Sarah Poniatowski-Lavoine needs no introduction, as she is a well-known and highly regarded interior designer worldwide. Her style is a clever blend of color combinations, cultural fusion, traditional craftsmanship, and artisanship. As a true globetrotter, she has often been to Greece, particularly in Spetses, where we had the chance to meet her. Let's dive into our encounter.
You are a lover of Greece, Sarah ?
Yes, even though, in the end, I don’t know it as well as one might think. I am actually returning there this summer. I’m going to Antiparos.
What are the words and images that come to your mind first when Greece is mentioned ?
Honestly, it’s all those white and blue houses, that gentle way of life, all those rounded shapes, the sensuality in the architecture. There’s something luminous, soothing, a great simplicity as well, in the materials too, a lot of sobriety, raw materials, and a somewhat brutalist aspect to it. There’s also a great concern for preserving the environment, the architecture blends into nature. It simply makes you dream !
Do you remember your first trip to Greece ?
I was a child. I discovered it by boat, on a sailboat. We often spent a month on that sailboat. I must have been 8 or 9 years old. Greece from the sea is truly beautiful. The land is beautiful, but for me, the most beautiful part is on the water. The sea is so stunning. Greece, in the end, is not about the beaches at all, on the contrary, it’s the opposite. Being on the water is exceptional.
In your book, you mention that your parents taught you to appreciate the beauty of the world and to observe.
Yes, I think it’s something you learn. If I have this curiosity, this sense of observation, this desire to always discover more, to truly look into things deeply, it’s because I was fortunate to have that with my parents when I was young. We traveled a lot, explored everywhere, museums, flea markets… We need to realize how lucky we are to have access to masterpieces. I live near the Louvre, and there isn’t a time when I don’t marvel while crossing the bridge between the right and left banks. How lucky I am, how beautiful it is ! The Grand Palais, the Musée d’Orsay, the Tuileries, the Louvre with a sunset behind it, it’s exceptional. We shouldn’t lose that sense of wonder.
Have you traveled everywhere or often to a specific place ?
A bit of both. What I miss is South America, which I am less familiar with. I’ve been to Guatemala, I find Mexico City exceptional, the colors are very inspiring. Otherwise, I know Africa quite well, I go to Morocco a lot, of course, Kenya, Namibia. I also know Asia a lot, especially Bali, Java, Thailand, and Myanmar, which is probably the most beautiful country in the world. We try to discover a new country at least once a year, to go on a road trip with the children. Always make them discover something they don’t know.
All of this has evidently shaped your personality and influenced your style. Color, in particular, is undoubtedly the soul of your creations.
Yes, it’s very inspiring. When you’re in the desert and you see those endless orange sand dunes with the sunset… In nature, colors are incredible. The number of greens you find in a garden, indeed, I draw inspiration from the sky, its gradients, a thunderstorm. Nature is an endless source of inspiration.
Now, Athens, what memories do you have ?
Visiting the Acropolis in the middle of August ! But all the typical tourist routes are actually not very interesting. There’s nothing better than exploring a city with someone who lives there. I would like to go back to Athens in the off-season, in spring, for three or four days, taking my time. I found a very familial and pleasant atmosphere in Athens.
Let’s talk about Spetses now. We share friends and common places, and your creations decorate certain hotels like Yayaki. How did you discover the island ?
Yes, it’s always a great pride to see my creations elsewhere, knowing that they travel. In the beginning, in Spetses, we stayed at the Poseidonion Hotel, and then we rented a house. It was a summer when several of us went there, and we also went to Hydra. I really enjoyed those vacations, I was surrounded by people I loved. What really struck me were those little fishing boats that we rented, those small wooden boats. We would sail around the coves, it was exceptional.
Do you have a memory of an object, something you bought in Greece that you can’t part with ?
I bought a striped tunic in a small, truly local boutique in Spetses, and I’ve been wearing it every summer. My daughter borrows it from me every other day, actually.
Speaking of clothing, what is your ideal summer wardrobe ?
As light as possible, honestly. Beautiful sandals, nice accessories, because ultimately, that’s what makes all the difference. After that, it’s denim shorts, a white shirt, a beautiful belt, nice sandals, jewelry… Elegant but simple. I am not at all sophisticated.