Design

10 Questions for Designer Paul Mathieu

Tali Jaffe

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For their latest collaboration, Luxury Living tapped French designer Paul Mathieu to create an eclectic and sensual collection of furniture. Drawing on his numerous inspirations, stemming from his travels through Europe and Asia, the 21-piece collection is a complete vision by this accomplished designer. Here, we talk to Mathieu about travel, his design process and why the best inspiration comes straight from nature.

You are truly an international designer—French born, attending schools in both France and the UK, and now dividing your time between New York, Italy, and India and France. How do the different cultures you’ve come into contact with inform your work? France gave me a repository of history, culture, and sensibilities and a keen sense for nuances. England gave me a world access through language and a sense of freedom. Italy offers me a solid history of savoir-faire and craftsmanship that allows me to fully express myself and explore and expand boundaries. India gave me further access to a rich history in multidisciplinary craftsmanship and an eastern perspective. All these influences inform my designs by allowing me to create inspiring and exceptional products. They allow me to be bold and unbound in my ideas for designs. That sense of freedom challenges both myself and the craftsmen and leads us into greater territory and exceptional products.

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Mathieu’s home in Udaipur, India, courtesy Yale Wagner

You have homes in Murano and Udaipur, often called the “Venice of India.” Is there something particularly inspiring to you about the water? Yes. Coincidentally my initial home Aix en Provence is also known for water. It’s a town in Provence that is well known for its antique fountains that were used by the Romans as baths during the second century. In the year 2000 the city of Aix had commissioned me to create a symbolic object to represent them in the 21st Century. I came up with a water pitcher with four spouts, symbolizing the need to take water in all of the four directions of the compass. Water is a source of space, of reflections, of light, of movement and peace.

Your new collection for Luxury Living is called Contour. That word elicits many different images, what does it mean to you and why did you choose this name for the collection? The word contour follows how I usually start to design an object. Letting my hand naturally guide my pencil on a piece of paper, I trace shapes and contours. A sort of listening is at play when I design furniture, whereby edges and forms are revealed. It is also the expression of thoughts and memories through form, similarly to one’s eyes closed as you follow the outer ring of a body or an object.

Collaborating with a luxury furniture house like this one, we’d like to know how you personally define luxury. Luxury is an uplift of spirit, a self-esteem, a peace, an unquestioning, a joyfulness, the absolute to be.

You’re known to blend new and old, contemporary design with a bit of familiarity. How do you strike the balance? The balance is the point at which I transcend all the references and anecdotes. Where poetry and mystery collide.

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A sketch of the Contour chairs

How do architecture and design work together in your practice? Architecture allows me the opportunity to expand on ideas and thereby enrich their projects in return. It becomes mutually beneficial. It is an opening to another journey in expression and exploration. It allows me to integrate my thoughts with other creative talents.

Who are some of your architectural heroes? The anonymous architects of Medieval and Gothic construction. Luis Baraggan, Carlos Scarpa, Eero Saarinen, Tadao Ando, Charles Corea, and Maharaja Jai Singh II for his 18th century Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

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Mathieu’s Udaipur home reveals his love for water. Image by Yale Wagner

What was the last gallery or museum show you attended? Chateau La Coste in Le Puy Sainte Reparde en Provence, Colline Notre-Dame du Haut, Ronchamp by Le Corbusier, MUCEM Marseille, Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles France.

What else is on your cultural agenda before the summer is up? Festival International de Piano at La Roque D’Anteron in Provence and Herve Coeur at Joe’s Pub in New York on August 10th.

What is your most prized possession? A beautiful 18th century edition of The Georgics by Vergil which steadily reminds me that Nature is the teacher of Art.