A TALE OF ENCOUNTERS AND PRO­JECTS

CONVER­SA­TION WITH MARC HER­TRICH ET NI­CO­LAS AD­NET

Architect Extra - - Architect - By BRI­GITTE FITOUSSI

Be­fore you star­ted wor­king to­ge­ther, what was your ca­reer path ?

Marc Her­trich: Our paths are pret­ty dif­ferent. I first wan­ted to be a ca­bi­net­ma­ker like my fa­ther; as a child, I was al­ways han­ging around his work­shop. There are five ge­ne­ra­tions of ca­bi­net­ma­kers in my fa­mi­ly, ma­ny of whom were stri­king cha­rac­ters, my grand­fa­ther es­pe­cial­ly, who fol­lo­wed that same path. I didn’t know him, but he was a fa­mi­ly icon. In the lit­tle vil­lage where he li­ved, he was consi­de­red a “gent­le­man”: the first to own a car, a ca­me­ra… He made what were, at the time, ma­ny da­ring jour­neys… That was all him. He was a ca­bi­net­ma­ker with the soul of an in­ven­tor. He came up with a pro­ject for pre­fa­bri­ca­ted concrete houses. He was a big inspiration to me. Be­cause I lo­ved to draw, I took eve­ning classes at the Arts Dé­co school in Stras­bourg, and la­ter, en­cou­ra­ged by one of my art tea­chers, I en­rol­led at the École Boulle in Pa­ris to stu­dy in­ter­ior de­si­gn.

Ni­co­las Ad­net: My path is lit­tle more unu­sual. I’ve al­ways had an ar­tis­tic in­cli­na­tion but, un­like Marc, there we­ren’t a lot of crea­tive types in my fa­mi­ly. I lo­ved clas­si­cal mu­sic, eve­ryone at home would get ve­ry an­noyed when I would play Wa­gner full blast. I wan­ted to be­come a fa­shion de­si­gner, ho­we­ver my fa­ther did not want to hear about it, so the on­ly pos­sible com­pro­mise was to stu­dy mo­del ma­king, a “real” job, so­me­thing lu­cra­tive.

But I qui­ck­ly drop­ped-out, what I real­ly wan­ted was to create my own mo­dels, not just exe­cute a task. Thanks to my sis­ter, who was wor­king in the fa­shion in­dus­try at the time, I was able to aban­don my stu­dies and start wor­king at Lan­vin. At first, it was just to earn a li­ving, but I en­ded up staying there 11 years. When I first star­ted, Me­ryl Lan­vin was in charge of crea­tion, fol­lo­wed by Claude Mon­ta­na… I lear­ned eve­ry­thing on the job, and en­ded up on the board of di­rec­tors as head of fi­nance… I wor­ked hard there, and had lots of fun.

How did you go from fi­nance to in­ter­ior de­si­gn ?

N.A.: Even though I was in the fi­nan­cial de­part­ment when I was wor­king at Lan­vin, I kept a close eye on the crea­tive side of things. When mar­ke­ting and rea­dy-to-wear star­ted to take off, things got less ex­ci­ting. And when you live with an in­ter­ior de­si­gner whose agen­cy is al­so his home, you qui­ck­ly be­come im­mer­sed in that world. In the be­gin­ning, you at­tend work din­ners; then you start hel­ping out in the ear­ly stages of cer­tain pro­jects, and so on…Since at my other job, I had rea­ched a cer­tain po­si­tion and had crea­ted a good pro­fes­sio­nal net­work, I took a year off to try wor­king in Marc’s agen­cy. Life is too short not to make that kind of de­ci­sion. That was twen­ty years ago…

Was that the birth of the Stu­dio ?

N.A.: Marc star­ted it, it is his crea­tion.

