Linda Pinto runs Cabinet Alberto Pinto in Paris, the interior design firm originally created by her late brother, editor at large and interior designer Alberto Pinto. The design firm is today responsible for the interiors of countless well-appointed mansions, palaces, planes, yachts, and hotels. Both siblings of Argentinian parents grew up in Casablanca and then moved to France. Linda came to Paris 45 years ago to work with her brother. He implicitly tasked Linda to carry on the torch of his design legacy, when in his final days he asked her to move into his residence and personal office by Place des Victoires in Paris.
Four years later, in that same majestic multiuse site, Pinto warmly greeted Whitewall, on a visit in the fall. After being granted a tour of the offices, a former historical mansion, and being shown the interior court, five floors, and distinctive design departments (oriental, contemporary, classical, art deco…) we entered her office, where she told us about the design firm’s values and challenges before heading off to England where Cabinet Alberto Pinto was exhibiting at PAD London the following week.
WHITEWALL: How did your brother, Alberto Pinto become a designer?
LINDA PINTO: I think it was something he was born with. He always liked furniture and antiques. As a young boy he would go to the flea market in Casablanca to look for something specific, buy it, and resell it. When we arrived in Paris he decided to go to L’Ecole du Louvres to study Art History. After he became editor at large. It’s a job that doesn’t really exist anymore. Then, (it was the second part of the 1960s) Alberto was the producer of reportage photos that he sold to magazines. A publication would call him and say, “we would like to have a bedroom in San Paulo,” or “a bedroom in New York.” He would look for the bedroom, do the shoot and the publication paid for that. He started like that and then he did his first apartments in New York, followed by a first apartment for a client in Paris, then a house in the Cap Ferrat, another apartment in Rio and so on.
WW: How would you, as his sister, describe his designs?
LP: I cannot really say “his designs” because it is so eclectic and open-minded. Alberto could do an apartment using a contemporary style, a classical style, an orientalist style depending on the client’s personal tastes and wants. It wasn’t a particular style of his own. Here in this office we don’t have a particular style. We have high quality, we have what you want, but we don’t have a style. The most important for us is quality and the client. We always try to understand what the client’s wants and the necessities of his environment: where he lives, whether he’s single or has a family, if he’s a king, a queen, a prime minister, and of what country? Middle Eastern? American? English? French? Depending on who that person is it’s completely different.
What I can say about my brother is that he was able to create a real atmosphere, and had the ability to understand the client: his mind, his dream…
WW: So how does it work when a client comes in the office and atelier for a prospective project?
LP: Often, when a client comes to see us, he has dreams that he doesn’t necessarily know how to execute. We are here to realize them. It’s similar to a lady who wants a dress but doesn’t know how to sow or cut, she says ‘I want a dress with that collar, that length, these embroideries, a button there, and here some red, yellow, blue, flower, birds whatever…’ If she’s standing in front of someone that understands what she’s saying it’s easy after to cut the dress, sow it and give it to her. It’s haute couture, not prêt à porter. It’s done for vous, and you are the only one to have this apartment. That’s why I’m telling you we don’t have style, because this piece of furniture is made especially for you.
WW: How long does it take to finish a project on average?
LP: A project is never less than two years because we’re expensive as we’re top quality. Sometimes when the apartment is not that huge it can take 18 months but I will say around two years on average, if it’s bigger 3 years, if it’s really big 4 year.
WW: You’re running the whole office and atelier, what was your biggest challenge when you first took this position?
LP: The biggest challenge was to continue the lineage of Alberto. I hope he’s proud and that we’re staying faithful to his vision, without disappointing him. I don’t know if he’s listening to us or if he’s somewhere, but even if he isn’t, for myself it’s important. Actually, it’s important for the entire team, that’s eminently clear in this office. He’s always in our minds, and nobody would ever dream of doing something he wouldn’t like. You often hear around here, “Do you want that or do you think this is better?” “Oh no Alberto would prefer that!” So he’s still alive for us. It’s quite crazy, funny, sad, everything. He was such a character you know…
WW: Right now what are the important projects you’re working on?
LP: We’re doing Çirağan Palace hotel in Istanbul, the biggest hotel in the city. We ‘re also doing another Hotel in Azerbaijan [tk name-waiting on PR email], We’re finishing the residential Tour Odéon in Monaco. We are also finishing Hôtel Lambert, an hôtel particulier in Paris dating from 1644. This important historic house had a fire accident three years ago that forced us to momentarily stop. Now I hope we’ll finish it in the next two years. We have a lot of private projects in Paris, Hong Kong, London and Doha. We’re also doing several boats and we’re starting to work on planes.
WW: How many craftsmen do you employ in the atelier?
LP: One thousand.
WW: It’s almost like a factory!
LP: Yes I know it’s a lot and I’m very proud and happy of that because it’s important.
WW: Is it important for you to stay in Paris, or would you consider moving your offices elsewhere or perhaps expanding?
LP: I want to expand the brand but I think I will always have the office in Paris. Although I’m open to work all over the world, I don’t feel the necessity to have offices in New York or Hong Kong, or Doha. If the client wants us, the fact that we’re in Paris won’t be a problem. I’m hoping we will open the American market; I would love to work in America.
The fact that we’re in Paris is also justified by all the craftsmen here—the gilders, bronzemakers, upholsterers etc. The know-how is French. They’re all in Paris.
This article is published in Whitewall‘s winter 2017 Luxury Issue.