Serdar Gülgün: Istanbul in Paris

June 2021

Create / Inspire

Art historian and seasoned collector Serdar Gülgün is one of the most respected masters of Ottoman art today.

The charm of Ile Saint-Louis

With a mustache he wears as well as Agatha Christie’s famed protagonist Hercule Poirot, he is the epitome of elegance. He designs interiors teeming with treasures from Istanbul to Paris such as his pied-à-terre on the Ile Saint-Louis, the scene of the next collection of Orient Express travel objects. On the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris lies an extraordinary palace. It is here that Serdar Gülgün resides, at least for part of the year. A great traveler and lover of French culture, he studied at the Lycée Français d’Istanbul where he learned the language. He is also a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
This expert in Ottoman art set his sights two years ago on this former 17th century mansion.

After having hesitated between London, Venice and Paris, much like the stops of the Orient-Express, this unique place charmed me from my first visit. It is more than just an address, it has a fascinating history that convinced me to settle down there.

This “corner of Venice in Paris” as he calls this part of the Ile Saint-Louis, was home to two Nobel Prize winners including Marie Curie, the brilliant physicist who won two awards for her discoveries of radioactivity and uranium, and René Cassin, co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights who brought it to the UN General Assembly in 1948.

Turqueries and Chinoiseries

It was in this neighborhood filled with so much history and heart and soul where Serdar Gülgün took on the long restoration project in early 2019, before transforming the place into an oriental cabinet of curiosities.

You can discover the history of Europe and the East here,” he explains. “The décor was inspired by the period of Turkish and Chinese designs that inspired the courts in the eighteenth century. There was a taste for exoticism that I tried to adapt to this space with high ceilings, a large living room overlooking the Seine, a festive dining room all in the Chinese-revered color of red and a mezzanine balcony, perfect for hosting musicians, a floor composed of a maze of rooms and bedrooms covered with embroidery from Istanbul or upholstered in peacock blue fabrics, all imagined with color, strength and character.”

Photo Credit: Hugo Toro

In the name of the peacock and turtle

Decorated with tapestries with damask patterns and marble reminiscent of the Basilica of Saint Sophia, the lounge opens in homage to the culture of Istanbul with a peacock-inspired color palette, of which two of the colorful birds stand as guardians of the treasures inside. On the Italian consoles adorned with golden acanthus leaves, Serdar’s latest book, The Ottoman Chic (Ed. Assouline), in which he highlights an Istanbulite elite with sophisticated tastes, is on display. The decor also reveals the designer’s animal fetish aka the turtle, complete with a collection of drawings and shells with bronze ornaments that adorn the walls.

The turtle evokes the Era of Tulips in the eighteenth century,” he explains, “a period that saw the flowering of arts, culture and architecture, and during which the sultans brought turtle trainers who taught the animal to walk straight ahead in the middle of tulip gardens wearing candles on their shells.” This anecdote inspired the designer’s first line of decorative objects that includes lids, bells and boxes where the turtle appears, encrusted with precious stones like lapis lazuli and quartz.

A decorated master

His aesthetic prowess has earned Serdar Gülgün worldwide praise and led to multiple collaborations. He is behind the extraordinary restoration and decoration of a former hunting lodge on the Asian side of the Bosporus, the former main residence of Josef Kohlmann, a Hungarian in exile who became a Muslim and became known as Feyzullah Pasha

This man of a thousand talents has also decorated the interiors of listed buildings and palaces in Turkey. He has designed an exclusive “Ottoman Tulip” line for the Herend porcelain house, developed a range of historical Ottoman colors for the Dulux paint brand, was the guest of honor of the Louis Vuitton Istanbul City Guide and has just collaborated with Trudon, the famous French candle house, for which he has designed a collection of bronze bases and candleholders. His creative vision and a taste for sophistication has inspired Orient Express whose collection of travel objects was unveiled to the press at the end of May inside his Istanbul-inspired palace on the Ile Saint-Louis.


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