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They were the 1970s European It couple, admired for their jet-set taste in both design and fashion. He was François Catroux, the late legendary Algerian-born interior designer beloved by clients like Guy de Rothschild and Diane von Furstenberg. She is septuagenarian Betty Catroux, the cool, lanky Parisienne muse of Yves Saint Laurent who is celebrated to this day for her androgynous style.

Earlier this year, Sotheby’s auctioned off art and furnishings from the duo’s apartment in the Palais Maeterlinck overlooking the French Riviera. It’s here that the designer indulged his eclectic sense of style, blending time-honored antiques with contemporary pieces in a light-filled flat that felt elegant, dreamy and a touch futuristic. With more than 100 items up for sale, it was a chance to pull back the curtain on how this very private couple lived and what cherished objects they collected over the years.

Artful Living | At Auction: François and Betty Catroux

Photography provided by Sotheby’s/ArtDigital Studio

Style-loving bidders from around the world took part in the much anticipated auction, which was broadcast live online from Paris and brought in more than €2.5 million. One of the most coveted lots, a pair of Ron Arad patinated steel chairs that set the tone in the mod apartment, sold for €81,900. Dubbed “After Spring” and “Before Summer,” the sleek 1992 chaise lounges epitomize the sculptural aesthetic François favored. Meanwhile, a very colorful and playful console designed in 1988 by Ettore Sottsass attracted global attention and far surpassed early estimates with a final price tag of €28,980.

Artful Living | At Auction: François and Betty Catroux

Known for his movie star good looks and his eye for fast sports cars, François was an adventurous collector who traveled the globe, curating his own private art collection. One of his favorite pieces was a liquitex and graphite work on paper by Tom Wesselmann entitled “Bedroom blonde with purple pillow” (1984). Garnering strong interest, the painting sold for €351,300, more than twice the anticipated price. Simple biomorphic shapes seemed to fascinate the designer, an aesthetic he admired in a pair of Lucio Fontana polished brass sculptures, “Concetto Spaziale, Natura” (1967). With international interest, the works sold for €252,000.

Artful Living | At Auction: François and Betty Catroux

One of the most personal items wasn’t a contemporary piece but rather an antique François kept throughout his life. The 12-panel lacquered Chinese Coromandel screen dates from the 18th to 19th century and stayed with the couple through various homes. In spirited bidding, the massive screen sold for €47,880, making it one of the most anticipated lots of the day. Also of note, a lacquered metal console François designed himself in 1967 fetched an unexpected €26,460.

François wanted to live out his final days in this airy abode in Nice. But as the project was nearing completion, he became ill. So sadly the couple spent only a few nights in their dream home by the sea. In the end, this artfully appointed apartment would become his final project — a lasting testament to a life of style, elegance and Riviera glamour. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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