If you love a bit of bling, as most of us do, then, interiors addicts, I have just the man for you!
Jean-Pierre Heurteau is one of Melbourne’s most celebrated interior designers and owner of antique furniture store Jean-Pierre Heurteau Design. Over the years he has built a solid reputation for delivering one of a kind pieces sourced from all over the world, as well as his fabulously flamboyant design concepts for members of Melbourne high society. “Work is booming at the moment. Client trust comes with age and as my clients get older, beautiful design becomes more attainable.”
At 22, Jean-Pierre had just finished college and begun work as a ‘slave’ at high-end department store Georges on Collins. “I was fascinated by the clientele and all the housewives that came in from the countryside; we would talk jewellery, diamonds and fur. I loved it.” He admits he does have a penchant for the finer things in life saying: “I want my diamonds to be as big as possible, so as I get older I can see them.” Can I get an amen?
With an eye for beauty and a mind for business, he spent his spare time collecting bricabrac from thrift shops. “I would walk from op-shop to op-shop, collecting pieces and selling them for a profit. The clutter in my room horrified my parents.” In the years that followed, this hobby for hoarding would evolve into a thriving antiques business, both collecting and dealing pieces from all over the world.
When word of Jean-Pierre’s recent move to ditch the hustle and bustle of apartment living on St Kilda Road and find solace in the appropriately posh Melbourne suburb of Armadale reached me, I acted quickly to secure an interview and a tour for Interiors Addict.
“After living in an apartment, I craved rooms. I’d wanted the Manhattan look, but after a year I was bored. There was nowhere special to sit. I love the idea of taking guests to a room with a special purpose, the old school days of hidden kitchens and formal dining. I’m glad architects are finally saying rooms are back.”
Jean-Pierre says his move has come at a time in his life when he doesn’t care what people think. “I am comfortable within myself and the house reflects that. This house to me is a ‘nanna’ house, which is why I have done a lot of pinks and floral. I am building a nest. I want to grow old in this house.” He has even turned the second storey into a space for a live-in caretaker, should he one day require one.
The Edwardian residence has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, three living rooms, a formal dining room, home office and of course, a mirrored walk-in for storing the finest fashions. So drew him to this home? “It was a very quick auction; I thought the house was ghastly but I have a way of blocking that out and I begin seeing things my way. Thank God I can see beyond otherwise I couldn’t do my job.”
Upon entering the home all my wildest expectations became reality: velvet lounges, tea sets made from pure gold, leopard print ottomans and a baby grand just for starters. After picking my jaw up from the floor I began to notice the overall comfort and functionality of the space. An emotion I did not anticipate would be sparked. Each piece of furniture was both precious and approachable, a rarity in the world of antiques and a great testament to Jean-Pierre’s skill and ability.
“Practicality is an essential aspect of any successful design,” he told me. “I know my own routine and I designed my house to accommodate that. I am far too European to eat on the couch. Breakfast and dinner at home see me eating at the dining room table, crystal, cloth napkins and all. In the mornings I like to sit in the kitchen and view the garden and after dinner I like to sit in the living room and watch TV. It’s about designing for the client’s lifestyle and personality, in this case the client being me. It’s important to find the balanced combination of both luxury and liveability.
“I don’t like themes, I like pieces. I have taken a lot of what you see before you out of storage, I am a collector and most collectors are like that. I decorate my home from my collection, not with a concept that works.”
He travels the globe many times a year, sourcing the finest antiques to add to his collection, both at home and in store. “I try to get to Paris two or three times a year and visit the markets. My favorite is Clignancourt flea market but don’t let the name fool you, this is no bargain basement, it’s an antique paradise with acres and acres of glamour for the rich and famous.”
Jean-Pierre also frequents India. “Even in the fields the women are wearing fuchsia gowns and incredible jewels. I feel I could live there for a lifetime and never come back. Egypt on the other hand, ghastly.” He also gathers great inspiration from nature and animals, which was apparent from the vast array of animal print on almost every surface.
With so much talk of Europe I was interested to know what local designers and Australian stores he enjoyed and I couldn’t help but cherish his controversial response: “I have little time for shopping in Australia. I love Europe and the rich history that influences its design industry. At Christmas time I shop for gifts in my own store.”
After an unfortunate rap I thought some advice could be consolation to any budding Aussie designer. “Don’t be a sheep. When did Australians become so worried about what their friends will think? Don’t be afraid to be yourself.” Well, I know someone who has been practicing what he preaches and the outcome isn’t too shabby.
My final image, and one I will savour, is of Jean-Pierre seated before his grand piano, Chihuahua in tow and photographer hard at work. My last question was about the future. Will this truly be his final residence and what can we expect to see from him in the years to come? “I do see myself in a large Victorian in Kew, walking around the garden in a fur.” So maybe this won’t be home forever after all!
Jean-Pierre will finally launch a website this year. In the meantime, I recommend taking the time to visit his store at 781 High Street, Armadale, for an experience you wont forget.
Photography by Jenee Roberts-Thomson