Alex Papachristidis on Design
“I love what I do, it’s a joy, I never tire of it, never get sick of looking for fabrics. I still go to the D&D BUILDING myself, I’m inspired by every trip I take. I love what I do because it’s so relevant to my life, I love my clients because we have fun. Decorating is a great luxury, and it should be fun–my job is FUN.”
It’s this kind of enthusiasm that makes Alex Papachristidis instantly likeable. He reminds me of the age-old saying ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ I told him so, which made him laugh in agreement.
The New York City-based interior designer will create a Designer Vignette for the Grand Entry Hall of THE SAN FRANCISCO FALL SHOW next month, the fair’s 40th Anniversary ‘Ruby Jubilee’. Papachristidis started his eponymous design firm, ALEX PAPACHRISTIDIS INTERIORS in 1987 while studying at Parsons School of Design.
“I was trying to decide what to do with my life,” he explained. “I didn’t want to go into the family business–shipping, I thought about restaurants and fashion, then I called my best friend. She walked into my apartment and said ‘darling! You have such great taste, you should be a decorator!’ I never looked back.”
Kips Bay Decorator Show House, 2016, Designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Tria Giovan.
Chandeliers from Gerald bland with Eve Kaplan gilded ceramic accents, Frederick P. Victoria & Son coffee tables with custom tops by artist Nancy Lorenz, Ceramic gourd by Christopher Spitzmiller, Eighteenth-century Italian giltwood chairs from Dalva Brothers, Custom sofa and Turkish-style poufs designed by Alex Papachristidis, made by J Quintana Upholstery; window treatments made by New York Drapery, fabric Cowtan & Tout fabric and Samuel & Sons trims, Carpet made up of antique Turkish tent panels from Beauvais
Design is ever evolving, always changing, but for the last few years through the pandemic, it is more than taste and aesthetics that have changed. Most of us have changed how we live, and what we need from our homes. “It taught people how important our home is,” says Papachristidis, “that we need to be prepared for all circumstances, need to feel safe and comfortable. I was already from that school, so I spent the COVID years reorganizing. There is nothing more rewarding than feeling organized,” he says.
“People felt there were gaps, they learned that their kitchens didn’t work as well as they should. They didn’t have enough space to work. A house needs to have a level of practicality. Our home is super user-friendly; I am a kitchen tinkerer, not a cook. It’s kind of how I am a decorator—I don’t make the upholstery, I put it together, I oversee.” A man with a vision.
Study designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Richard Powers.
Warren Platner chair, Gabriella Crespi ‘Z Desk’ in bronze, John Currin (above desk) & Elizabeth Peyton (windowsill) paintings,
Jean-Michel Frank vintage desk lamp
“A room should be a reflection of how the client lives,” explains Papachristidis. “It’s important that the rooms in your home flatter you; that you love the colors of your rooms, that you feel comfortable, they need to suit you.” That, he says, is the single most important element in a room.
An avid traveler, he cites history and travel as inspiration, but does not follow trends. “Museums, auctions, great houses, I’m a Francophile; I spent much of this summer in the South of France,” he lists these as sources of creativity.
“I think what dates things is when they look too much like everything else. When there is a moment in time when everyone is doing something and you do that thing, it will be dated. I don’t do trends. I go through personal phases of things that inspire me,” (he names Gabriella Crespi furniture as a current favourite), “if used in the right way it won’t be dated: a suite of 18th century furniture in satin – pale teal-bluey green – it will look timeless. Papachristidis is particularly inspired by an elegance of years past, citing Gloria Guiness, Marella Agnelli, Elsie de Wolfe, and ‘everything Rothschild’ as sources of inspiration.
Powder room inspired by The Grotto Hall in Potsdam’s New Palace in Germany, designed by Alex Papachristidis.
Photograph by William Abranowicz. Eve Kaplan shell motif gilded ceramic tiles, Custom shell faucet by P.E. Guerin
“I love contemporary, artisanal furniture, 20th century designs – the proportions are important—as with Maria Pergay furniture. I love walls upholstered in velvet, a mix of contemporary and classical. The modern needs to balance with the classical,” says Papachristidis.
Living Room Console, designed by Alex Papachristidis. Photograph by Tria Giovan. Porphyry urn and 18th Century German silver tankanrds, Stacked rock console in the manner of Emilio Terry from Glen Dooley Antiques, Tree-branch painting by Adam Ball from Kasmin Gallery
For his Designer Vignette at the Fall Show this year, Papachristidis looked to the show’s dealers. “I went to CARLTON HOBBS and found a big gilt console and a pair of mahogany chairs to which I added cherry red velvet on the poofs,” (in honor of the ruby jubilee). “I found a wonderful mirror from HYDE PARK ANTIQUES and a modern sculpture from GUY REGAL. I have a great love of Chinese wallpaper so with DE GOURNAY (hand painted wallpaper, the Designer Vignette sponsor), we did a collage of Chinese scenes. I added a silver and white chair rail, with a dash of yellow. And the floor will be stenciled by decorative painter JOSEPH STEIERT,” he added. Sounds fabulous, and we will all just have to wait until showtime to see the finished room.
‘Mood Board’ for 2022 San Francisco Fall Show Designer Vignette by Alex Papachristidis.
Chairs and console from Carlton Hobbs, Mirror from Hyde Park Antiques, ‘Ophelia’ Lamp by Christopher Spitzmiller
“Good rooms are made for people to use,” says Papachristidis. “They are not made to impress. First and foremost, they should be comfortable, friendly and usable.” I couldn’t agree more.
By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s Director-at-Large, living in Westport, Connecticut with her family. Follow Ariane on her blog, SOJOURNEST, where she focuses on all things home and travel and on Instagram at @arianetrim