The Artists’ Designer: Olivia Stutz on Timeless French Modernism

The Artists’ Designer: Olivia Stutz on Timeless French Modernism

The interior designer known for her work with artists and collectors shares how she’d style highlights from the upcoming Design auction, including furniture by Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Chareau and Les Lalanne.
The interior designer known for her work with artists and collectors shares how she’d style highlights from the upcoming Design auction, including furniture by Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Chareau and Les Lalanne.

T he daughter of a painter and a collector, Olivia Stutz grew up surrounded by art. Still, she remembers holding her parents to a certain aesthetic standard. “On a few occasions, I got into trouble for rearranging the house and throwing away things that weren’t pleasing to my eye,” she laughs. “I look back now and realize that my parents’ house was really special, but I was always trying to edit it.”

After studying interior architecture at UC Berkeley and working a stint as a creative project manager at Restoration Hardware in Marin, California, Stutz moved to New York City to found her own firm. “Anyone who comes to Olivia Stutz Design knows we have a certain standard of taste,” she says. Those tastes may be catholic – ranging from sophisticated French design to bold Memphis Milano – but they’re grounded in Stutz’s love of art and knowledge of the history of design.

All photos by Julian Cassady

Many of Stutz’s clients are artists or collectors themselves, and Stutz makes a point to integrate a home’s interior language with the objects that the residents make and collect. “I’m inspired by how Billy Cotton was known for working with Cindy Sherman and other artists because he really understands what they’re looking for in a space,” she says about her practice. “A lot of my clients see things that way too, and I’m so thankful for their trust.”

For one project in the Caribbean, Stutz is collaborating with Piet Boon architecture and Olivia Edwards, an art dealer managing the client’s collection, to construct an art-filled home from ground up. “We take opportunities to visit artists’ studios and go to fairs together, so the whole project is really evolving holistically,” she says. “When the house is built, you’ll be able to see the language of art and design come together.”

“It’s been a dream project,” Stutz continues. “Who doesn’t want to work with art all day?”

In advance of the upcoming Design auction, Stutz stopped by Sotheby’s New York to preview the hundreds of objects on offer and select some of her favorites. “As much as I’m drawn to bold colors and could’ve easily gone with Memphis objects, my picks remind me of a foundational time in Paris, where I developed some of my interests going to all of the galleries in Saint-Germain-des-Prés,” she says.

Below, she shares her perspective on the significance of these items – and how she’d style them in space.

Olivia’s Picks

Jean Royère, “Ondulations” Woodwork. Estimate: $3,000-5,000  

Jean Royère’s “Ondulations” Woodwork

“It would be a dream to use this paneling in a project. You can tell it was a commission because of the dimensions, and in archival photographs you can see how it was used to create different spaces in a room. I would use it the same way, but contrasted against a colorfully painted wall or interesting wallpaper. It would work well against a wall to create a different space or a custom bed moment. Royère was at the frontier of design, and these curved shapes of his are so, so timeless.”

François-Xavier Lalanne, Mouton de Pierre. Estimate: $200,000-300,000  

François-Xavier Lalanne’s Mouton de Pierre

“Every collector wants a sheep by Lalanne, and I always recommend you get a flock of them. I remember seeing dozens of Lalanne’s animals at The Raleigh in Miami. In 2019 Peter Marino filled this iconic Art Deco hotel with sheep and gorillas – a whole menagerie. The impact they have is incredible, and they make me so happy. But if you just want a single sheep, you can’t go wrong with this one: it has great provenance, coming from Julie Andrews’ collection.”

Claude Lalanne, “Anemone” Brooch. Estimate: $3,000-5,000  

Claude Lalanne’s “Anemone” Brooch

“Claude Lalanne really does it all. I’d wear this flower brooch exactly as I’m wearing it now – over a white blouse or more traditionally over the left chest. It’s super simple but it creates so much visual interest. Interestingly, Lalanne’s daughter Marie is now making jewelry. I love how she’s able to carry on that lineage.”

Jean-Michel Frank, Pair of Armchairs. Estimate: $25,000-35,000  

Jean-Michel Frank’s Pair of Armchairs

“These chairs have such strong bones from the metal frame, but they’re softened by the patinated color and the undulations of the leather. Age and exposure have given each piece a very unique texture. I think they’d work quite well in a living room separated by a side table – or potentially even as dining chairs. My favorite detail is the way the leather is stitched directly into the frame.”

Pierre Chareau, Nightstand. Estimate: $12,000-18,000  

Pierre Chareau’s Nightstand

“This is a very rare sycamore desk from circa 1925 – there might have been a mirrored version to use as a nightstand or it could’ve been commissioned for the side of a sofa. I just love the angles and the symmetry and the details of the knobs. Chareau’s attention to detail was incredible. He cared first and foremost about the functionality of his pieces.”

Robert Mallet-Stevens, Tubular Sling Chair. Estimate: $8,000-12,000  

Robert Mallet-Stevens’ Tubular Sling Chair

“There was an article in T Magazine recently about the restoration of Rue Mallet-Stevens in Paris. It was so interesting to see how all of the furniture he made comes together. This chair was probably part of an outdoor set, but what strikes me about it is how it could command a room by itself. I especially love the rich brown color that’s softened by the Belgian linen. It’s truly spectacular.”

Jean Després, Silver-Plated Wine Coolers. Estimate: $7,000-10,000  

Jean Després’ Silver-Plated Wine Coolers

“I’ve always been a gold girl, but there’s been a resurgence in silver and platinum over the last couple of years, and the chain links give these a rock ’n’ roll edge. Pieces like these are great for creating visual interest. I’d use them as they were intended – as champagne coolers – but you could also put flowers in them or even use them as small wastebaskets.”

Paul Dupré-Lafon, Lidded Box. Estimate: $5,000-7,000  

Paul Dupré-Lafon’s Lidded Box

“Paul Dupré-Lafon was an iconic Art Deco designer, and this notepad is part of a number of leather items he made for Hermès. I’m old school, so I’d actually use this to take notes on calls. But it doesn’t have to be functional – it looks good on its own. Again we see the use of silver, a material that I’m very attracted to as a designer.”

20th Century Design

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