Les Palmiers - smoking room

an invitation to travel … to sail among the waves of luxury on the vessel of modernity

With these words Jean Dunand described his project to Mademoiselle Colette Aboucaya, when she commissioned him to decorate the smoking room of her Parisian apartment in 1930.

Described by Domenico Raimondo – Phillips Senior Specialist in the Design department – as “the complete, quintessential Art Déco environment, a fait accompli”, the room contains a mixture of modernity and formal and cultural tradition that makes the environment one of the most representative examples of the Déco style and French savoir-vivre.

The walls are covered with lacquered panels, embellished with gold and silver details: in this combination of materials the refinement of the Japanese tradition winks at the sumptuous golden inserts, in Louis XV style, giving the environment that allure of luxury and charm. The subject is a geometric forest with a strong Cubist contamination; the result is abstract but recognizable and it seems to immerse the visitor in a dreamlike and ethereal dimension, well suited for the seductive imagery of smoking, widespread in the 1930s. According to Elie Massaoutis, Head of Design, France and Senior International Specialist and expert wood paneling restorer, the panels that make the walls of the smoking room are an example of great technical ability and quality of the materials used: despite the numerous transfers and consequent assemblies they are still intact and do not present any type of damage or crack; this was possible thanks to the clever arrangement and creation of subsequently veneered plywood supports, which prevent any movement of the wood.

Les Palmiers - smoking room

The walls are coordinated with a carpet by Ivan da Silva Bruhns with exotic-inspired decorative motifs; to complete the whole room there is furniture including the elegant daybed, Katsu Hamanaka’s idea, covered in shagreen and lacquered. Its shape recalls that of a pirogue, and the lamps obtained with the same lacquering technique emanate a soft light thanks to the large lampshades that direct the light towards the ceiling.

The evocation of travel is the common thread that binds all the compositional elements together, offering visitors an experience that is not only convivial but also sensory and imaginative. The owner’s taste for the modern denotes an independent spirit, far from the desire to please the upper classes, still tied to stylish furnishings, and aimed instead at progress and innovation.

Despite the fascinating aspect of the interiors, the apartment remained private and undocumented for a long time: the only article documenting this room with black and white images dates back to 1961 and was published by Vogue under the title “The Art de vivre ”, while the only other reference is given to us by an image from the Dunand archive present in a monograph by Félix Marcilhac. Only in October 1997, following the death of Colette Aboucaya, the apartment was reopened, but its furniture was put up for auction at Drouot’s. Here begins the journey of the smoke room Les Palmiers. Its furniture went through the hands of several buyers, who took the wall panels as far as Japan.

Les Palmiers - smoking room

The boiserie work was again auctioned by Phillips in June 2021 and sold for over 3 million pounds; on this occasion, the panels of the room were temporarily reunited with the daybed – they had been separated when the owner died in 1997.

Les Palmiers - smoking room

Online resources:

1. CHRISTIE’S – 2011. Live auction 1000 LES COLLECTIONS DU CHÂTEAU DE GOURDON [Internet]. (14/07/2021). Available at: https://www.christies.com/en/lot/lot-5404243
2. Jaffré – 2021. Les Palmiers de l’élégance: Quintessence de l’Art Déco [Internet]. (14/07/2021). Available at: https://www.phillips.com/detail/jean- dunand/UK050121/33
3. PHILLIP’S – 2021. Moving a National Treasure [Internet]. (14/07/2021). Available at: https://www.phillips.com/article/70559355/jean-dunand-elie-massaoutis- conversation-auction-design-paris
4. A.Bernardi, A.Riva, V.Castiglioni, B.Luciano, V.Silvestrin, Y.Trombetta – 2021. FUMARE. Available on request


1. -,-. No title available [Internet]
Available at: https://www.antiquesandthearts.com/dunand-smoking-room-heats-up- phillips-salesroom/ [22/04/2021].
2. -,-. No title available [Internet]
Available at: https://www.homejournal.com/en/article/Phillips-To-Auction-Jean- Dunand%E2%80%99s-Art-Deco-Smoking-Room-/ [22/04/2021].
3. -,-. View from “Les Palmiers” smoking room illustrating the daybed designed by Katsu Hamanaka (lot. 34). DR.
Available at: https://www.phillips.com/article/78483303/les-palmiers-de-lelegance- quintessence-de-lart-deco-design-london [22/04/2021].
4. -,-. No title available
Available at: https://www.homejournal.com/en/article/Phillips-To-Auction-Jean- Dunand%E2%80%99s-Art-Deco-Smoking-Room-/ [22/04/2021].