M.H.: Af­ter my stu­dies at the École Boulle, I in­ter­ned for a few agen­cies, one of which was Mi­chel Boyer’s, whom I par­ti­cu­lar­ly li­ked. It was ap­pa­rent­ly mu­tual. He cal­led me back about a year la­ter for a pro­ject he didn’t want or hadn’t the time to do, a ho­tel in Ge­ne­va. I was ba­re­ly 25 years old, and co­ming from him, it was a great si­gn of trust. Mi­chel Boyer got me star­ted, but I real­ly hit it off with the Arm­le­der fa­mi­ly, ow­ners of the ho­tel Le Ri­che­mond, and with all the staff there, the head hou­se­kee­per, the concierge… I dis­co­ve­red the world of luxu­ry ho­tels, with its ma­gi­cal backs­tage and ex­tra­va­gant clients. A dream that was co­ming true… I had al­ways been fas­ci­na­ted by the grand soi­rées of the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. And even though those la­vish times were al­most over when I star­ted wor­king at Le Ri­che­mond in the 80’s, I was able to meet some of the “cra­zy clients” who would stay in this kind of palace that was ran­ked 3rd or 4th in the world at the time. I was lu­cky enough to live at the ho­tel, see its its in­ner wor­kings, and I got star­ted on some small per­so­nal pro­jects: first one lit­tle room, then ano­ther, then a suite, and lit­tle by lit­tle I en­ded up de­co­ra­ting part of the ho­tel it­self. I was sup­po­sed to be there for just a few weeks; I stayed on for four years. I was li­ving amid­st the luxu­ry that I was ins­til­ling in­to my own work. Eve­ry­thing was pos­sible.

What type of pro­jects were you in charge of at Le Ri­che­mond ?

M.H.: For example, I de­co­ra­ted the Co­lette suite, in the Na­po­leon III style. It was ve­ry po­pu­lar among an­tique dea­lers at the time, al­so ve­ry Roth­schild-ins­pi­red. We would lay hun­dreds of me­ters of silk and cur­tains that would fall to the ground, ador­ned with tas­sels and trim­ming… We would lay hun­dreds of me­ters of silk and cur­tains that would fall to the ground, ador­ned with tas­sels and trim­ming… But it wasn’t just about de­co­ra­tion, the work re­qui­red ex­tre­me­ly spe­cia­li­sed tech­ni­cal skills and consi­de­rable ex­pense.

We had to im­ple­ment an air-condi­tio­ning sys­tem wi­thin the opu­lent and gil­ded Na­po­leon III moul­ding… Iro­ni­cal­ly, the first Americans to re­serve the suite im­me­dia­te­ly as­ked for ano­ther one. They thought there was no air-con: the ins­tal­la­tion was so so­phis­ti­ca­ted that it was com­ple­te­ly silent. It was cer­tain­ly the most luxu­rious suite in Eu­rope at the time. It was ex­ces­si­ve­ly ex­tra­va­gant! Its cost is not real­ly a cri­te­rion for jud­ging it by, but it did bring a lot of at­ten­tion to the ho­tel: we had crea­ted “Eu­rope’s most ex­pen­sive suite.”

In short, these pro­jects and clients were gol­den op­por­tu­ni­ties for you?

M.H.: The Ri­che­mond per­iod cor­res­ponds to the time when the agen­cy was set up and re­pre­sents the Stu­dio’s foun­ding spi­rit, style, and re­fe­rences.

This ex­pe­rience and the ex­changes I had with the ow­ner Vic­tor Arm­le­der, are al­so part of what I share with Ni­co­las: a same taste for luxu­ry, for re­fi­ne­ment. Mon­sieur Arm­le­der was a pure he­do­nist, a ve­ry cha­ris­ma­tic per­son, ex­tre­me­ly cultu­red, a dying breed. His true plea­sures were rea­ding, lis­te­ning to La Tra­via­ta, mee­ting people, tal­king with them, be it a ma­son on the construc­tion site or a pres­ti­gious client... These were all ve­ry im­por­tant les­sons for me, both in my work and in my life.

Soon af­ter, I was lu­cky to have a si­mi­lar ex­pe­rience in Swit­zer­land wor­king for a Le­ba­nese luxu­ry je­we­ler. De­si­gning his bou­tiques al­lo­wed me to tra­vel the world for se­ve­ral years. Ha­ving this type of client, these ad­ven­tu­rers, these “prin­ce­ly plea­sure-see­kers”, at the ve­ry be­gin­ning of my ca­reer al­most be­came a pro­blem for me la­ter on. I be­lie­ved things would conti­nue in the same way for the rest of my life.

N.A. and M.H. (as one): Thank­ful­ly, there are other people who still have the means to see the world in this way: ma­gi­cal, flam­boyant, sur­pri­sing… A whole phi­lo­so­phy of life !

