Baptistin Spade
Decorator - Interior designer - Furniture designer

is one of the famous names ofinterior design and furnishing of cruise liners in the twentieth century.He belonged to a generation trained in the fine tradition of French furniture craftsmanship.

 Here the main lounge of the “Liberté” cruise ship




Baptistin Spade

Baptistin Spade was born in Marseille on 13 March 1891. He spent his childhood and adolescence there until the age of 17. In 1906, he was listed in the communal register as an “upholsterer and tapestry maker”, the same profession as his father.

As adolescent teenager, he completed his artistic education by taking courses at the Marseille Ecole de Beaux-Arts (school of fine arts).There, he learned drawing and sculpture.In 1908, he won first prize for sculpting an “Indian Bacchus”.Throughout his life, he demonstrated his love for sculpture which he practiced as an amateur.At the end of this same year, he moved to Paris.

In 1910, he set up a small shop in the Latin Quarter, at rue Malebranche (5th arrondissement).His younger brother, Honoré, supported him.In 1912, he then took over managing the business when his older brother was called up, before he was in turn, in 1914. During this period, the shop moved to the very stylish 16th arrondissement.This move was the main reason for the growth of the Spade brothers' business, clearly visible at the beginning of the 1920s. Set up at 80 rue de Passy, the business was very busy but small, focused around one main room, which served as a workshop and a shop.With each lease, we note, as a measure oftheir professional success, that the “Spade Brothers Upholsterer-Decorators” rented several premises in the area to set up workshops there.

The 1930s marked an important turning point for the business and Baptistin Spade's career. He fulfilled the two roles of upholsterer-decorator and businessman.This second part of his life was prosperous.In 1932, the success of his business led him to combine, along with cabinet-making, carpentry, tapestry and lacquer ware workshops and design office, a garage - quickly builtby his brother Honoré -, in a large building builtfor this purpose in rue des Réservoirs (currently in rue du Commandant Schloesing), near Trocadéro square.These workshops then accompanied the new decoration shop located not far from there, in 1930, at 80 de l’Avenue de la Muette (currently 80 avenue Paul Doumer).

The shop window attracted a diverse clientele who had a shared love for classic furniture, inspired by the collections of the eighteenth century and the turn of the nineteenth century.For his French and foreign clients,Baptistin Spade created a number of designs, from Parisian apartments to villas and palaces.He also designed offices for maritime and aviation companies, banks and insurance companies.Mobilier National ordered large sets of his furniture collections for ministries and French foreign delegations.He was involved in decorating around thirty cruise liners belonging to different companies.

Hand in handwith this success, he enjoyed the recognition he was given by his fellow decorators who made him head of the upholsterer-decorators’ trade union.As Baptistin Spade remained a craftsman, applying his art and skill,he hardly ever took part in exhibitions.During his lifetime he did not give any interviews to the press, trade journalsor otherwise.Baptistin Spade retired in 1958 leaving his sons, Pierre and Georges, to run the business.He died on 16 November 1969 in Paris.

Today, his grandson Didier Spade is carrying on the family tradition by creating a new FRANCE cruise liner.

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His Style

Like Jules Leleu, Marc Simon or André Arbus, Baptistin Spade remainsone of the famous names in the design of cruise liners in the twentieth century.Like them, he belonged to a generation trained in the fine tradition of French furniture craftsmanship.
The first items of furniture identified to date, date back to 1937. At this time, Baptistin Spade was forty six and in complete control of his career.
His work shows his love for the eighteenth century and, to a lesser extent, the style of the turn of the nineteenth century.Baptistin Spade liked to “recreate” furniture from this period.He was careful to give them quite a personal interpretation while expressing a contemporary feel in his work by using the most modern techniques.Only at the very end of his career did the decorator start to evolve stylistically by designingmore pragmatic furniture.
For his designs, Baptistin Spade seemed to prefer light woods, particularly ash and sycamore.However, he did not dismiss darker varieties withHonduras walnut, rosewood and mahogany also used.He liked to cover most of his designswith a lacquered pattern enhanced or otherwise with a gold stain.For the most luxurious items, he would cover them in shagreen or parchment.Even more rarely, he would use old panels of Chinese lacquer to cover the leaves of an item of furniture.Some other items were more simply covered in ordinary marquetry.Baptistin Spade excelled in the technique of parquetry which consists of creating a pattern by assembling leaves of veneer according to the position of the edge of the wood.Furthermore, he developed a special love for geometric compositions.The rectangle was often used to mark out shapes, with some desks taking on a curved outline.The round or oval tops of tables rested on a very different base.Most often cylindrical, tapered or sabre-shaped, in wood, brass or steel, these legs were sometimes, and at other times not, joined by an often cruciform spacer.Baptistin Spade’s chairs had a feature that made his works stand out:he emphasised the shape of the dropof the headrest support by creating a curve for the hand rest.
All his works were ofthe highest quality production.A peculiar feature of his work is his attention to detail and proportions, ensuring that the simplest works are thus elegant.Baptistin Spade was not content withjust creating items of furniture.In general, he carried out the full range of interior design work by considering how space is organised.His furniture is thus highlighted by lamps, wallpaper and carpets for which he designed the artwork.
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His Works

Baptistin Space produced many designs for private clients.He also produced furniture collections and interior decor for the offices of Air France, the Compagnie des Chantiers de Penhoët and Ateliers &Chantiers de France-Dunkerque.The insurance company Abeille, Radio Luxembourg and the Havas group used his services.Mobilier National ordered large sets from his furniture collections for the ministries of post & telecommunications, education, radio, merchant navy, labour and finance and gave him the task of producing part of the furniture for French embassies in London, Pretoria, Ottawa and Warsaw.

