Flower Couple: John Derian x Chantecaille

The master of stylish decoupage shares our obsession with botanicals. Olivia chatted with John Derian in his NYC workshop about his favorite blooms and where he finds his inspiration.

Decoupage artist John Derian’s NYC shop is a favored source for decorative objects of all sorts: his gorgeous glass trays, paperweights and coasters, which feature botanicals and natural scenes that span the centuries, are found on the vanities and coffee tables of some of the world’s most stylish people, and for good reason. His works are expressions of appreciation for days long past, and their timeless appeal makes them instant heirlooms.

This season we’ve had the brilliant fortune of collaborating with John and his artisans to create a limited-edition collection that celebrates the Rose de Mai, the bloom at the heart of Chantecaille. “Discovering the collection of treasures in John’s NYC studio and chatting together about the flowers and botanicals that we love was a creative dream,” says Olivia Chantecaille of this unique partnership. Looking behind the scenes at this craftsman’s studio was one of her favorite parts of the collaboration, as was chatting with John about his career and our collective obsession with botanicals.

You seem to share our love for blooms of all sorts—do you have favorites?
I do love so many flowers. My friend Tim Callis became my gardener at my house on Cape Cod—I basically gave him a list of my favorites: roses, spirea, wisteria, lilac, mock orange lily of the valley, bleeding hearts, fritillaries, and peonies. 

Do you have a favorite time period for your reference images and inspiration?
Ninety percent of the images I reference are from the 18th and 19th centuries. The image we used for our collaboration with Chantecaille is from the 18th century.  

Decoupage is such a painstaking process! How did that come to be your medium?
I’ve always made things, and in my early twenties I found myself covering boxes in antique papers that I had collected. Then an artisan suggested I try applying them on the reverse of glass plates, and that was the beginning of it. My first piece was an octagonal plate with a leaf and a giant ladybug.

Are you a gardener?
I love gardens and nature, but have no time to nurture them.

What are some of your favorite NYC flower shops?
Emily Thompson Design and Pollux are two favorites.

Where do you source your objects and inspiration pieces?
I’m always peeking through antique shops, fairs, flea markets, and print shops and I have a few dealers on the lookout for me.

Has there ever been a piece of particular lust-worthiness you've had to chase down?
I did sell a chandelier that I wish I hadn’t and then it came back into my life 10 years later.

Can you tell us one thing that would surprise us about decoupage?
We use Elmer’s Glue!

"I’m always peeking through antique shops, fairs, flea markets, and print shops."

— John Derian

We know you have a team of artisans working like elves in your studio—but do you ever still roll up your sleeves and put the paste to paper yourself?
I mock up all the designs in my studio and still do make some things myself.

Your NYC shop is such a jewel box of treasures—do you have any particular favorites in the collection?
I love the ceramics we created in my collaboration with Astier de Villatte—I have long admired their work.

The Rose de Mai is the flower celebrated in our collaboration—did you know about it before we began this project?
I didn’t know of the rose in particular, but I love what I hear, see and smell.

Have a look behind the scenes of the making of this gorgeous collaboration.

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