Jean Royère, biography

Jean Royère (1902-1981)


Born into an educated middle-class family, Jean Royce turned down a career in the import-export trade and, aged 30, dedicated to interior design instead. He had his first work experience in a Faubourg Saint-Antoine furniture workshop, where he was initiated to the highest form of craft perpetuated in Paris.


In 1931 Jean Royère worked on his first commission: for his uncle Jacques Raverat he designed a set of garden furniture characterised by elongated lines which heralded his personal style, emancipated from conventions. The chromed metal set he designed for brasserie Le Carlton on avenue des Champs-Élysées was a great success, which established him as an emerging figure on the interior design scene. In 1934 Jean Royère was noticed by manufacturer Pierre Gouffé who appointed him to run his workshop’s contemporary furniture studio.


At the 1937 Exposition Universelle, for which he designed seventeen sets, Jean Royère was celebrated as one of the most original and creative decorators of his time. He then became a member of the Salon des artistes décorateurs, and in 1939 went on to show a boudoir so unusual that it was a milestone in his career. Jean Royère developed, in a palette of citrus tones, a new ornamental repertoire, drawing his inspiration freely from the animal and vegetal realms. Indeed the Baby Elephant armchair, the Clove chair, the Mushroom lamp and the Bouquet sconce are emblematic of the poetic productions which were to flourish after the war.


In 1942 Jean Royère opened his own agency, located 5 rue d’Argenson in Paris. Then in 1949 he opened a large gallery, located 182 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Having broken free from the functionalist trend, the designer operated a return to ornamentation. Indeed this focus on ornament ruled the way he designed interiors, as exemplified in the 1947 office of a Paris business woman, entirely clad with perforated iron sheet. In fact patterns formed with circles, criss-crossings and herringbones were incorporated in every element of his interiors. The curves of the metal tube he used in the Creeper sconce intermingle and creep all over the wall in the 1959 Salon des artistes décorateurs. This won Jean Royère faithful clients such as Gaston Dutilleul, who remained devoted to him from 1949 to 1972, or else singer Henri Salvador, for whom he designed straw-marquetry furniture with a star pattern in 1955.


Jean Royère rose to public prominence once he started getting state commissions. As early as 1948 he was in charge with redecorating the reception rooms for the French consulate in Alexandria. His 1950 designs for the the drawing rooms of the new French legation in Helsinki included brightly coloured Ball armchairs and testified to his vibrant creative freedom.


Royère’s success and ceaseless activity quickly brought him to deal with foreign clients, who were drawn to his decorative inventiveness. He opened a number of shops in the Middle East, then in South America : Cairo in 1946, Beyrouth in 1947, Lima in 1955 and São Paulo in 1957. Once he partnered with Lebanese architect Nadim Majdalani, he took up big projects for various hotels such as Le Capitole in Beyrouth in 1953, the Ambassador Hotel in Jérusalem in 1955 or the Amman Club in 1958. The designer even gained the favours of leaders and rulers of the region, namely King Hussein of Jordan, King and Queen of Saudi Arabia and the Shah of Iran, for whom he designed a film theatre in 1958.


In 1972, after a long and prolific international career, Jean Royère stopped working as a designer and split his time between France and the US.


Portrait de Jean Royère, vers 1930
© Les Arts Décoratifs Paris, tous droits réservés.