it was a splendid spring day in paris. i had cleared my diary for the day since my appointment with mr p had been cancelled due to his last minute change of itineraries; he would be unable to meet me and was delayed in new york. i planned to spend the day exploring the lesser known streets and venues of le marais. imagine then my surprise at being contacted to confirm a later appointment since mr p was able to get an earlier flight back to paris. sacre bleu! i had dressed, prepared for a day of strolling and not for meeting one of the most stylish gentlemen d’intérieur; alberto pinto. there was no time to run back to the hotel in st-germain, shower, dress and still get back in time for les appointment. what i wore would unfortunately have to do, i thought carelessly since my hair was another matter, together with the fact that i had fallen on my face in brussels a week earlier and still had a hue of blue around my eye. just imagine…
the area around the place des victoires was littered with the über-chic set and names of urbane designers like kenzo stuccoed to the hardouin-mansart buildings. i was clearly out of my depth and prepared for a brief hello, an up and down look and a quick goodbye. being familiar with the french disdain for les appearance negligée, i dusted my casual attire, had another cigarette to calm my nerves… entrée.
after being shown to the reception area of his splendid studio in hotel de la victoire - all three storeys of it. i accepted a glass of water, i was tense and parched. m pinto sauntered in; his lazy eyes greeted us kindly and i was amazed at his stature. his dress was impeccable, as could be expected and he was wearing the most beautiful lapis-lazuli cufflinks. he bats his eyes slowly as he talks away about fantastic projects. his idea of luxury: double volume on a yacht! we talked about his projects and laughed about hotel designs. he showed me the work he did at hostellerie de plaisance in saint-emilion; having dealt with historical restorations myself, i could not hope to fathom the labyrinthine constraints of dealing with this medieval unesco world heritage site… remarkable. in fact all m pinto’s work is in a league of it’s own. his eye for detail makes him one of the few decorators who’s effortless integration of elegance and ecclectism spans the decades of design in lifestyle products, yacht fittings, furniture and tableware. he collaborates with renowned manufacturers in creating his collections. his books, of which he gave me some (enough to devastate my airport overweight allowance) are clear testament to his versatile abilities and alluring style. he truly is the auteur of the art of living.
after staggering from room to room and him personally introducing his designs, accompanied by his small terrier with a red collar, i felt exhausted. he also seemed a bit out of breath; for him understandably having just arrived from new york but for me… the realisation of his enterprise and the grand scope of it, all made me light headed. i didn’t want to admit how small i felt in his presence, never mind awfully underdressed. after leaving i had a coffee across from the palais royal, musing about my visit and regaining my wits again.
m pinto hails from morocco originally but his sensibilité is universal. not only is he a big man, he is a great man. i remain eternally grateful to have met him, his relaxed composure and undisputed talent will always be an inspiration.