How do you di­vide up your work? Who does what?

N.A.: We do most of our work to­ge­ther, both the crea­tive and the bu­si­ness sides of the Stu­dio. As years go by and the agen­cy gets big­ger, we have struc­tu­red things a lit­tle bit more. We di­vi­ded up some of the work, but we still do all the crea­tive side as a duo.

Nei­ther of us takes any de­ci­sions wi­thout the other’s consent, wi­thout constant­ly ex­chan­ging ideas about all as­pects of our work, in­clu­ding crea­tion. We don’t ex­press things the same way, but we do in­vest the same amount of ener­gy in eve­ry do­main. Marc is more com­for­table with dra­wing, and I with words. He has an in­nate ta­lent for dra­wing, pain­ting, wa­ter­co­lour, sculp­ture. I will take the lead on other sub­jects, but we ge­ne­ral­ly are of one mind, ve­ry ent­wi­ned.

M.H.: Yes, there are those dif­fe­rences bet­ween us that Ni­co­las re­fers to, but when it comes down to our tastes in co­lours and such, eve­ry­thing that forms the core of our work, we speak with one voice.

We we­ren’t at the same place when we met, but there was de­fi­ni­te­ly an af­fi­ni­ty bet­ween us. That’s quite rare.

The co­lour was al­rea­dy there, like the purple that we use eve­ryw­here.

Your apart­ment seems to illus­trate that ve­ry well…

M.H.: It’s not just the co­lour; there’s a type of eclec­ti­cism that cha­rac­te­rizes both our apart­ment and our work. It all connects.

We nur­ture that eclec­ti­cism, we love it… Any­thing or­di­na­ry or li­near bores us. We are just as at­trac­ted by opu­lence as by sim­pli­ci­ty, trying to keep a ba­lance bet­ween the two, be­cause life is al­so about ba­lance. It is im­por­tant for us to be able to go and rest a few days in the quiet of the coun­try­side and then or­ga­nise a trip that will take us who knows where. To be able to eat a truffle din­ner one night, to­ge­ther or with friends, and have a simple and im­pro­vi­sed meal the next day.

In our pri­vate and our pro­fes­sio­nal life, we don’t judge the va­lue of things, we try to see the emo­tio­nal side, and we look for a ba­lance.

How ma­ny people do you have wor­king with you to­day ?

M.H.: We have a team of over 20 people, most of whom have stu­died in­ter­ior de­si­gn. Some have more af­fi­ni­ties with gra­phic de­si­gn, illus­tra­tion, or ar­chi­ving. Some are ta­len­ted sty­lists, others are more tech­ni­cal. We so­me­times call upon out­side ta­lent, ar­tists, ar­chi­tects, land­sca­pers, to com­plete or own sets of skills. For each pro­ject, we like to have re­now­ned ar­tists create so­me­thing unique.

And the same goes for craft­work de­si­gned lo­cal­ly. This is one of the rea­sons our clients come to us.

N.A.: Tra­di­tio­nal­ly, in in­ter­ior de­si­gn, you get cus­tom-made items such as mo­saics, lu­mi­na­ries, or luxu­rious fur­ni­ture. There are in­fi­nite sets of skills, ca­bi­net­ma­kers, gil­ders, glass blo­wers, locks­miths, wea­vers… All these ar­ti­sans open us up to a world of ideas we might not have had, al­lo­wing us to ima­gine more contem­po­ra­ry ver­sions. sculp­tures, or place. It sti­mu­lates our ima­gi­na­tion. We of­ten fall head over heels for so­meone’s par­ti­cu­lar sa­voir-faire, but it ne­ver stops us from just going for a col­lec­tion of boxes or ano­ny­mous sculp­tures, or a ne­ck­lace from an an­tique shop in a fa­ra­way place.

Do all your pro­jects share a same com­mon thread?

M.H.: Not real­ly. To start with, we dis­co­ver a site and ex­plore the re­gion it is in. Then, we soak in the lo­cal cul­ture, and buy books to delve in­to it fur­ther. That im­mer­sion is so­me­thing we find ne­ces­sa­ry, it is so­me­thing our clients want as well. Af­ter this step, a cer­tain pro­cess qui­ck­ly starts up in our minds, a way of ta­king photos, the first words to be writ­ten down, the first sketches, ideas for co­lours start to emerge… Once we have ab­sor­bed all these ele­ments, we sit around the table and be­gin to se­rious­ly think about the pro­ject.

