Door 12: Jean Royère

© Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris, Photo Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Apparently at this year's Christmas Calendar, a theme is failing or late blooming. There were already Franz West and Massimo Vitali, who found their vocation in their fields comparatively late. In furniture and interior design a highly interesting example is the French designer Jean Royère.

He was born in 1902 in Paris into a cultivated family. He finished his studies in Cambridge, which he started in various Parisian colleges without great success. He worked at an import-export business for five years and without any training started to show an interest in decoration.

At the age of 29, he quit his job and started a two year apprenticeship at a furniture factory in Faubourg Saint-Antoine. After creating a set of garden furniture for his uncle in 1931, he made a name for himself decorating the brasserie Le Carlton in the namesake hotel in 1933. This also drew the interest of manufacturer Pierre Gouffé who hired him in 1934 to create a line for his company.

A polar-bear suite at Emmanuel de Bayser’s Berlin home. © Manolo Yllera

In 1942 he opened his own agency in Paris and among his long career opened shops in the Middle East and South America. What made him stand out among his peers, was his use of materials and his endless quest for techniques, which he applied to his designs. His lack of formal training initially helped him, as he did not see any limits and always saw it as a big adventure.

In 1972 he stopped working as a designer and divided his time between France and the United States of America, where he died in 1981 in Pennsylvania. Today his designs are among the most-sought after by collectors, especially his Polar Bear chair and sofa reach immense prices at auctions.