The Princess Who Designs Palaces
By : | April 17, 2017

In Paris, the art capital of the world, decorator Sarah Lavoine is still able to stand out with her unique take on design and décor.

Sarah Lavoine

She is the descendant of a long line of Polish nobility, wife of French pop-star sensation Marc Lavoine and the doting mother to three beautiful children, Yasmine (age 17), Roman (age 8) and Milo (age 5).

Besides her social status, Sarah Lavoine nee Poniatowski is in vogue for reasons other than being blue-blooded and a celebrity-wife. As one of the most celebrated French interior decorators, she is revered not just in Parisian design circles but world over. Her collections have been featured in Vogue Paris, Harper Bazaar Dubai, several international editions of Elle, Marie Claire and an endless list of architecture, fashion and lifestyle magazines.

Apartment, Sarah Lavoine

Any Parisian designer will tell how hard it is to penetrate the French market; we’re talking about a culture saturated with style and sass which is the breeding ground for artistic breakthroughs that inspires the creatively-challenged across the world. Something about Lavoine’s design sensibilities set her apart from the usual French charm; while her creations exude contemporary Parisian chic, there is a bohemian spirit underlining it all that seems to be inspired by cultures the world over. Sarah agrees in acknowledgment, “I often find it is just after I have returned from travelling and seeing different parts of the world that I’m most inspired. I find inspiration in art, museums and travel.”

Apartment, Sarah Lavoine

Her artistic inclinations weren’t obvious early in life. “When I was in my twenties I thought I wanted to be an actress – I even moved to New York to study theatre, but I soon realized it wasn’t for me.” Both of Sarah’s parents had established a creative legacy from her to draw on. Her father, Jean-Stanislas Poniatowski was the former Chief-Editor for Vogue Paris and a lot of her younger years were about accompanying him to fashion shows which she admits being grateful for. Not everyone has had the rare opportunity of being immersed in art at such a young age. In complete contrast to her father, Sabine Marchal was a disciplinarian who happened to be a decorator herself. Her mother encouraged her to that as an artist it was important to be imaginative, but even more so to be disciplined.

After some soul-searching, the words just came organically, “Mom, I want to work with you,” Sarah told Sabine on returning home from New York and began her apprenticeship under her mother’s strict tutelage. After a short span of training under her, Sarah knew straight away that this is what she wanted to do.

Fellow interior-decorator François Schmidt gave Sarah her first big break. He hired her to work for his firm and together, they redesigned the interiors of the Compagnie Française de l’Orient et de la Chine (CFOC), importers of Chinese artisanal objects and Asian homeware, to give it a more authentic oriental feel. “François and I have known each other for an incredibly long time, since we were children, in fact. He was the first designer I worked with after my mother. He was the one who encouraged me to open my own firm, which obviously changed my life and my career. I love working with him on the CFOC boutiques that we design together.”

CFOC Concept Store ( Image Courtesy-

Taking Schmidt’s advice seriously, Sarah branched out on her own to begin her own label in 2002. Success followed shortly, as Lavoine’s work started getting noticed for its bold approach and unabashed originality. She has the credit of having designed some of the swankiest apartments, restaurants and commercial spaces in Paris. She collaborated with mail-order giant La Redoute to design her own line of furniture. In 2010, she penned down her design ethos and brought out a coffee table book Sarah Lavoine: Interior Architecture that still serves as a guide to budding decorators. Sarah’s acumen shot up so much that the television channel Odyssey gave her a show called Design by Sarah Lavoine revolving around her tastes, design-tips and even featured innovative design concepts from hotels, bars and restaurants the world over.

There are design elements that seem to be Lavoine’s tricks-of-the-trade; the way she has this magical ability of creating volume out of compact spaces. She sees lighting as a very important facet of creating an ambience. As she unveils her latest lighting collection, she shares,” I’m obsessed with lighting. I think it is the single most important thing to get right in a home. All the pieces that make up my new collection are quite different – there are some very geometric designs, one with a brass cage and another in porcelain, wicker, raffia, even cotton. It was fun to create this diverse collection.”

Ceiling Light by Sarah Lavoine (Image Courtesy –


Sarah’s design always have a Parisian theme on which she adds a more eclectic charm that she derives from frequent travel. According to her, the ‘total look’ or sticking to just one style is atrocious. Lavoine’s work speaks for itself as a wonderful mix of many styles. It is something that most decorators tend to shy away from – Sarah however, is more confident with experimenting. “I like to think I use similar principles when it comes to my interior design as I do when I dress myself. Firstly, to never look vulgar; secondly, never work the total look; and finally, know how to mix and combine different items. There is nothing I hate more than when an entire room – or worse, an entire house – is designed with one theme all over,” she elaborates.

By 2012, Lavoine had two of her own stores in Paris at Rue du Bac and Rue Saint Roch. Just recently, the designer forayed into designing carpets in collaboration with the French rug manufacturer Chevalier Edition as she announced her ‘Mogador’ collection, which borrows its name from the ancient Moroccan coastal town. The Sarah Lavoine label already manufactures furniture, lighting, stationery, tableware, and home accessories. Her association with porcelain label Bernadaud to create tableware for Barney’s New York, was inspired by aboriginal prints that she discovered on her visit to Australia. “I love how dots are like maps on the land, so I translated this element and made it a feature in the collection. It feels natural, ethnic, and chic.” She explains, as she describes her porcelain collection, Aboro.

Sarah found India equally inspiring, “I visited India in the summer of 2015 and was so inspired that when I came back that I dedicated the month of February to India in my boutiques, and put all the beautiful treasures and textiles that I found there on display in my Rue du Bac boutique. I visited Kachchh in Gujarat and Kerala down south. Such amazing places! India is like a stage for countless different kinds of cultures and art. The diversity of the cultures and the people is just overflowing. The art in India is a stimulant. For the artists, these works are not lifeless objects but they have a soul and show their passion. There are so many different ways to experience the variety of craftsmanship in India…precious and semi-precious stone, jewelry, metalwork, wood, carpets, pottery, paintings, textiles and furniture. The list is endless!”

When she feels too lazy to decorate her apartment or country home 40 minutes from Paris, Sarah stops at Galerie Kreo for their quirky and out-of-the-world furniture supplies. In terms of her style, she reveals that artistic gene manifests itself in her sibling Marie Poniatowski as well, who designs the jewellery label ‘Stone Paris,’ where Sarah sources most of her accessories. Her clothes and accessories are either Michel Klein or By Marie but most of all she admires, Hedi Slimane, from the house of Yves Saint Laurent, who she confesses is her hero for his exceptional designs, intelligence and compassion.

Marc indulges in photography as a hobby and Sarah believes that the collective of strong creative influences coming down the generations is beneficial to her children. She seems to juggle it all effortlessly – her marriage, family, home and work, one often wonders how she does it all? “I live and work in the same neighborhood in Paris! It is a real time saver – my studio is near my kid’s school. They love to come visit me at work, especially Roman,” she shares her business mantra.

 Sarah design philosophy isn’t tangible, it is charged with emotion, “Nothing is more chic than a house full of life, people and laughter. I find houses that are designed to be showrooms – where everything is too precious and too perfect to touch – to be so depressing!”






For someone who began his media career as a freelance journalist, Nolan Lewis is now quite convinced that life as a media hack isn't as glamorous as it is made out to be. Over a year of living life in the fast lane, late night networking events and crazy deadlines writing for, and editing magazines later, he has added the digital media to his portfolio and is now Consulting Editor (Digital) for Eat Stay Love and Blackbook magazines.