BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
It’s all about transforming the expected into the extraordinary.
—Clive Christian, O.B.E.
Whether exquisitely finished rooms or perfumes with precious ingredients, Clive Christian pairs superior materials and British craftsmanship to dazzle the senses of some of the world’s most discerning clients.
With the opening this week of his Clive Christian Lifestyle Apartment at the Chicago Luxury Furniture Center in River North, Chicagoans may view a 6,000-square-foot showroom—one Clive describes as “the epitome of upscale living.”
Although the perfume is not for sale on site, all 10 fragrances are there to breathe in and enjoy. Called the most expensive perfumes in the world, The Private Collection on display has scents ranging from Green Floral, which evokes his Scottish childhood, and Floral Chypre, an homage to London and Edinburgh, where he was a young scholar, to Gourmande Oriental, a perfume inspired by the opulent interiors of Buckingham Palace, where he was inducted into the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to luxury British design.
The brand’s predecessor, the Crown Perfumery Company, established in 1872, is the only house granted permission by Queen Victoria to use her crown on its bottles. After Clive’s daughter discovered one of the old perfume bottles under the floorboard of their estate, he began to think of purchasing the company. The Private Collection is available from local retailers.
Located on the fifth floor of the Ontario Street Center, the showroom features $2.5 million of Clive’s fitted furniture throughout 13 rooms. Pierre Frey fabrics, elaborate ornamental plaster ceilings, Christoper Guy mirrors, Crestron home automation, Dorya fine furnishings, Baccarat lighting, and handcrafted walnut flooring combine contemporary with classical, with a bit of Deco glamor in the mix.
Clive, who grew up in Dundee, Scotland, became interested in interior design when he acquired a 19th-century Cheshire manor house in the north of England.
“It had beautiful external structure, and the architecture was exquisite, but internally it was total incongruent. I decided that creating a sense of harmony between the exterior and interior of a home was crucial and began to renovate it appropriately with bespoke or made-to-order furniture. People started to take an interest in what I was doing and asked if I would work on their homes. From there, Clive Christian Furniture was born.”
Clive generously granted us some time to talk design before the opening.
You were awarded the Order of the British Empire for your work. Tell us about the powerful appeal of English craftsmanship.
We are all about designing to be the very best that it can be. We work in close collaboration with the client, architect, or interior designer, and from the first pencil sketch, each design component is carefully considered to deliver a one-of-a-kind design scheme, bespoke to taste and space. True British craftsmanship produces projects ingrained with integrity and passion.
Describe some of your international projects.
We are proud to have provided interior solutions for some of the most exclusive addresses in the world, from individual rooms in family homes through to large-scale multi-room developments. Recently we have been involved in projects such as the Woolworth Building in New York, considered the world’s most expensive real estate, where we designed a dressing room and cocktail bar.
We have been involved with many Show House projects, such as Kips Bay and, most recently, the Dallas Decorators Show House, where we partnered with Donna Moss on a stunning kitchen design on view until the end of September.
What was your first project?
The first released design was the statement Victorian Kitchen. The vision was to transform the ‘expected into the extraordinary’. I removed walls to make the room more spacious and installed sociable kitchen islands and chandeliers for unexpected glamour.
What are your principal thoughts as you design a kitchen?
Traditionally, the kitchen was a utilitarian space, a place of work. We set out to make it a place of beauty and social gathering, a place where everyone comes together. Today the kitchen is often considered the heart of a home. My kitchens are designed for socializing and entertaining and often feature a central island and generous allocation of seating.
Interior architecture before furniture is key. Without the right structure the cabinetry will have to work hard to overcome a room.
We would bet that there never was a showroom in Chicago that looked quite as elegant—or smelled so divine!