As a textile designer, Nathalie Farman-Farma's eye is unmatched: uniquely original and hugely inspirational. The Décor Barbares founder tells Camilla Frances about her own inspirations, and reveals her dream dinner guests, greatest challenges, most entertaining friends and why she will never have a favorite fabric.
INTERVIEW BY CAMILLA FRANCES | 10 NOVEMBER 2023
Collected textiles in Nathalie's London home; © Miguel Flores-Vianna
The most memorable trip I’ve taken:
The high Caucasus! Eight years ago, I celebrated my birthday hiking in Kazbegi, Georgia, with just a few friends and this formula was so simple and wonderful that I have aimed ever since to travel somewhere new for my birthday (if I can). The key is to stay open to a dash of adventure and keep the group small enough to squeeze into a taxi of any size. I would recommend Georgia for its breathtaking landscape. While off the beaten path, it still offers wonderful restaurants and museums. Furthermore, those who are interested in traditional crafts will love the folk dancing and costumes.
The best party I’ve ever been to:
The wedding of a friend in Venice. It was my first glimpse of this magical Italian city. To see friends arrive in gondolas, over the glimmering waters of the canals - everyone excited and dressed to the nines, excited to be "grown-up" and yet jumping from boat to boat - was completely cinematic. We danced so much that I remember walking home barefoot in filthy streets at dawn. For this reason, I associate Venice with youthful energy and visualize it, at the height of its grandeur, as a great party town at the intersection of East and West.
A moment that defined or changed my career:
Absolutely unprompted: Cabana Magazine! I met the photographer (and now Deputy Editor), Miguel Flores-Vianna, and Editor-in-Chief, Martina Mondadori, just when, after much deliberation, I had decided start Décors Barbares and relaunch a line of fabrics. Our collaboration started as an Instagram project and morphed into a feature for the magazine. This professional validation was especially meaningful to me at the time. More importantly I made two wonderful friends whose opinions are thoughtful, generous, and honest.
The greatest challenge I’ve overcome:
Even though I am confident in my opinions, I am shy and not a natural promoter. Working for myself has allowed me to grow in a way I had not anticipated. Firstly, I stand behind what I do; I love my fabrics and have discovered it's easy to communicate when there is a genuine passion. Secondly, I have space to take risks and make mistakes. This removes a lot of the pressure I would feel as an employee. Now, when I am in front of a public, I can't believe how far I've come.
My proudest achievement:
Anybody who looks at my bedside table or my phone will know it is my children, Alexander and Rose.
An object I would never part with:
This is a tricky question for me since, as a collector and hoarder, I love all my things, regardless of value. I'd only part with an object if it were going to a good home.
The best gift I’ve ever received:
This is another very tricky question for me as I don't like receiving gifts. I hate the pressure and don't want the strings. A few friends of mine had a wonderful 'goodbye' party for me last summer, and that really made me happy. So many people I love were there. Maybe that is the best gift I've ever received.
My guiltiest pleasure or greatest extravagance:
I always feel justified in buying yet another scarf. They come from all over the world in all shapes and sizes, all range of prices. The scarf is the mood of your day!
The living room in Nathalie's London home © Miguel Flores-Vianna
My next weekend-away destination:
I want to go to Oslo. A weekend-away is maximum three evenings, so you can't bite off too much. I want to be transported to a place not too far away, where I know next to nothing. All I need is a few good restaurant and house/museum recommendations, and a pile of books about the place. I love going to a bookstore before a trip to see what I 'must read'. I also research fabric dealers.
I would describe my childhood as:
I was raised in a big house full of books and children. My mother also read to us in the evening. Books like Treasure Island or A Tale of Two Cities, which scared us stiff at the time. As the eldest, this meant that I stayed in my room reading to avoid the chaos. Looking back, it's no surprise that I love reading above all else.
My favourite flea market or antiques fair:
Not original, but Marché aux Puces of Saint-Ouen, partly for the memories of past finds, partly for the good selection of ‘granny furniture’ I love: wicker, whatnots, planters.
I feel most confident when wearing:
My winter uniform: black Wolford tights, a silk dress (vintage or by Julie de Libran), a velvet jacket, and a variety of scarves (of course), earrings and black shoes. I can reshuffle these items endlessly. I've just added cowboy boots from a trip to Dallas.
My signature scent:
I'm very disloyal went it comes to perfume. Currently, I have Dior's Bois d'Argent, but I change all the time as I love killing time in the airport testing new scents.
A bedroom in Nathalie's London home © Miguel Flores-Vianna
My go-to recipe:
A good roasted chicken. I don't think anyone is ever disappointed with that.
My all-time favourite fabric:
As a designer, the answer has to the fabric on the drawing board, the one that doesn't exist. Otherwise, why would I make it? I am currently working on a clover theme. One is about to go into production, and I am unbelievably impatient to see strike-offs. And yet I recently had an idea for another clover fabric, quite different in scale and feel... The day I have a favourite fabric is the day I will stop designing.
The person I call for good advice:
It's hard to tell people what you truthfully think. If I have an important decision, I feel better if I run it by my mother. She will "tell it to me as it is" and has my best interest at heart.
The person I call for a good time:
I can't single out a person, but I have the most fun with my university friends. We know one another so well by now that all we want is to have fun when we get together. Luckily some of them have made the effort to host our big group —— most recently this summer —— and I was delighted to spend time with every single person.
The library in Nathalie's London home © Miguel Flores-Vianna
My dream dinner party companion:
I'd have Diaghilev take me to a party in Paris in 1913.
An artwork or exhibition that took my breath away:
About then years ago I saw the show "Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901" at the Courtauld. It has stayed with me ever since. The show was small and focussed on one year in Picasso’s life when he changed painting styles. Genius is a word that gets bandied about and is hard to define. This show is the best explanation I ever received.
Ideal interiors in three words:
Personal, inviting, transporting
Distasteful interiors in three words:
Messaged, unoriginal, gaudy
A new artist or designer whose work excites me:
I think there is a new generation of ceramicists who are revitalizing this medium. I find that very exciting.
Nathalie's dining room © Miguel Flores-Vianna
Just One More Thing...
Dining room details © Miguel Flores-Vianna
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Camilla Frances is Cabana Magazine's Digital Editorial Director | Follow Camilla on Instagram: @housetowrite
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