In Paris I am to meet the ultimate star interior designer. Jacques Garcia has fitted out the hotel "Costes"which has been one of the “in” places of this world for many years, and recently the hotel "La Reserve" in Geneva. Of course there are many others and there is also his private castle in Normandy which is absolutely stunning.
Since several years the “Hotel Costes” is the favourite of models and film stars. It belongs to the owner of the former “Costes” Cafe.
Coco Baconi, Maitre de Maison “Hotel Costes”
This place was completely redesigned by Jacques. He was totally involved in the project. The guests are made up of a mixture of friends or people who Jacques knows personally. They feel at ease in these surrounds, almost at home.
You can totally relax here. It is not like going to a conventional hotel or restaurant, more like visiting friends.
Hotel rooms start at about 270 dollars a night. The apartments can perhaps be regarded as expensive at about 700 dollars but “noblesse oblige” and quality does have its price!
People only seem to talk about unpleasant things these days, along the lines: “We are in a difficult phase, yes in a crisis”. But it is precisely under such circumstances that one also yearns after the creature comforts and good service. Naturally in a perfectly normal and simple environment.
And because it can never be simple enough - Jacques Garcia, the favourite designer of “tout Paris”, redesigned the interior of a castle. With his dog, “Leon” and a limousine that reflects his social standing, he retreats to Normandy every week and assumes the role of the friendly lord of the castle.
I want people to be able to share in, what in this modern age, amounts to almost surreal surroundings. Generally, the rich tend to jealously guard their possessions and don't want other people to have a share in them. When people own things, they tend to conceal them. Only a few people reveal what they have. I don't own a great fortune, but what I do have, I enjoy showing to others.
This weekend we are Jacques' guests and fly the 120 kilometres from Paris. From the helicopter we are able to take some impressive photographs of the castle and the adjoining park. The proud owner insists on accompanying us personally. 200 years ago the castle which dates from the 17th century belonged to the Duke of Harcourt. Today, Jacques Garcia and his friends use it as a weekend retreat. 100 hectares surround the “Chateau du Champ de Bataille” in the heart of the Normandy countryside. "A childhood fantasy realized" - that's the way Jacques Garcia regards his home.
Of world renown is his ten-year renovation of the castle and gardens he acquired in 1992. The Champ de Bataille displays the full range of Jacques Garcia's talent, its drawing rooms, galleries, game rooms, and libraries a blending of genres that speak to his rare talent.
I wanted it to have all the modern comforts. Also important was that the 17th and 18th century feeling was retained. Nonetheless, I didn't want it to be like a museum, but to be a place that one can enjoy living in.
The chateau was built by the architect who made Versailles world-famous. Jacques bought it for over 2 million dollars. In the mean time he has invested a further 3 million dollars. He had dreamt about this castle since he was eighteen. Forty years later he is the owner and his guests feel very much at home here. Everybody likes to sit down to eat together and chat to artist friends. Monsieur Jacques oldest friend is a native artist whose works are to be seen throughout the castle.
The landlord's secret is being able to arrange things with such total ease. Each friend has his or her own wing to do as they please. Jacques Garcia is also an artist. His interior designer sketches hang in the games room. Before he fits out a room, he puts his ideas down on paper. Whatever the result, colour and light are important features. The chateau really does radiate an ambience which encourages the creative muse.
Thibault-Langeuge, concert pianist:
Everybody finds peace of mind in this environment. We can follow our favourite pursuits here and find inspiration and new ideas and that is why it is a wonderful place.
Luc Bouveret, antique dealer
When we meet here it is like one big community. Even if some people don't know each other that well, you soon make friends here.
Theresa , a friend
It is like a dream. The park is so wonderful, just look! And all the rooms with these huge windows. It's like paradise.
Jacques Garcia, interior designer
One day I had an idea. I wanted to organise a formal dinner in one of the large reception rooms to be followed by a concert - all in candlelight. Now this takes place every Saturday - in July and August. That's why we are all here today.
You, too, can savour the life in the castle for about 60 dollars per person and be waited on by liveried servants. Under the watchful gaze of the Greek statues you can enjoy an excellent meal in the large reception room and experience an unforgettable evening.
