Having scoured the world of vintage car rallies and race meetings for stories, Bertrand Waldbillig found a new passion in life. Interior design. From the twentieth century, if you please. This love of furniture developed from his writing. A lover of beauty, Bertrand Waldbillig was a journalist who found himself writing a series of articles about Scandinavian watches as well as discoursing on the unabashed kitsch of the seventies. A passion shared with his former partner who opened his eyes to a new ideal, that of devoting himself full-time to his new business. That of being a dealer. Bertrand Waldbillig made his mark along with another Socialite Family: Julien and Élodie Régnier at the legendary Saint-Ouen flea market. The Maison Jaune stall-holders helped him to put into practice what he had learned during his year of training with the Drouot auction house. Clearly an eye-opening experience, Bertrand Waldbillig having opened his own gallery, Inverno, last November in the heart of the Paul Bert Serpette market. Coincidence or a sign of fate, perhaps; this market is famous for its unique selection of 20th-century furniture. Which happens to be this Parisian’s speciality. And while he is waiting for his latest venture to make a name for itself, this young man is aiming to cure his “collecting affliction” in his own apartment. The jointly designed interior is a vast space flooded with light, and a place of experimentation for Bertrand Waldbillig. Japanese straw used in an unexpected manner, wallpaper as a bedhead, this inveterate antique hunter has no lack resources and is ready to prove it to us. An exquisite meander around works by Angelo Mangiarroti, Mario Botta and Gabriella Crespi.
Bertrand, how would you describe yourself? What’s your backstory?
I’m a Parisian, I’m 37 years old and I’ve been single for a few months now. After six years in a communications agency specialising in motor racing, I became a watchmaking journalist four years ago. Today, I’m responsible for the watches pages of Officiel Hommes, from Editions Jalou. I’ve always had a penchant for vintage furniture and interior design, a passion I shared with by former partner. We bought this apartment on a whim in 2013 and I soon began hunting for vintage pieces to decorate it. It’s an activity that has become time-consuming, to such an extent that I decided to make it my second profession. After a year of training at Drouot, the famous Parisian auction house, I started out at the Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market last year at Maison Jaune, on Julien and Élodie Regnier‘s stand and we rapidly became friends.
How would you describe your personality in terms of interior design?
I still consider myself to be something of a neophyte when it comes to interior design, even though my taste is becoming more refined – and more confident – as the months and years go by. I suffer from acute collectionitis, but I’m getting treatment for it and becoming more rational. At the end of the day, each piece must have a place…which can become a problem when the apartment starts to fill up! In terms of periods, I have to confess to a great weakness for the craziness of the seventies and the blingy side of some of the pieces from that time holds no fear for me! Even (and perhaps above all) in interior design, it’s important not to take things too seriously. As long the overall effect is harmonious, (almost) anything goes.
Who handled the decorating?
Both of us: we decorated this apartment together. We often got quite heated about the choice of paint and wall coverings. Before finding the right grey for the living room, we must have tried a good fifteen samples! There were some products that we absolutely fell in love with, like the De Gournay wallpaper that we used to create a headboard for the bed, or the Thibaut raffia wall covering in the dining room. I chose the majority of the furniture, generally quite impulsively! Even though some pieces struggled to find a place – and some never managed to find one – I’m happy with the result overall, which, if nothing else, is far from boring!
Which is your favourite part of the apartment?
Our apartment only has two rooms: a bedroom overlooking the courtyard and a vast 50 m2 living-dining room. With its two bow windows and huge spaces, it’s what attracted us right from the very first viewing. It’s ideal for entertaining friends and I spend most of my time there because it’s also my office. I really like our kitchen too, it’s quite big and flooded with light, with a great view overlooking the rooftops of Paris.
Where do you pick up your pieces?
I spend a lot of time browsing online listing and auction sites. I also go to Drouot quite a lot because it’s only a ten-minute walk from my place. I rarely bid on anything, but the ambiance there is something else. Flea markets are a must, of course, particularly Paul Bert – Serpette where the selection of 20th century furniture is unique in the world. We found a lot of favourites there, like the Angelo Mangiarroti marble console, the big Paul McCobb coffee table, the little fifties Italian sofa and the Mario Botta Shogun floor lamp. My favourite stands: Maison Jaune at Paul Bert (of course!) and those of Michael Vosseler, Karine Szanto and Hélène Lalbatry at Serpette.
Before finding the right grey for the living room, we must have tried a good fifteen samples!
What would be your most outrageous dream?
That’s a question that’s difficult to answer. Particularly if I’m only allowed one piece! I’ll limit myself to three: a cloud coffee table by Guy de Rougemont, a Coque armchair by Philippe Hiquily and a Maria Pergay day bed.
Is there a designer whom you particularly admire?
The life of Gabriella Crespi, her singular career and extremely romantic creations fascinate me. Besides, she sadly passed away this year. Manufactured bit by bit in Milanese workshops, often to special order, her pieces have incredible quality and are insanely elegant. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of her mirrors at a reasonable price in an auction, but I don’t think I’ll be that lucky again anytime soon! Otherwise, I whole-heartedly admire the work of the interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch. He brings perfect harmony and great serenity to his interiors. And his choice of furniture is always beyond reproach.
What are your plans for the future?
Things have been a bit rushed lately. I will be quitting Le Sentier soon, moving on to a new Parisian apartment that will be my first end-to-end decorating project. And of course Inverno, my newly opened gallery.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of her mirrors at a reasonable price in an auction, but I don't think I'll be that lucky again anytime soon!
Photography: Constance Gennari – Text: Caroline Balvay – Translation: @thesocialitefamily