N.A.: We use all these raw ma­te­rials and ideas to ela­bo­rate a concept and start on some dra­wings.

The concept must be strong enough for some core ideas to emerge, which will create a com­mon thread for the whole en­ter­prise.

Over the years, with more pro­jects and more ma­tu­ri­ty, we still fol­low the same crea­tive pro­cess, though it conti­nues to evolve eve­ry­day.

How would you de­fine your style?

N.A.: I would say that it is more a state of mind, an ap­proach that is al­ways open to change. We like to let things cas­cade in­to each other. We are al­ways conscious of our ini­tial idea and are aware our roots, but then we set our­selves free to try any­thing; no­thing is for­bid­den in the crea­tive pro­cess.

The his­to­ry of art draws its in­fluences from all around the world and eve­ry­thing that we consi­der to be our own spe­ci­fic cul­ture is much more po­rous and plu­ral than we be­lieve.

M.H.: As Ni­co­las points out, and des­pite the opi­nions of cer­tain art spe­cia­lists, for whom I have the ut­most res­pect by the way, when you look at art his­to­ry in de­tail, you rea­lise that each style that sup­po­sed­ly marks an era is ac­tual­ly a blend of all sorts of in­fluences, no mat­ter what the ar­tis­tic do­main.

Things aren’t as com­part­ment ali­sed as we think. That is al­so what makes our pro­fes­sion so great.

Which de­si­gners have par­ti­cu­lar­ly in­fluen­ced you?

M.H.: When I first met Ni­co­las, I was as fas­ci­na­ted by Co­co Cha­nel, my idol, as he was by Yves Saint Laurent, for rough­ly the same rea­sons. They were both re­vo­lu­tio­na­ry, not just in fa­shion but for so­cie­ty as a whole. I love Co­co’s crea­tive side as much as I ad­mire her avant-gar­dism. To her, cou­ture was sim­ply a means to ex­press her ideas, help li­be­rate wo­men, and I look up to that. In a way, Yves Saint Laurent had the same idea when he adop­ted his mas­cu­line, an­dro­gy­nous ap­proach to wo­men’s clo­thing. In ge­ne­ral, we are ins­pi­red by sur­rea­list ar­tists, their crea­tions are dream­like, poe­tic… We are al­so in­fluen­ced by more scho­lar­ly per­so­na­li­ties, en­ligh­te­ned and cosmopolitan col­lec­tors like Ba­ron Alexis de Re­dé. Or the Roth­schilds, for their take on fan­ta­sy and par­tying, their taste for thea­tri­ca­li­ty, but al­so for the great mas­ked balls, the grand events of the fif­ties and six­ties, or­ga­ni­sed at the Châ­teau de Fer­rière or the Ho­tel Lam­bert in Pa­ris. Those le­gen­da­ry cha­rac­ters and their world of ex­tra­va­gant luxu­ry, as I’ve said be­fore, have al­ways fas­ci­na­ted me, pro­ba­bly even be­fore I star­ted wor­king at Le Ri­che­mond.

N.A.: We are al­so ve­ry fond of the work and me­thods of contem­po­ra­ry ar­tists such as the American James Tu­rell, his work with light is ve­ry pure, ve­ry mi­ni­mal. Da­vid Ho­ck­ney’s had quite a dif­ferent opi­nion, the co­lour­ful dra­wings, Bob Wil­son’s plays, or some of the buil­dings by the ar­chi­tect Za­ha Ha­did… In all these do­mains, we like to be sur­pri­sed by things that take us away from bea­ten path.

Asian or Orien­tal jour­neys, exo­tic at­mos­pheres, the sea­side in ge­ne­ral, are these some of your fa­vou­red sources of inspiration?