In my opinion it has been a great success, at least if the enthusiastic comments written in the guest-book are anything to go by. It is a funny thing. You feel like you have been whisked back to the 17th century - with all those candles and baroque music. I wanted a big castle. That has in fact always been my greatest wish. And now, I actually live in this castle, but if it weren't open to the public, I would sell it again immediately.
Jacques Garcia has designed private and commercial properties throughout the world, including projects in France, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, Beirut, Baden Baden, Geneva and Brussells. More than 24 prestigious Parisian addresses carry the Garcia seal, including the famed Hôtel Costes, le Fouquet's, Ladurée, L'Esplanade, L'Avenue, La Grande Armée, Le Ruc, Le Cabaret, the Hôtel des Beaux-Arts, Le Rivoli-Notre Dame and
L'Hôtel, a celebrated location rich in history, recently bought by Jean-Paul Besnard. He is also responsible for the elegant restoration of one of Paris' most stunning buildings, the Hôtel de Mansart on the rue des Tournelles, originally designed by one of the principal architects of Versailles.
His current U.S. projects include the Hotel Victor in South Beach, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten's highly touted Spice Market, which led to a second collaboration with Vongerichten to design Rare restaurant in the Time Warner Center in New York, opening in the summer of 2004. Additionally, Le Reve, a posh new Las Vegas resort owned by the Wynn Group has commissioned Garcia for its interior design and is slated to open in 2005.
Jacques Garcia has owned many houses and has made all of them into showpieces. The "Champ de Bataille" is his masterpiece however - including the design of the park. The gardens of Champ de Bataille are one of the largest, 20th century private landscape gardening projects, receiving more than 30,000 visitors every year. The official wing of the castle is also open to visitors ever day. Proudly he shows me around his "Champ de Bataille"...
I've put a lot of pieces which once belonged to the French monarchy in this room. Here, for example, is the famous clock from the Tuillery Palace . This clock is something very special, since it was the last piece of work commissioned by Marie Antoinette before she had to go to prison. Here is another piece of furniture that once belonged to the French royal family. A Louis XIV armchair that belonged to the daughter. The “Arts decorative museum” has the original sketches used for the chair. That's how it was possible to identify it. And this is a room which I am particularly fond of. It wasn't originally like this. Here I wanted to express my love for culture, especially Egyptian culture. I intend to give this tapestry to the Louvre after my death.
To be exact none of these rooms were like they are now. It is the work of an enthusiastic collector who has brought all his valuable antiques here and arranged them as they would have been all those years ago. The tiled kitchen, for example, is what Garcia calls the heart of his home. He's furnished it with functional antiques, including pots, pans and ladles. The kitchen table is 18th-century; the chairs are Louis 15th, 18th-century from Burgundy. The buffet, a Donsois, is also from the 18th century. There is no doubt about it - this castle near Neubourg that was a hospital during the war didn't really come back to life until Jacques Garcia came along.
It is not astonishing to hear that Jacques Garcia has been the recipient of many French cultural distinctions, such as "le Prix Mont-Blanc," and "le Prix Oscar Wilde" in 2002. The same year, l'Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques awarded him the prestigious "Prix Henri Texier" honoring his work in the renovation of Champ de Bataille. Other achievements include receiving the medal of the City of Paris in 1994, named "Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur" in 1997 and "Commandant des Arts et des Lettres" in 2002.
This bust is one of the most valuable and important pieces in the house, because it dates back well beyond the 17th century and was already a valuable collectors piece in those days. I really love interior design. I have often said that I am a kind of Don Quichote. But that's all over now. What I want to do now is what's possible and not what's impossible.
You can also go round the castle - although it probably won't be a private tour with the castle owner.
Born in 1947, Jacques Garcia discovered his talent for drawing and his fascination for objets d'art at an early age. He studied at the Atelier Met de Peninghen school of interior design in Paris in the field of applied arts. His illustrious career, which has spanned almost 30 years, makes Jacques Garcia one of the most sought-after French interior decorators of our time.
* This special feature "Jacques Garcia" has been one of more than 200 VIP-Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2004 for Nathalies-Lifestyle.com © 1990 - 2004. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.