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You do Become Broad Minded: Robert Couturier

Architect Robert Couturier believes that “original ideas comes from the sum of all we know, have learned and absorbed”. He has been awarded the award of being The AD 100 represents of the top architects and interior designer.

Robert Couturier

The Interview

1. How would you define the word design? What does it mean to you?

Very interesting question, since design is a word often used without any particular meaning other than organizing a space... Not even sure what it means to me! Designing an apartment for someone, is making a non personal space a personal one, and giving a sense of particular to the generic. It also means that in doing so I understand the person who is asking me to design for them, that I am translating into shapes and forms abstract concepts of comfort or lifestyle. All of that seems to be quite mechanic but it is very charged emotionally since I do not work for people I don't like and respect. A design is successful when it is appropriate to the person who uses what has been designed, what works for me does not have to work for you and I am only as good as I understand the client...

2.What is your philosophy?

As Wikipedia defines...

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning
matters such as _existence_,
_knowledge_, truth, beauty, law, justice,
validity, mind, and language._[1]_
_[2]_ Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these questions such as _mysticism_ or _mythology_ by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on _reasoned_ argument._[3]_ The word is of _Greek_ origin: ?????????, philosophía, "love of wisdom"._[_

I guess for me it would be the wisdom to know that I exist only to make people at ease or happy in their environment. I am not creating or designing in a vacuum, I am doing this for people and I have to let myself somewhat disappear behind them. Have you ever seen "Auntie Mame"? When someone asks the person who is writing her memoir who she is, she answers "A Sponge"...

3. According to you, what are the main keys for an interior design to be beautiful?

To be beautiful is has to be the perfect frame for the person who inhabits it, the surroundings have to make who ever lives in them better, it is a way to present an image of yourself to the outside world. And of course it has to be comfortable. Alfred de Musset always said, "Beware of the mask you put on it reveals you more than it hides you" (I hope I am not plagiarizing horribly)...

4. How do you find inspiration?

I think about the problem, apartment house whatever, without doing anything, I dream about it, I go through despair thinking I will not be able to get any new idea or understand the particular person for whom I am working, then I sketch on the floor plans, go through books, catalogues, magazines, usually get upset, and then one morning I wake up and I know, I sit down with an assistant sketch the plan talk about what I think would work, chose fabrics and furniture, and it usually gets done. But this is one tiny part of the process, designing is not glamorous it is mostly about dealing with problems. I also listen to music, always classical mostly Baroque. When I get really upset I go and visit the Wrightsman's rooms at the Met, or the Frick collection.

5. Do you think that “international design”, where more diversity is in the interiors of homes, are becoming more popular with everyday that pasts?

Absolutely. All or most of the people I work for live in multiple countries, usually not even countries in which they are born, and their children before they are finished with school would have probably moved in three different countries and be fluent in as many languages. There used to be French design for French people, English design for English people and so on, no longer! Design has to work with few adaptations in Paris, London, Shanghai or Delhi the same way.

People less and less belong to very specific cultures, they might have French furniture, American expressionist paintings, Asian art, Persian rugs, Italian lights, and eat South American food in their country house in South Africa all of that while their designer who has already done their house in Aspen, villa in Santo Domingo, and apartment in Paris is based in New York with an accounting firm in Calcutta while they themselves are part something and part something else... It actually is great fun and most enlightening. You do become broad minded, open to everything and you come to understand that we live on one planet whose destiny we all share and whose culture in all its distinctive parts we must be aware of.

6. You’ve been to many places and seen diverse cultural designs. Can you share any significant moment in your professional life that really made an impact on you?

The first time I walked into the Palace of Versailles, and the Cathedral of Vezelay in France.

7. What books would you recommend about design that has influenced you?

The books by Palladio on the classical styles, it gave me the vocabulary with which to express myself and my clients.

8. What advice do you have for an aspiring designer and architect?

Learn all you can and the most you can. In every possible domains, from Orchestral Music to Opera, Ballet, Theatre, literature and history. An original idea comes from the sum of all we know have learned and absorbed. Books are equally as influential as buildings. Your esthetic should be broad and you should know that the more you learn the more you realize that you know very little. I guess be modest, no idea is that original!!

9. Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?

Also keep the greatest possible sense of humor, nothing is that serious, a very good friend of mine, "Suzy Frankfurt", who was one the best decorators of her generation and most influential, said one day: "I am deeply superficial and profoundly into appearances"... Laugh a little!!
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