Ten Minutes With Robert Couturier
Robert Couturier has designed every imaginable project from a 20,000-acre estate on the Pacific Coast of Mexico to a summer home in Jackson Hole to a classic Fifth Avenue apartment. He believes that décor should always be appropriate to the architecture, the client, and the setting. Although he travels the world, he is most content at home in Kent with his partner Jeffrey Morgan.
You were born in France. Did you attend school there as well?
I grew up in Paris and went to boarding school from the time I was seven until I turned 17.
What did you aspire to be when you grew up?
As a child I was always drawing houses and I was a very good draftsman, so I thought of some career in that field. It was my philosophy teacher who suggested I study architecture and design.
When did you come to New York?
My grandmother lived there and I used to visit her frequently. In 1978 I made the move.
What got you started in your career?
A friend of mine introduced me to Adam Tihany. He met with me, liked my work, and hired me as a trainee. I went back to Paris, got a visa, came back and began working in his studio.
What is the first thing you do with prospective clients?
They tell me what they are looking for. I listen to see if we will get along, if they are nice people. I look at tearsheets they’ve collected, but I am more interested in what they don’t like because that sometimes allows me to suggest things they hadn’t considered.
You designed Cuixmala for Sir James Goldsmith. You were 27 and this was one of the most prestigious commissions ever. How did you come to this project?
A French friend told me that she and her boyfriend had bought a house and it needed to be redone. When I learned who he was, I was terrified. When I saw the house, I said the whole thing needed to be gutted and rebuilt. Jimmy looked at me, laughed, and said, Do it!
Is there a difference in the way French people live in their homes and the way we live in America?
The French are more formal. There are public areas and private areas and people live differently in each part. There is no such thing as a family room—one place for everyone and everything. We are much more precise about the purpose of each room.
How did you come to be in Kent?
Because of Jeffrey. Mutual friends introduced us 16 years ago and we’ve been together ever since. Jeffrey had no desire to live in New York, so I moved to Kent. He had an original 18th-century house that quickly became too small for us, so we bought the land across the street and built our dream house.
Your favorite pastime, besides designing.
My happiest moments are walking in the gardens with the dogs and to be up here and do practically nothing. I travel so much for work that the idea of traveling for pleasure simply doesn’t appeal to me.
What’s next for you professionally?
I have my first book coming out in the fall. It’s about our house and about our life.