Decorating at the turn of the 21st century has been characterized by an emphasis on mixing diverse eras and cultures and juxtaposing disparate styles.
This trend underscores personal expression, favoring abundance and nonconformity rather than restraint and formality. It glorifies well-worn furniture, allowing it to share the spotlight with new showroom pieces.
The unconventional is the trademark of idiosyncratic French artist, decorator and furniture designer Delphine Delorme. She renovated a businessman’s plain two-bedroom unit into a quirky bachelor’s pad using nostalgic pieces, French motifs and Pop Art. The assortment of contrasting pieces of furniture and furnishings became more welcoming than the typical, coordinated look.
The condominium in Cebu is a 250-square-meter split-level unit. It is inspired by New York-style lofts characterized by exposed pipes, red brick, cement tops and whitewashed walls.
When a client gives her a budget, Delorme tries to cut costs by looking for cheaper alternatives or recycling materials such as pallet wood. Light in color, it is used for containers and for crating kitchen materials. In the unit, the rawness of the pallet wood contrasts with the smoothness of metal to emphasize the industrial look.
Finding the black paint on the stair railings too conventional, she stripped it off to reveal the natural, earthy finish underneath, and adorned them with knots.
Delorme highlights opposites such as the old and the new, the masculine and the feminine, and subtle and bold colors. She points to a Pop
Art Pepsi Cola cooler placed next to her version of the Louis XV drawer with gold leaf.
“There are no rules that say objects must match,” she declares. “You can’t describe the style. It’s a lot of crazy things that are put together.”
On top of the kitchen range is a quirky exhaust hood made from galvanized iron sheets. Kitchen shelves are lined with nostalgic Pop Art pieces such as a vintage bouillon cube box, canisters from China and an old tin of Banania, a French brand.
Delorme’s Louis XV pieces come from her special collection called Delphine Groult (her maiden name). She takes pride in the fact that her grandfather, André Groult, was a prominent decorator and furniture draftsman known for his Art Deco style.
The most powerful visual statements are drawn from her own artworks. Beside the powder room, she displays her painting—a pun on Fernando Botero’s corpulent Mona Lisa. Set against a red background with the McDonald’s logo, Mona Lisa is depicted holding a Coke, with a mountain of burgers—a humorous visual explanation of how the subject gained weight.
Delorme’s artworks and furniture designs coexist with finds from Carbon Market such as a faded Motolite signage, a shoddy red stool, a coffee table made of old wheels, and some retro pieces such as an old cathode TV and a black telephone.
The dining area is bohemian French country and retro Pop Art. A typical French-style chandelier hangs over the dining table and the mismatched chairs. On the opposite corner, an old wooden drum is recycled into a red pantry door, while a graphic popsicle wall lamp evokes childhood memories. They create a dialogue between romance and zeitgeist, according to the decorator.
Yet, instead of resulting in a hodgepodge house, the incongruities are charming and inviting. There is none of the showiness of status-symbol pieces. If anything, the residence celebrates the absurdity.
Even a room becomes an artwork. Delorme transformed the powder room by coloring the walls in aqua and painting graphics and a Volkswagen on the wall. The sink was recycled from an engine found in Carbon Market. A matching vintage faucet also reminds the artist-decorator of sinks common in her childhood years.
Delorme has been gaining prominence in the art scene for daring, provocative and graphic artwork, marked by vivid colors and collages. A self-taught artist, she recalls that in her childhood she would mimic the styles of Raoul Duffy, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet and Pierre August Renoir, and use the bold, convoluted shapes and vibrant colors of Fauve painters.
A landmark painting was her take on the Game of the Goose, an old European board game with numbered spaces. The inserted symbols such as the goose and the bridge either denote shortcuts to the destination or penalties. The players’ pieces progress on the board, depending on the cast of the dice.
Delorme appropriated the Game of the Goose into a mural with philosophical undertones. The player moves across and up the board, symbolizing the journey through life and its many obstacles.
In the mid-’90s, Delorme developed her now signature collage style, which was born out of her fascination for posters. She recalls seeing big circus posters that, over time, had been vandalized, torn and weathered. But to her, the posters gained new meaning owing to the imprints of man and the elements.
Inspired, the artist developed her style of assemblages of images culled from old posters, advertisements and pop culture. Taken out of their original context, these unrelated materials are then merged to express the artist’s trenchant observations on society.
When her husband Henri, a TV director, came to the Philippines to meg “Project Runway” for three seasons, the family moved to Cebu. It was a challenge to decorate their residence because she couldn’t find pieces that she liked.
So, with the wealth of craftsmen in Cebu, she started making her own furniture, the Delphine Groult collection, characterized by the light and curvaceous shapes of the Louis XV style.
She decorates her house the way she arranges her client’s condominium. The spaces are embellished with possessions with emotional resonance, which she calls coup de coeur. These are objects she immediately fell in love with and bought on impulse.
Versatility and joie de vivre are reflected in Delorme’s penchant for mixing and matching. It represents the complexity of the world and how disparate objects can form an integral whole ultimately.
Her rallying call is to push boundaries. “Everyone can be creative, but they don’t dare to use old colors on the chair or paint zebra stripes on the wall. If people dared to be more creative, life would be more fun.”
Reprinted from the latest issue of Cocoon Magazine, now available at selected magazine outlets nationwide.