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Inside Isabelle d’Ornano’s Beautiful World

The Sisley cofounder’s homes feature in a new book bursting with colorful photos.

Countess Isabelle d’Ornano, a cofounder of the prestige beauty brand Sisley, has a marvelous and unique sense of decor. She created her homes in Paris, London and the Pays de la Loire, in France, to be joyous bursts of contrasting colors, patterns, textures and art. They, along with Sisley’s office and institutes, are the subject of a book just out in the U.S., called “Isabelle d’Ornano — What a Beautiful World!”

The 258-page tome, written by Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery, with photographs lensed by Christina Vervitsioti-Missoffe, is published by Abrams.

In the preface, d’Ornano sums up her vision of beauty by quoting Franco-Chinese poet François Cheng. He once said: “Beauty is a sign from creation that life has meaning. Beauty is not merely an ornament. In the presence of beauty, suddenly you realize that the living universe is not an enormous, inanimate and amorphous entity. That it is guided by a purpose.”

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De Nicolay-Mazery had long wished to feature the homes in a book, but it wasn’t until the coronavirus-related confinement hit Paris that d’Ornano said yes.

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In the countryside
In the countryside. Courtesy of Christina Vervitsioti-Missoffe/Sisley

“I thought: ‘Well, why don’t we do that?’” she said, during a recent interview.

The book jacket shows a shot of d’Ornano’s living room in the French capital. It is a wonderful, eclectic mix of something old and something new, with an Oriental rug, wicker and wood furniture, a ceiling painted like the sky and a giant snail sculpture created by Jean-François Fourtou affixed to a wall.

“I like ceilings,” exclaimed d’Ornano. “I think they are a great source of decoration, which aren’t taken advantage of very often.”

The London apartment
The London apartment. Courtesy of Christina Vervitsioti-Missoffe/Sisley

Tucked under the book jacket is a photo of d’Ornano’s beloved needle-point pillows — which she creates by hand, often featuring words — that might be sent to friends.

“For me, they’re like postcards,” said d’Ornano.

One such cushion in her garden reads: “I love words; they carry messages and make us unique as human beings.” Her words appear on Sisley gift boxes, too.

D’Ornano and her late husband Hubert not only created Sisley together, but also the wonderlands that were their homes for nearly 50 years.

Hubert and Isabelle d'Ornano
Hubert and Isabelle d’Ornano Courtesy of YolikoSaito/Sisley

“We had great fun arranging these houses,” said Isabelle d’Ornano.

The pair shared a Polish heritage, as well, which she believes informs her penchant for the Baroque.

“It’s a mixture of nationalities” and is how d’Ornano characterized her aesthetic style, which she often described as cozy. “If things are beautiful and there is a color scheme, everything fits in.”

The book’s first focal point is the elegant apartment lining the Seine river. One photograph shows a detail of the gold-colored sculpture “The Archangel” by Claude Lalanne. Another includes a painting of Isabelle d’Ornano’s ancestor Barbara Radziwill, Queen of Poland. And numerous family photos feature.

The country house nestles in a forest, by a lake. A contemporary metal sculpture of a woman crowned with oak leaves by Manolo Valdés graces a lawn. The living room is a mélange of cord, wicker, velvet and a zebra-skin rug. Delicate Venetian glasses by Marie Brandolini sit on a wooden table. Memories of d’Ornano’s son, Philippe, about his father and brother spangle some pages.

Over in London, some of the apartment’s walls are hand-painted with colorful stripes. There is a poster of a regal woman by Alfons Mucha and a leather-and-wood armchair by Jules Leleu. Here, the living room ceiling has panels painted in different hues and gold-colored trim.

“You really have to live with the things you love and which are useful, even amid a certain amount of disorder,” said d’Ornano.

Sisley’s Paris-based headquarters showcases known and emerging artists, such as Alexandre Lenoir, and, like the brand’s “maisons” in Bordeaux, Lyon, Madrid and Prague, have a similar style to d’Ornano’s homes. She is, after all, masterminding the new outposts’ openings.

“I try to have something beautiful in each — a very nice picture or mirror or something in the living room; there’s always a living room,” said d’Ornano, adding: “One beautiful thing is really a big luxury.”

Each “maison” has four or five treatment rooms and some include a café. Upcoming institutes are set for Milan, Vienna and Lisbon.

“What a Beautiful World!” is a book on decoration, but on a broader scale richly illustrates life and love. It was first released in France in October 2021 and sells for $85 in the U.S.

For more, see:

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