“I don’t do delirious things.” He is an interior designer, plays polo, has millionaire clients and leads an itinerant life between Buenos Aires and Europe.

“I don’t do delirious things.” He is an interior designer, plays polo, has millionaire clients and leads an itinerant life between Buenos Aires and Europe.
“I don’t do delirious things.” He is an interior designer, plays polo, has millionaire clients and leads an itinerant life between Buenos Aires and Europe.

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At 40 years old, James Boyd Niven has achieved what very few interior decorators have managed: that his name is synonymous with style and originality beyond borders. In these latitudes, one of his masterpieces is the Hotel Montevideo, the first in the Río de la Plata to belong to The Leading Hotels of the World: everything – from the eighty rooms, the four restaurants to the terrace, including the tablecloths, the glasses and the palm trees – was decided by this prestigious designer and decorator with a British name, surname and ancestry, but who is very Argentine, like the alfajores, the wine and the empanadas with which he usually surprises people at the events he holds abroad: “My name helps me cheat a little. When I am in Buenos Aires, they call me the ‘Englishman’… And in London, where I am based at the moment, I am the ‘Argentine’ – he clarifies, who is the youngest of five brothers of Anglo-Argentine parents and English and Scottish grandparents who arrived in our country around 1860. Boyd is his father’s surname and Niven, his mother’s –. I spent my whole life in Martínez, province of Buenos Aires, until I emigrated. I am proud of my origins. Abroad, I take advantage of the opportunity to sell Argentina to the world; I promote the region”, he says to Hi, Argentina.

–You have won the Casa Foa Design Award twice, your work is published in international magazines; recently, AD France included you among the 80 best interior designers in the world. And few people here know you…

–I was a bit at odds with the world of communication. Many people told me that I had to have networks and I had my reservations: I think there is a fine line between creating a character and communicating content. Hiring a person to take charge of, for example, creating an entire hotel just because it is fun on social media seems dangerous to me. Recently, they wanted to hire me to create a space in the metaverse, something that many designers are doing. Artificial intelligence also makes me uneasy: it is a tool, but if you base all your work on it, it is like choosing a surgeon who has never operated. For me, however, the great challenge is to have work done. Experience is experience.

“I inherited a large part of my aesthetic eye from my maternal family. I studied three years of architecture at the University of Palermo, but it wasn’t for me. In New York, I learned a lot about styling and interior design working for Armani. Everything else is the result of my travels, my reading… There are many things you don’t learn by studying a degree,” she says. Photo: Matias Salgado

–What was the route?

–I do decoration, but I consider myself more of a set designer, a job similar to that of the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar. I put together happenings, I put together experiences, I create a whole in which the five senses intervene. I inherited a large part of my aesthetic eye from my maternal family. My grandmother, Poppy Dickinson Niven [fue, en la década del 70, presidenta de la Asociación Argentina de Rosicultura]taught me everything I know about flower arrangements and gardens. My mother, Renée, always had craft workshops at home; much of what I learned from her led me to set up my own craft workshop: when you design and create something, you have to pass on the craft. I studied Architecture for three years, but it wasn’t for me. In New York, where I settled, I studied photography, a passion my great-great-grandfather had. [James Niven fue uno de los primeros fotógrafos que retrató la vida rural argentina, a fines de 1800] and I got into the world of fashion. I learned from styling and interior design working for Armani. Everything else is the result of my travels, my readings…

A view of the Hotel Montevideo, one of the interior designer’s most important works: everything – from the eighty rooms, the four restaurants to the terrace, including the tablecloths, the glasses and the palm trees – was decided by Boyd Niven, who acted as creative director. The Hotel Montevideo is the first hotel in the Río de la Plata to belong to The Leading Hotels of the World.

–Did you work as a model?

