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20th Century Design

Meet the Milan-Based Sisters Who Create Impossibly Chic Interiors

The founding sisters behind Droulers Architecture tell Edward Behrens about their mood-creating mix, which makes for luxurious yet comfortable homes. 

When people use the word “sumptuous” it can be hard to establish exactly what they mean, but when it comes to the work of Droulers Architecture, no other term will do. Founded by sisters Nathalie and Virginie Droulers in 2007, the firm is based in Milan, but its projects can be found across the world.

The duo has designed homes in New York and London, as well as commercial buildings and even yachts. For each job, they “create the mood together,” with Nathalie focusing on the architecture and Virginie working on the design. They are renowned for mixing antique and modern furniture with pieces made by artisans, continuing their search for the best formula to transform a house into a home that will last forever.

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VIRGINIE (LEFT) AND NATHALIE DROULERS.

What is it like working together as sisters?  
V: At the beginning of our career it was very difficult. We really wanted to work together, and knew we could be a great match. We worked hard at it and we made it. Today, it’s very harmonious. Nathalie and I don’t always have the same ideas, but that’s what is interesting about it. We share all the time. We both know about every project and we are really four working hands. 

Do you aim to create something luxurious, or are comfort and hospitality more important?
V: We always try to think big, and really want to dream about the project. And then, of course, being women, we try to give a sense of home to what we design. A house has to be grand, but it has to be warm and cosy at the same time.  

N: We try to give structure to spaces, so we start with the volume and lighting, and then the decoration follows. It’s like a dress: if you have a woman with strong shoulders, it is much easier to put on a dress that works.  

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THIS STRIKING LIVING ROOM IN A SWISS VILLA IS ORGANISED AROUND THE DROULERS’ CUSTOM-DESIGNED DILETTA TABLE. THE PLAY OF VOLUMES IS EMPHASISED BY DCW ÉDITIONS LIGHTS, WHICH ARE OFFSET BY A VINTAGE TABLE LAMP. THE DESK CHAIR IS BY MARIO BOTTA. 

What makes a space truly special?
N: The materials and the client’s courage to follow us and dare to be different in their decision-making. Sometimes people are scared, so we need to work through it with them and find the nerve to search and go in new directions together. It’s about good chemistry. 

How do you marry experimentation with a sense of home?
V: We always keep in mind that our clients’ houses are homes forever. So we avoid elements and materials that are too fashionable. Our interiors are really timeless, for people who don’t necessarily want to be fashionable but want to have incredible quality in a house that will last twenty years, not five.  

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A PAINTING BY GEORGE CONDO HANGS ABOVE A VELVET SOFA IN A LONDON APARTMENT DESIGNED BY THE DROULERS.

You use a lot of art and photography. How do they change the tone of a room?
V: The collectors we work with think of the art as independent from our decoration, so the decoration has to support all types of art. Most of the time our design needs to be neutral to accommodate the art. That’s why we don’t put fabrics on the wall that have a texture or pattern that is too strong, apart from in some bedrooms where we can probably go more decorative. Nothing gets to be the prima donna.   

N: If you put a good work of art into a good structural space, they work together. If you put it in something that is more shabby chic, it doesn’t work. You need a balance – a strong environment really supports most of the art.  

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A BRITISH STUDY IS ARRANGED AROUND A VINTAGE SCANDINAVIAN RUG WITH A SIMONETTO DESK AND JACQUES ADNET CHAIR.

Has incorporating art changed the way you work?
V: It has enhanced our projects. Art can deepen them. For example, we are doing a yacht that has this clean, Japanese mood, where materials are at the centre of what we are aiming to achieve, and we have recommended that the clients use Arte Povera, which has an emphasis on materials. 

Do you ever commission art for a project?
V: We did in New York because there was a door that needed to be completely hidden in the room, so we asked an artist to create a specific piece for that door, and it came out very well. We commissioned an Anish Kapoor installation in the corridor of an apartment. It had to be built in, so everything was more or less designed to emphasise the art.  

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A NEW YORK APARTMENT HAS WORKS BY DAMIEN HIRST AND ANDY WARHOL DISPLAYED AROUND VINTAGE CHAIRS AND A HERVÉ VAN DER STRAETEN CHEST.

What has it been like looking back at your work in the new book?
V: The last project in the book was our first, and we thought it still looked very up to date. The book is interesting because it makes you realise what you’ve achieved. 

N: It feels like a success to see that most of our projects  are timeless, and clients still live very well in them. It’s always nice to see that they haven’t changed things too much, they kept the styling as we did it together. It’s part of our shared vision.  

 

Edward Behrens is a writer and editor based in London.

Feeling Home: Virginie and Nathalie Droulers, by Francesco Molteni, is published by Rizzoli ($60). 

 

ALL IMAGES COURTESY DROULERS ARCHITECTURE.

 

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