Nonetheless, the name Baptistin Spade is especially associated with the design of cruise liners*. He worked for the main ship-owners: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes, Compagnie de Navigation Mixte, Compagnie des Chargeurs Réunis, Compagnie de Navigation Paquet and Société Générale de Transport Maritime.

Cruise Liner Design

Baptistin Spade started his career as a cruise liner designer in 1935 on the Normandie.Although he designed the quarters of the senior chief engineer, BaptistinSpade was mainly involved as a craftsman.He thus produced some of the seats in the first class main hall, smoking room, grill room and main lounge.Unlike the former, thesewere designed by designer Jean-Maurice Rothschild (1902-1998) and had a distinct impact on him.This influence was there when the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique entrust Baptistin Space with designing among others the three first class lounges of the Liberté (1950). For him, it was an opportunity to revive a certain luxury by mixing gold, lacquer panels and Aubusson tapestries. Although the chairs in the main lounge were very much inspired by those created by J.-M.Rothschild, they were covered with floral motif Aubusson tapestry, according tothe sketches made by Baptistin Spade. The designer also designed the tapestry for the seats in the other two loungesas well as the carpets and the lighting.
The Spade workshops created many interior designs for cruise liners after the Second World War. Among them, the first class dining room and smoking room-swimming room of the De Grasse (reworked version) 1947; the senior commissioner’s quarters, the first class dining rooms and the cabin class of the Ile de France (1949); the staircase, hallway, smoking room, lido and first class swimming pool, luxury apartment of the Flandre (1952); various sets for the Ville d'Alger and the Ville de Tunis; the salon and first class dining rooms of the Kairouan, Lyautey and the first class loungeand dining room of the El Djezair.Added to these creations arehis contributions to accommodation on theLondres, Arromanches, El Kantara, El Mansour, Florida, Félix Roussel, Antilles, Maréchal Joffre, Cambodge, Fort Desaix, Fort Royal, Ancerville, Shalom, Myconos, Electra, as well as cargo vessels and yachts.Baptistin Spade ended his career with the completion of the first class walkway of the France.

The New France

The grandson and son of ocean liner designers, I was clearly predestined to take over the baton of this grand, yet demanding, profession; but events proved otherwise, until fate took a wonderful turn.
In 1988, having previously taken a detour in the world of communications, I began to design and oversee the construction of boats.A lover of New Orleans jazz and the grand paddle steamers of the Mississippi, I decided to recreate similar examples of French culture in America - but on the Seine.
Thus the Tom Sawyer, the Mississippi, the Louisiane Belle and the Tennessee made their appearance on the Seine,soon followed by the River Palace, in art deco style, and then the Clipper Paris, a classic yacht, still currently moored a few hundred yards from the Eiffel Tower.
I sold the Compagnie des Bateaux à Roue, my paddle boat company, after a 20-year long adventure.
It was at this time that destiny beckoned me during the auction of items from the liner France, some areas of which had been designed by members of my family.One object in particular attracted me: the bows of the France.
Although I didn't win the auction for it, one week later this fine 5-metre-tall piece weighing over 4 tonnes would finally take its position in front of the doors to my Paris offices and was set to become the inspiration for my finest entrepreneurial adventure.
The "bows of the France" have witnessed the unfolding of an incredible story culminating in the rebirth of a new liner FRANCE; modern, ambitious and innovative.A whole team of cruise specialists was mobilized to create the concept of this impressive ship measuring some 623 ft in length with its imposing bow.
In 2018 the "bows of the France" made its last trip: it was pre-empted by the Ministry Of Culture on behalf of the City of Le Havre where it is now exhibited.
The new FRANCE ushers in a new era of cruise travel in a booming market, one of human-scale liners which offer their passengers space, comfort and quality, thereby meeting the needs of a demanding international clientele for whom the France is the very symbol of refinement.
France is once again at centre stage with this magnificent, modern and innovative liner:our greatest French talents and a new generation of designers will be able to express themselves on board the ship:decorative arts, gastronomy, sophistication... this ship, symbolic of our culture of taste and elegance, will be the ambassador of the "made in France" brand on all the world's oceans.

Characteristics :

 Length: 623 ft.
 Width: 88 ft.
 Draft: 20 ft.

Tonnage: 37,000 GT
Passenger decks: 12
Passengers: 460

All the project details are available at :