Caroline Montague of Matisse on French aesthetics, German design, and Havelock North, ironically

She’s been called New Zealand’s ‘encyclopaedia of design’, and working with a leading supplier of world-class furniture, Matisse, means Caroline Montague is a wealth of knowledge and style. We took the chance over lockdown to quiz her on her current inspirations and frequent fascinations.

My personal style can be defined as: Ironic Havelock North.

The last thing I bought and loved was: The austerely plain Lemaire low heels from La Garçonne. 

An unforgettable place I visited was: The giant Sequoia forests in Northern California (currently a fire hazard). 

The next place I’d like to go to: Anywhere with snow. 

An object I would never part with is: My Andy Warhol silver Elvis Cowboy vase.

On my wish list is: An industrial/hospital-style bathroom.

When I was younger, I wanted to be: A cartoonist. 

I am inspired by: Youtube declutterers.

My favourite app is: RNZ for the Concert Programme.

My guilty pleasure is: You can’t have too many furniture books. 

My secret talent is: A well-placed backhand. 

Private residence in San Sebastian, designed by Andrée Putman in 2005.

My favourite cultural/style icon is: Andrée Putman (French interior and product designer). 

The best book I’ve read in the last year is: Tom Stoppard: A Life by Hermione Lee.

I can’t miss an episode of: University Challenge, UK Version — Work that cardigan!

In my fridge you’ll always find: S.Pellegrino and not much else.

I recently discovered: I am more likely to show up for a personal trainer.

My favourite website is: 1stdibs. 

From Left to right: Zissou in his Tire-Boat, 1911 and Bouboutte, Rouzat, 1908 by Jacques Henri Lartigue.

If price were not an issue, the one artist whose work I would collect is: Jacques Henri Lartigue. 

The last meal out I had that truly impressed me was: Amano — Lamb shoulder with roast potatoes, then rice pudding — an actual proper dinner.

The podcasts I listen to are: Matt Bradshaw’s Coffee Break Tennis.

The best gift I ever received was: Either a hardback set of Proust with the original Enid Marx covers or my apartment.

The latest music I’m loving is: I love Baroque Opera, especially Rameau and Handel — those very weird, avant-garde French and German productions add another layer.

Left to right: Aluminium Group chair by Charles Eames for Herman Miller; Alanda Low table by Paolo Piva for B&B Italia, available from Matisse.

My favourite three pieces in our showroom right now are: The Centimetre rug by Eileen Gray for ClassiCon, the Aluminium Group chair by Charles Eames, and the Alanda Low table by Paolo Piva. 

I’m obsessed with the work of: Konstantin Grcic (German industrial designer).

My favourite piece of his work is: Table B Concrete for BD Barcelona. 

The one thing people should invest their money in when it comes to furniture is: What they absolutely love and cannot live without. I recommend always buying authentic, original furniture that can be used for a lifetime then handed on. Matisse, of course, has a superb selection of both classic and contemporary designs to meet your requirements.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is: Comfort is a visual thing.

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