N.A.: The per­son we saw at our first mee­ting with the Club Med told us: “Our prio­ri­ty is a sea­side pro­ject, but ha­ving seen your port­fo­lio, I have to be ho­nest, I pic­ture you more in the moun­tains. ”The next mor­ning, we met Hen­ri Gis­card d’Es­taing, the Club Med pre­sident, and he had quite a dif­ferent opi­nion. He qui­ck­ly as­si­gned us a pro­ject in Mau­ri­tius, the first of the 5-Tri­dent Club Meds, and from there on we were gi­ven a se­ries of “exo­tic” com­mis­sions. Sea­side lo­ca­tions pro­ba­bly ac­count for our most stri­king pro­jects, but we have al­so wor­ked in a lot of ur­ban and moun­tain lo­ca­tions. Tra­vel­ling the world is de­fi­ni­te­ly one of our grea­test sources of inspiration, but we are al­so ve­ry sen­si­tive to all the beau­ty that sur­rounds us, each day we mar­vel at ob­jects, places, all the lit­tle things close to us.

How did the rhi­no­ce­ros be­come your lu­cky ani­mal? When did you start col­lec­ting them?

M.H.: It star­ted with a ma­gni­ficent but simple lac­que­red wood rhi­no found in an an­tique shop so­mew­here in Thai­land.

It re­min­ded me of an ele­phant col­lec­tion I had heard of when I was a child. That had al­so spar­ked my ima­gi­na­tion… When I saw that rhi­no­ce­ros, it felt like it could be the be­gin­ning of a col­lec­tion. And that’s how it star­ted. The rhi­no­ce­ros is fas­ci­na­ting in it­self. The an­cient dra­wings of them, from the Middle Ages, those by Durër, are in­cre­dible. We love its strength, its horn, its wrink­led skin like a shell, and eve­ry­thing that gives it that pre­his­to­ric look. And the ani­mal’s ra­ri­ty on­ly streng­thens our af­fec­tion.

N.A.: Marc is a true col­lec­tor. When we first met, his col­lec­tion on­ly had a few pieces. We have been com­ple­ting it to­ge­ther ever since with sou­ve­nirs, pre­sents… This col­lec­tion is a sen­ti­men­tal, heart­felt one. In a way, it sym­bo­lises our taste for re­fi­ne­ment and eclec­tic styles, be they mo­dern or an­cient.

A fi­nal word?

M.H.: The beau­ty of in­ter­ior de­si­gn : the art of ba­lan­cing func­tio­na­li­ty, tech­ni­ca­li­ty, and ar­tis­try, all these qua­li­ties that of­ten seem to be at odds with each other. The core of our pro­fes­sion is to de­si­gn a lo­ca­tion so that it can ful­fill its dif­ferent func­tions, while the am­bience and de­cor al­low us to ins­till it with that “ex­tra touch of soul,” es­sen­tial for each place to be unique. In this res­pect, our strength lies in so­me­thing we lear­ned at school: ne­ver to se­pa­rate these two as­pects of our work. That is the beau­ty of our job. Brin­ging all these worlds to­ge­ther.

In­ter­view conduc­ted in Ja­nua­ry 2016.

L’en­trée de leur ap­par­te­ment pa­ri­sien The en­trance of their Pa­ri­sian flat

Aqua­relle de Marc, vue sur Hong­kong de­puis sa chambre d’hô­tel à Kow­loon Wa­ter­co­lour by Marc, the view of Hong­kong from his ho­tel room in Kow­loon

Aqua­relle de Marc, au­tel au pied d’un temple dans un jar­din ba­li­nais.Wa­ter­co­lour by Marc, an al­tar at the foot of a temple in a Ba­li­nese gar­den

Aqua­relle de Marc peinte au Ke­nya : four­mi, branche de bou­gain­vil­lier et fleur de fran­gi­pa­nier Wa­ter­co­lour by Marc, Ke­nya: ant, bou­gain­vil­lea branch andPlu­me­ria flo­wer

L’une des « Bêtes » pré­cieuses de Ni­co­las, qu’il réa­lise à la main, tout un monde en soi One of Ni­co­las’ pre­ciou­shand-made “Crea­tures,” a world in it­self

Sculp­ture de Che­lu­sh­kin et porte bleu Klein, chez eux Che­lu­sh­kin’s sculp­ture and a blue «Klein» door at home

Le somp­tueux lustre en cris­tal du lob­by du Grand Hô­tel de CabourgThe ma­gni­ficent crys­tal chan­de­lier in the lob­by of the Grand Hô­tel de Cabourg

Pho­to prise lors d’une vi­site des temples d’Ang­kor au Cam­bodgePho­to ta­ken at du­ring a vi­sit of Ang­kor Wat, Cam­bo­dia

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