Pieces of me: Balenciaga and Klimt a cut above the rest
Ib Jorgensen: ‘A mirror over the mantelpiece is an easy way out – I would much prefer a painting’
Ib Jorgensen at home in Donnybrook. Photograph: Eric Luke
Grandfather rocking chair in Ib Jorgensen’s home in Donnybrook. Photograph: Eric Luke
Georgian bookcase in Ib Jorgensen’s home in Donnybrook. Photograph: Eric Luke
The Danish-born couturier known for his perfectionism and craftsmanship opened what became a flourishing business in 1956 in South Frederick Street and by the late 1970s commanded shops in Dublin and London and a staff of 45 people in Fitzwilliam Square. From a family of artists and architects (his aunt painted the original designs for Royal Copenhagen china), he was always interested in fine art and antiques and when he closed his fashion business in 1994, he had already established a thriving gallery in Molesworth Street.
Later he moved to the Hibernian Way but when rents escalated, decided to retire. Two years ago, however, a room at 35 Molesworth Street caught his eye where he has just opened a new gallery showcasing sculpture, furniture, paintings and glass. The gallery is open from 10am-5.30pm Monday to Friday and 11am-2pm Saturday or by appointment (jorgensenfineart.com). A major retrospective exhibition of his fashion career is on display in the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks.
Describe your interiors style
I go for two types of style – the first pairing very traditional things like good furniture with modern items. If you have good traditional furniture you can also incorporate very modern paintings. The other style is completely modern – I do some interior design work and like using colours like grey, beige and cream, but I can’t have clutter in these modern interiors as nothing should dominate. It should be visually exciting but not overwhelming.
Which room do you most enjoy and why?
My sitting room because it is very comfortable and has a dual purpose as both a dining and living room. It is decorated in cream and beige and has both modern and traditional paintings. I have a big table in the centre of the room with loads of books. You need one major piece of furniture for focus and balance in a room.
What items do you love most and why?
One of my favourites is a bentwood rocking chair that belonged to my grandfather and when I was a little boy in Denmark I remember him sitting in it and listening to the radio. It was made in Austria before WW1 and is signed “Chorney”. I have a Georgian bookcase that is very thin and narrow but very tall which I bought 20 years ago from the Johnson Brothers antique dealers in Francis Street and takes all my Danish china, silver and Royal Copenhagen figures. Another special piece, 45-five-years old, is by Ireland’s leading sculptor, Rowan Gillespie, of a man and a woman behind a sheet of glass – as if trying to reach each other.
Who is your favourite designer and do you own any of their work?
The great Spanish couturier Balenciaga is my favourite fashion designer. Balenciaga only ever had one idea in one garment and that was what I always tried to achieve in my work. He was so inventive in the way he used fabric and was always a wonderful tailor. Both Balenciaga and Givenchy only ever showed their work to Carmel Snow (the influential Irish-born editor of US Harper’s Bazaar) because everyone tried to copy what they designed. In my more modest moments I saw my simple clothes and myself as having a similar position to Givenchy in Ireland. I recently met a customer who was wearing something of mine that was 30 years old – she was lucky not to have changed her shape.
Which artists do you most admire?
Gustav Klimt (the Austrian Secessionist) and Vilhem Hammerschoi (19th-century Danish). The way Klimt painted women was so beautiful and the way he painted their garments was in a sense like a picture on the woman. He used modern artwork on their clothes in beautiful colours. Hammerschoi is completely different – he painted portraits and simple off-white and pale grey interiors which were to do with tone and shadow. I knew about him and recently saw a major exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy.
What is your biggest interior turn-off?
I find that when I go to hang paintings in people’s houses that have been done by interior designers that they are all very similar and don’t translate the personalities of the owners. Also I think that a mirror over the mantelpiece is an easy way out – I would much prefer a painting. And paintings should not be hung too high – pictures that are too high look uncomfortable in a room. You must be able to look at a painting, not up at it.
Which travel destination stands out?
My most favourite place is Venice – it captivates the senses and the imagination and the buildings and the whole tradition of the city I just find very stimulating.
If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home, what would it be?
I would buy a tiny flat in Venice –but it would have to overlook the Grand Canal.