–I lasted five minutes! I realized that I was more interested in putting together a set, a scenario, organizing environments in which color, texture, background and figure work. I never talk about “I like it” or “I don’t like it”: for me, it “works” or “doesn’t work.” A very busy carpet can work with a certain wallpaper if it is used well, I tell clients. And they trust me. Sometimes I am more net; other times, more ornate. In my environments, there is always something in the form of a joke, but it works: a carpet with some dogs jumping over a fence, a ceramic pig sitting on a stool, some plates – also English – stuck to the wall and ceiling…

–Do you have an eclectic style?

–I take that as a compliment: although I love the classic style of the Frenchman Jacques Garcia [el decorador del Hotel Costes, de París]I don’t follow it strictly; and, although I like modern things, I don’t go crazy. It might even seem like it’s a bit kitsch… until someone who knows about the subject notices that, for example, the birds I chose to put on a huge chest of drawers are from Meissen, the first porcelain produced in Europe. My plus points are my perspective, experience and sense of humor. I don’t take anything too seriously.

Edited by the prestigious publishing house Rizzoli, his book Artes y oficios is today considered a must by experts. Since its launch, it has led the ranking of publications related to design and interior design, style and inspiration.Yulia Chinato

–When you presented your book Artes y oficios (Rizzoli), you were accompanied by the photographer and activist Paola Marzotto, mother of Beatrice Borromeo, Princess Laetitia d’Arenberg, the former Uruguayan first lady Lorena Ponce de León Nicola, Cristiano Rattazzi… Do you connect with many celebrities due to your work?

–Paola is an artist, philanthropist and a very generous friend. Lorena [Ponce de León, la ex mujer del presidente uruguayo Luis Lacalle Pou]who is a landscaper, accompanied me at the Montevideo Hotel. For confidentiality reasons, I cannot name my clients. My loyalty is to them. In my life, I can be in two situations: either working on a personal project or for a client. When I work for others, whether it is doing a job or a project, I can work for them. lodge Fishing in Patagonia, a country house in Entre Ríos or a hotel, I imagine them as my own projects. I am like in a trance.

–What is your ground wire?

–Polo. My grandfather, Thomas Niven [el primer criador de Aberdeen Angus del país] who played on a field in the southeast of the province of Buenos Aires [fundó, en 1935, el Club de Polo Los Incas]taught me to play when I was a kid. I am very restless, I get bored quickly, and practicing this sport in a amateur It does me a lot of good: working all the time is not healthy. It also keeps your ego in check. Many designers think they are a thousand; they are half celebrities…and let’s not exaggerate! It’s not that we do something so vital for humanity: we are decorators. I work long hours, yes, and I enjoy it, but afterwards, I switch off.

His lifeline: amateur polo. “I spend many hours playing. It disconnects me from the stress of work and, at the same time, connects me with another world, with other people, with animals. I was born on a horse: my grandfather played polo in the southeast of the province of Buenos Aires. It is an activity that does me a lot of good,” he says, and explains that, from December to January, he takes advantage of the opportunity to be in Buenos Aires and Punta del Este during the polo season.

–How did you get to London?

–When I finished my task at the Hotel Montevideo, Hugues Decobert [un empresario francés y CEO de Square Capital] He called me for projects in Europe. Hugues not only knows how to put together good work teams, but he is also one of the people I admire most in terms of aesthetics and design.

–Milan, Madrid, Buenos Aires, London, Punta del Este… You spend your time traveling. Does your schedule hinder love?

–I am privileged: I travel according to events and collections in the world of decoration. As for love… what can I say? Right now, I am very focused on my work: today I can fall in love with a table, a painting, a chair or the line of taps that I designed and presented this year at the Milan Fair as an Argentine product.

A wider shot of Boyd Niven at his house in Montserrat. “I discovered it a few years ago while riding my bike and fell in love with it,” he says of the property, which he decorated entirely in his own style. The walls of the room seen behind are not painted, but are covered with hand-painted wallpaper that he had made in Paris. Photo: Matias Salgado

A view of the entrance to Montserrat’s house, which has the charm and quality of houses from another time.

Thanks: Hugo Boss

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