Press 2 Elle Decor

Elle Décor Magazine

December 2006

Breaking the Mold

Carole Gratale resurrects the distinctive bold style of 20th-century master Serge Roche.

Carole Gratale doesn’t call herself a designer, saying, “I’m an editor and producer – I have a good eye.” But for the last 30 years, this Manhattan-based dynamo has been the go-to woman for decorators seeking cast-bronze interpretations of furniture, lighting and objects by European craftsmen Diego Giacometti, Gilbert Poillerat, and Jean Royère. She scours art reference books for pleasing designs, adds her own spin, and then oversees the realization of her ideas at a Long island foundry.

Gratale’s latest muse, Serge Roche, takes her far from the glint of metal. A French designer who created Baroque-style stucco furniture and objects in the 1930s and ’40s, Roche is a notable departure in Gratale’s portfolio. “I love the exaggerated element of his designs,” says Gratale. “It’s the antithesis of my metalwork, which is more spindly.” Indeed, Roche’s bold and overblown plaster forms appeal to Gratale’s dramatic side. “I would place a pair of torchieres in even a small apartment,” she says. “They immediately add panache to a room.”

Gratale’s new collection, Carte Blanche, which is sold to the trade, will give Roche some well-merited attention. The pieces – lighting fixtures such as lamps, sconces, and chandeliers – both make a statement and are practical, crafted from matte polyester-resin instead of heavy plaster. Their allure is timeless, says Gratale: “It doesn’t matter what year it is. Furnishings from this era have intelligence and personality. That defines glamour for me.” SOPHIE DONELSON