Ours Polaire Collection
In 1947 the French designer Jean Royère redecorated his mother’s Paris apartment. The star of his grand redo? A rotund sofa called Boule, covered in a deliciously fuzzy velvet that would later inspire the design’s charming nickname, Ours Polaire—“polar bear.”
The unusual shape—created with a wooden interior skeleton similar to those used in Louis XVI sofas—sent shock waves through Paris when Royère displayed it in Art et Industrie’s exhibition “La Résidence Française.” But soon enough, the orders flew in. Two chair versions were commissioned for the office of the French Minister of Foreign Affairs in Helsinki; the Shah of Iran snapped up several for the dining room and bar of his daughter Shahnaz’s home in Tehran.
Born in Paris in 1902, Jean Royère initially established himself professionally in the import-export trade. In 1931, however, at the age of 29, he set up shop as an interior designer, learning his new trade at the cabinetmaking workshops of Paris’s Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
His first professional design commission, in 1934, was the highly celebrated fitting-out of the café Brasserie Carlton on the Champs Elysées. Thanks to this initial success and to his innovative, signature style—a combination of vivid colors, sinuous forms, and precious materials—Royère quickly established himself as a highly coveted international interior designer, fashioning lively, playful, and sophisticated rooms across Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Notable patrons included King Hussein of Jordan, the Shah of Iran, and King Farouk. Royère retired in 1972, and divided his time between France and the United States until 1980, when he definitively moved to the U.S. He lived there until his death in 1981.