| P E O P L E |
Designer | Paris
As one of France's most accomplished young designers, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance has changed the landscape of European design with his signature fusion of sculptural furniture and creative interiors inspired by nature.
RV: How would you describe yourself?
NDL: I'm an interior furniture designer. I try to bring together both furniture design and interior design in a way that expresses feelings and emotions by using shapes, volumes and materials in an interesting way.
RV: Can you tell us more about your background?
NDL: I grew up in Brittany in a very creative household. My father studied at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique and later became a sculptor. Perhaps this is where my creativity comes from, as design is a combination of mathematics, science and sculpture. Since art is so vast and intimate, I was initially hesitant to go in that direction. I decided to study metal sculpture at the National School of Applied Arts & Crafts in Paris, as I wanted to combine shapes and materials in interesting ways. I also studied design at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, where I discovered the work of designers such as Carlo Mollino and Ron Arad, who bring together design and sculpture with such great balance. This made me realise that I didn’t have to focus on only one aspect of design.
RV: Which are some of your most emblematic projects?
NDL: Designing Sketch restaurant in London was a really strong beginning for me. It was a great experience as I was quite young when I did that project. Designing the project for the Galerie BSL in Paris was also very interesting, as it was the first time that I combined interior design and the creation of large scale, sculptural objects within a space. It was quite a radical project, as they gave us the freedom to take over the gallery and do whatever we wanted. A more complex project was the recent project we worked on for Air France to redesign their first and business class lounges in Paris. Within the 3,500 square meter space, we wanted to create a relaxing area for its clients. All of my inspirations and references for that project were linked with nature, where my design was inspired by the lines of trees. The floor plan feels like a tree is growing within the space. I’m always trying to create a link to the outside environment in the spaces that I design.
RV: Which furniture design brands have you enjoyed collaborating with?
NDL: Certainly Ceccotti Collezioni, which was my first collaboration, and also Zanotta, which is a beautiful Italian brand. I tend to only work with a few brands as I prefer to build strong and long-term collaborations. When you are creating a piece of furniture or an interior design project, you have to carefully select the people that you work with because you’re exposing a big part of yourself. Designers and interior designers are very sensitive and creative. They can read the way you are breathing and the way that you live, which shows how you are thinking. For each project, you have to open yourself to somebody and place a part of yourself in their hands. You have to be confident in them, and they have to be confident in you. When somebody invests in you – such as creating furniture, buying moulds, etc. – it’s a huge investment for them. It creates a bond that is very strong. When you find this kind of relationship, you have to maintain it as long as possible, which is what I try to do. Furniture design is a way to express a strong feeling and point of view through an object – which can stay anonymous, for example, because you can just place the chair somewhere and then forget about it. Sometimes though, you’ll notice that there is an object there that is smiling at you or trying to express something to you. If you bought it, it's because you received a message or an emotion in some way.
RV: What inspires you as a designer?
NDL: Inspiration is a global feeling that can come from anywhere – say, when you visit a museum or when you travel to India. I need quiet areas where I can think and reflect. What we need for creation is time. One of my greatest inspirations is nature. When I need to feel inspired, I like to walk along a beach without thinking about anything. The water element is something that is very strong, which really feeds me. Water and trees. I find trees so fascinating. The forest can be a beautiful place of calm and serenity. With the sea, there is sometimes a very minimal distinction between the sea and the horizon which gives you such freedom to think.
RV: What does a typical “day in the life of Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance” look like?
NDL: As a creator, you're living and working all the time. There is no distinction between them as life and work are intimately connected. You are breathing, so you are creating. You can't say, "OK, I'll start working at 9 a.m., then I'll go home when everything is finished." Everything is connected to your work. Even when you are dreaming, you don't know if it's for your work, for your life, or for yourself. I try to create some daily structure for myself – for example, I try to wake up at the same time each day, then spend one or two hours drawing and sketching at my favourite local cafe every morning, where I put in my earphones and play my favourite music. Afterwards, I usually have creative meetings with my team, or meetings and presentations with clients. I try to make sure that I spend lots of time out of the office connected to daily life, such as having meetings in restaurants, at cafes or in a factory so that I’m not only sitting behind my desk. I also love to spend time with my team planning, working on future projects, sharing ideas, drawing together.
RV: What are some of the things that you’ve learned as a designer and an entrepreneur?
NDL: I’ve really learned to listen to the others, even if I am the creator, as we are all creators in a way. What I've learned is that I can't do it all by myself. It’s very important to respect my team because they all are participating in the creative process. I'm giving the “point A”. Then they're giving the “point B”.
RV: We know that you are a foodie, so where are some of your favourite places to eat in Paris?
NDL: I love to have lunch at Caffe dei Cioppi, which is a great Italian restaurant close to my office. I also love to have dinner and drinks with my friends in the evenings. We tend to go to Aux Deux Amis bistro. It's a great place because you can eat, you can have drinks, and there’s always someone you know there. It's dangerous though as you never know what time you'll be arriving back home!
RV: What is one of the most interesting hotels that you’ve stayed in recently?
NDL: The coolest hotel was definitely the Chiltern Firehouse in London. It's a place that is really lively yet very private and exclusive. I had a great time there – I loved the bar and the large dining room. Everybody wants to go there. It’s the place to be in London.
RV: What are some of your favourite cities in the world?
NDL: I love Tokyo because of its combination of nature, sophistication, tradition and technology. It has this sense of organised movement. Even if it can be oppressive, because there are so many people there, it's always fluid. You can also go to a park or a temple and have a beautiful, quiet moment. I also love Vancouver as I like the fact that there is a virgin forest right next to the city with ancient sequoia trees. It’s a very outdoor city. I also love Stockholm because of its link with nature. From there, you can take the boat and then be surrounded by 10,000 small islands in its local archipelago.
RV: Which destinations do you dream of visiting?
NDL: I would love to go to Mexico and also to New Zealand and Iceland. Rather than visiting cities, I'm really looking forward to visiting beautiful natural environments.
RV: What do you want to be remembered for?
NDL: I would say for being honest, for being myself and not trying to create a false image of who I am.
Interview: Enrique Nalda & Kimberley McLoughlin
Photography: Courtesy of Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance
Interview first published in RedVisitor Magazine: Issue Two - Purchase Now
M O R E I N T E R V I E W S . . .