the project. “Here, it will have room for nineteen passengers.”
Another equally large atelier is devoted solely to private yachts. Having worked on ten of the hundred largest yachts in the world, Alberto Pinto Interior Design has a leading role in this growing field. Linda focuses on the joy the vessels provide. “While a house is for a family and you have to design it with many people in mind, a boat is the toy of monsieur, so we never see the wife when we are designinga boat,” she explains. “The husband comes and spends hours and hours on the plans. When you deliver the boat to him, you see a smile from ear to ear. The richest men in the world – and they are like kids. I love this feeling.”
Whether they are seeking the firm’s services for their private environments on land, at sea or in the air, the world’s wealthiest know to turn to Alberto Pinto Interior Design in their quest for the ultimate in luxury. Pinto says her clients have “the same mentality” despite their diverse cultural backgrounds – Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern, North and South American and European. “Our clients are all top-level, so we treat them all exactly the same: we’re here to please them,” she explains. “Sometimes they cannot articulate exactly what they want, but we try to understand their way of life and figure out what they want.”
Such was the case with Middle Eastern potentates, who began investing in Western properties three decades ago. According to Pinto, the firm did particularly well with these clients because it respected them. “Some interior designers gave them really awful, gaudy furniture, with gold and gold and gold, just because it was expensive. It was too sad and too bad,” she says. “We did everything completely French for them. In the end, they were very happy.” Keeping clients satisfied is something at which Alberto Pinto Interior Design excels, all the more so since 2009, when the firm launched a home line that produces meticulously crafted furnishings in materials such as parchment, lacquered wood and bronze. (A new collection debuted in October at PAD in London.)
But enough shop talk. In keeping with her brother’s legendary hospitality, Linda has arranged for an exquisite lunch after the tour, prepared by the firm’s longtime chef and served in the ateliers’ private dining room. Before the salad and turbot, the meal begins with fruit, which Pinto believes is favourable to digestion and health – knowledge she has gleaned from regular visits to Espace Henri Chenot, a luxury spa at the Palace Merano, in Italy, a favourite destination of many art world figures. “It’s very logical and delicious,” she says of the approach. The same could be said of the ultra luxurious designs that are the Pinto standard.
James Reginato is writer-at-large of Vanity Fair. Alberto Pinto: Signature Interiors ($80) is available from Flammarion.
LEAD IMAGE: A Wine Master’s Office Features Leather-Panelled Walls And An Art Deco-Style Lacquer Folding Screen. © Jacques Pépion © Gonzalo Machado, From Alberto Pinto: Signature Interiors (Flammarion, 2016)