Formerly director of the Louvre-Lens museum in France, Xavier Dectot is the new Keeper of Art and Design at the National Museum of Scotland, which is opening ten new galleries of decorative art, fashion, design, science and technology
How has your style evolved? It has become more mainstream. I was a great fan of Japanese couture in my 20s and wore lots of Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo and Comme des Garçons. (Some of these designers will feature in our new Fashion and Style gallery.) Now I favour more formal suits. I was also into cutting-edge interior design 20 years ago; I’m now discovering the charms of French design of the 1950s and ’60s – people like Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand.
Who or what are your biggest influences? Growing up in Royan, which served as an experimental ground for post-war reconstruction in France, has shaped my taste in architecture and design, leaving me with a mind open to the beauty of difference and experimentation.
Who is your design hero? Roger Tallon, a French pioneer of industrial design who had an incredible influence on mass design from the 1950s onward. He designed everything from kettles and cameras to entire trains.
What is your favourite building? Gloucester Cathedral. Its choir is the perfect achievement of what gothic architects were aiming for: both transparency and elevation, a way to make the building disappear behind daylight. This was something that later architects didn’t pursue until the 19th century, with such delightful buildings as the now-disappeared Crystal Palace in London or, indeed, the Industrial Museum of Scotland (which is now the National Museum of Scotland).
Describe your dream home It would have a garden, be by the sea and have a real personality. I like buildings that have been lived in and keep something of their previous inhabitants, so it would not be new.
Describe the interior style of your own home I’ve just moved into Scotland, so it’s mostly crates and boxes, but it’s a very interesting bungalow in East Lothian. The previous owners had a passion for 1960s and ’70s sci-fi movies, and their décor reflected this, so I have a kitchen directly inspired by the television series Space: 1999.
How do you relax? I love cooking, and can spend hours choosing the right ingredients and transforming them into something good to eat. I also enjoy walking by the beach.
What are you sitting on right now? A rather uninspiring office chair. Were I in my fantasy office, however, I would be sitting on Mies Van Der Rohe’s S533 R chair. It is the very definition of ‘less is more’. We have an original, which will be on show in our new Design for Living gallery.
What is Scotland’s greatest attribute? The way it mixes a strong national identity with an unmistakable openness to the world – a rare combination.