Old Masters in Venice: Interior Designer Chahan Minassian and Colnaghi Gallery To Take Over Venetian Abbey

Chahan Minassian, Colnaghi Gallery, London Galleries, Abbazia di San Gregorio, Venice Biennale
Jose Manuel Alorda
Chahan Minassian
Lebanese-Armenian Paris-based designer Chahan Minassian teams up with London-based Colnaghi Gallery to create a home for a 21st-century Grand Tourist in the medieval Abbazia di San Gregorio during this year’s Venice Biennale

Warm textures, rich colourings, harmonious layers of material and injections of lavish embellishments – these are some of the elements that characterise the grand style of interior designer Chahan Minassian. Among countless residential and commercial projects, one of his most noted ones are the interiors that have seduced the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris. Contemporary baroque in style with a crisp balance of lighting, sculptural volumes and a soft colour palette, Chahan participated in the renewal of the luxury hotel after having been handpicked to redo its interiors by representatives of the Saudi Arabian royal family – the hotel’s owners. Chahan’s design offers a well-travelled aesthetic as well as a marriage of past and present décor, American glamour, a sense of gracious comfort and touches of the Old World Eastern style he grew up with. “My Armenian-Lebanese culture and upbringing evidently combine Old World, decorative arts with today’s international lifestyle,” says the designer. “The Chahanian style is celebrating timeless beauty, with a modern comfort, and way of life.” 

A view of the Abbazia San Gregorio in Venice.
Photography by Jose Manuel Alorda

Chahan operates tirelessly. Amidst his countless projects, he has just opened a second gallery space on 11 Rue de Lille in Paris’s posh seventh arrondissement. Dedicated to Chahan design furniture and lighting exclusively, as soon as one enters they’ll be overtaken by the designer’s earthy textures, moody glamour and muted harmonies. It’s akin to an art gallery for high-end design objects, an intimate space offering the rich aesthetics that make-up Chahan’s world.

The designer settled in France in 1976 and has since led an international lifestyle, travelling frequently around the globe for inspiration. Following his studies in Interior Design in Paris, he took up the role of European Creative Director at Ralph Lauren. 1993, after seven years with Ralph Lauren, he decided to embark on his own creative venture, establishing Chahan Interior Design, and in 1999 he opened up his first showroom in Paris in the heart of the city’s fashionable Rive Gauche.

Interior views of the new Chahan Gallery in Paris

Photography by Jose Manuel Alorda

With countless accolades under his belt, an expanding team and portfolio of projects, Chahan works tirelessly to create his dreamy interiors. What is the Chahan style? “It’s more of a question of sensitivity and cultural DNA, than a specific design, or aesthetic choice,” says Chahan. “Colour scheme, texture and cultural references can convey a lot of personal sensitivity, more than a specific design.” He believes a space must be personalised according to a mixture of textures, lighting, pure lines and timeless designs. And perhaps that is what is so refreshing about Chahan’s work: it’s a new take on historical design, a baroque for the present moment and that’s what gives it its serenity, it grounds us in our heritage as much as it uplifts us into the present moment.

A perfect example of his resurrection of the old and incorporation of the contemporary is his project done in partnership with London based Colnaghi Gallery for the Venice Biennale. A rare occurrence during the contemporary art frenzy of the world’s most important biannual art event, Colnaghi has taken over the Abbazia di San Gregorio on the Grand Canal for six months to create “the home of a 21st-century traveller” with Chahan’s assistance. The abbey, it is said was famously given to Cary Grant by Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton, after their wedding. It will open on 11 May to coincide with La Biennale di Venezia, and remain open by appointment until 24 November. The exhibition will reveal Old Master drawings, sculptures and Chahan’s contemporary design in order to revisit the spirit of the Grand Tourist in a “contemporary setting.”

Interior views of the new Chahan Gallery in Paris

Photography by Jose Manuel Alorda

“The association introduces world museum quality old masters’ paintings and sculptures to a contemporary lifestyle,” states Chahan. “Indeed, the exceptional location of the Abbazia San Gregorio, and indoor and outdoor historical architecture will allow for the perfect interior setting for my suggested concept of interiors.” Among the displayed works of art will be a pair of 18th-century portraits by Pompeo Batoni of Thomas and Mary Taylour, the Viscount and Viscountess of Headfort, monumental Harry Bertoia sculptures and staying true to “Grand Tour” style, everything will be for sale, with items ranging from Dhs4,000 to over Dhs21 million. As art and design collaborations continue to proliferate, this couldn’t be a better match. chahan.com


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Chahan Minassian, Colnaghi Gallery, London Galleries, Abbazia di San Gregorio, Venice Biennale
Chahan Minassian, Colnaghi Gallery, London Galleries, Abbazia di San Gregorio, Venice Biennale
Jose Manuel Alorda
Chahan Minassian