Tina Turner’s House in the South of France

“It’s very harmonious here, very soul-healing,” singer Tina Turner says of the modern Mediterranean-style villa she built in the south of France.

Turner’s villa, like Turner herself, has, she says, gone through a number of “incarnations” before acquiring its present character, in which grandeur is balanced by informality. “A great interior has to coalesce,” she says. “When I see something I love—a suite of furniture, a piece of art—I never measure, I never hesitate, I just buy it. Eventually I’ll find a place for it. I have strong tastes—and big storerooms. I’ve always wanted and needed to transform my surroundings, because decorating is my first response to loss and upheaval; settle, collect—create a private universe. I was a little girl when my parents separated, and I moved in with relatives, claiming a back room in their house. I brought a bedspread from home and a few treasures. Even though it was freezing in winter and broiling in summer—and no bigger than a closet—I made it a place of my own. And that’s what I’ve always done on tour—rearrange the hotel furniture, sheet the ugly paintings. But getting things perfect in a house this scale was taking me too long. Eventually I saw that I needed professional help—the right kind for me.”

After a vacation in Aspen, Colorado, where she stayed in the splendid neo-Baroque manor of her friends Jim and Betsy Fifield (see Architectural Digest, March 1999), Turner contacted their designers, Stephen Sills and James Huniford. From their first meeting she “felt instinctively” she could work with them, and they, says Huniford, “having always loved her music, immediately adored her.”

“I let them try things.” Turner smiles. “They never push. I’ll say to them: Yes, let’s do it; no thanks, I’ve been there—we work from feelings. It’s like mixing a CD.”

“The boys,” as she calls them fondly, have in the past decade become the young old masters of interior design, famous for patrician interiors that integrate antiques of exalted provenance and furnishings from the great modernist and Art Déco designers with a rigorous sense of history. Their penchant is for classicism, though they stress the fact that “every commission is different, because our job is to interpret how a client wants to live.” “Designing involves culture, intuition, artisanship and an ideal of transparency, which I can best compare to the art of literary translation,” Sills says. “Your sensibility functions like a prism. In working with Tina, who’s a natural-born decorator, it was really a matter of helping her to find her own voice—to express her own style—rather than to impose ours. We toured museums together, went shopping on the quai Voltaire in Paris, exchanged books and ideas—which Tina accepted or rejected, as it suited her—and we helped to edit her collections. But she was the mastermind of this house: It’s her own invention.”

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