In Conversation | Jean-Charles Tomas

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    In this one-on-one interview, French interior designer Jean-Charles Tomas discusses everything from his favourite natural materials to his long-standing appreciation for vintage furniture.

    In est magazine issue #45, we shone a light on a clifftop home at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in the south of France. Boasting a spectacular collection of art and vintage furniture, as well as unrivalled views of the Mediterranean Sea, we were naturally captivated by the man who designed it, Jean-Charles Tomas. Having been exposed to the best of interior design – from Paris to New York to Monaco – Jean-Charles brings years of experience and knowledge-building to est’s In Conversation series. His intuition – “Design by doing and you’ll figure things out along the way” – and desire to create beautiful, ‘lived-in’ spaces – “We always tell our clients to use their beautiful spaces; to stain the countertops and make a mess” – have allowed him to continue to evolve his namesake studio (based in Nice on the French Riviera) and walk side-by-side with industry leaders.

    Some can pinpoint the exact moment they wanted to become a designer, while others see it as more of a natural evolution. What best describes your path to interior design and starting your own namesake studio?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: It’s always been clear to me that I needed to pursue something creative. From a very young age, I’ve had this desire to understand how things are made, so I was constantly asking questions. I was also drawing at every available opportunity on any surface I could find.

    At first, I was more drawn to furniture design, which brought me to New York for a few years. When I moved back to the south of France, I was introduced to an interior design studio based in Monaco, which shaped my path to where I am today.

    What key learnings did you take away from your time practising in three of the world’s most ‘happening’ cities, Paris, New York and Monaco?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: Paris taught me rigour and respect for tradition. New York taught me how to deconstruct those beliefs and break the rules; I learnt that anything is possible there. Monaco taught me about maximalism and extravagance. 

    What are some surprising or unique aspects about the French Riviera and its design scene that you can tell us?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: The French Riviera has always been a world apart from France. For centuries, it has attracted the rich and famous from around the globe – mainly because of the mild winters and the sunshine. These people would come so often that they started to build houses for themselves, all very different from one another. Chateau de l’Anglais in Nice, Pierre Cardin’s Palais Bulle in Théoule, Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Villa Kérylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer have all transformed the French Riviera landscape and drawn people here.

    “A modern, masterful blend of confidence and comfort”; why are both these qualities – confidence and comfort – important to design resolution?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: We like to design luxurious and confident spaces, but above all, we like to design ‘lived-in’ spaces. We believe that it has to be inviting no matter what style you’re looking for. I’m not attracted to spaces where you feel like you can’t sit down or touch anything, as beautiful as they can be. We always tell our clients to use their beautiful spaces; to stain the countertops and make a mess. Nothing is frozen in time. Everything is there for a purpose; for a use. Acknowledging that makes spaces feel more homey and comfortable.

    “I’m not attracted to spaces where you feel like you can’t sit down or touch anything… We always tell our clients to use their beautiful spaces.”


    – Jean-Charles Tomas

    You favour bold natural stone in each of your projects, especially in the kitchen and bathroom. Which two other materials are your favourite to work with and why?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: I always prefer to use natural materials – stone, wood and metal being my favourite. Wood and metal are complementary opposites; soft and rough, hot and cold. One brings what the other cannot to a space. What is also very interesting about these materials is that they can feel very different to how they look. Stone for example can look cold and rough because of its weight and aspect but in fact, is incredibly soft and warm to the touch.

    Can you please talk about the importance of sourcing art and vintage furniture for your projects? 

    Jean-Charles Tomas: I think there are different reasons why you would source vintage furniture for a project. I have been collecting vintage objects and furniture for decades now, and that’s what makes my home feel personal and unique to me. It reflects who I am, where I’ve been, who I’ve met and what I like. When you buy something brand-new, it doesn’t have any history yet. So when we are sourcing pieces for a client, it is important to find things that generate an emotional response with the stories they have to tell.

    What’s one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring interior designer?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: Do not overthink the whole creative process. Design by doing and you’ll figure things out along the way. Pierre Soulage says that he discovers what he’s looking for only by doing. Of course, that doesn’t exclude that a desire or idea preceded your creation, but when you are finished, these desires and ideas make the most sense.

    What have you got in store for 2023?

    Jean-Charles Tomas: A boutique hotel in Krakow, Poland, nested in a 15th-century building (which we are very excited about since it is our first hotel project), a few apartments in Paris, a penthouse in Monaco and a member’s club in NYC.

    Design Insider’s Guide:

    Favourite design stores? Matter in NYC and just any flea market.

    Favourite galleries or spaces? Galerie Romain Morandi in Paris.

    Where do you go to look at great design? I often look outside of the design space. Nature is my number one; in Nice you are surrounded by the Mediterranean sea and French Alps.

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