Hugo Toro, Architect-narrator

Hugo Toro, Architect-narrator

Since his early childhood, Hugo Toro has taken in the many beauties of his surroundings. A way of being for this Franco-Mexican architect and decorator, who has found in his many fields of expertise a true medium. As the founder of an agency whose style can be described as ’varied, limitless and eclectic”, the eccentric has reenvisaged a Parisian apartment that has seemed stuck in time since the 1960’s. An additional challenge for this creator, who intends to create a specific narrative for each one of his architectural projects. After integrating in his preparatory drawings the context and limitations of the space – a succession of spaces and functional rooms –, the creator imagined the various parts of the apartment as the wagons of a train travelling around the world. The theme of a voyage is apparent in the use of the space – modified as in a real wagon in regards to the customization of the furniture –, and in the accumulation of color and contrasts between the various materials.

Lampe et canapé en velours chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Table en marbre et livre chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Décoration sur table dorée chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Pied de statue sur tapis chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Canapé en velours vert chez Hugo Toro à Paris

Hugo, can you introduce yourself, please?

Hugo

I’m an architect, interior designer and a bit of an artist! I’m originally from the east of France but have dual Mexican and French nationality. I’m 31 years old, and I live in Paris.

What is your background?

Hugo

After a general baccalaureate, I started with a master’s degree in interior design at the Penninghen school in Paris before going on to a second master’s degree in architecture, split between Vienna in Austria and Los Angeles.

Tell us about your education in ‘beauty’. How did your tastes develop?

Hugo

I’m not sure that there is such a thing as an education in beauty. I think I have always been sensitive and interested in the beautiful but more in my own world, and I’ve long had a taste for, or rather an interest in objects, as well as in construction of any kind. I remember that as a child, my favourite game was drawing and building little houses (as many children do), but I also fitted them out, from floor to ceiling. I worked out every detail, the light, the matching (or not) of the colours, the fireplace. I was also interested in the outdoors, and I organised a system to collect rainwater to feed tadpole ponds. I was both a designer and a director. That’s how I spent my summers. And then in my “education in beauty”, to use your expression, or rather in my cultural apprenticeship – my mother and I shared a passion for repainting and wallpapering the rooms in the house every year. And then, I’ve always drawn. Drawing and painting were an escape. They allowed me to create my own way of expressing myself and developing the right language to express my often offbeat and misunderstood view of the world around me.

When did you know that you wanted to dedicate your life to it?

Hugo

I think I’ve always known. I don’t feel as if I’m dedicating my life to it, but simply that I’m living my passion and that I’ve found a medium. Like a dancer who trains every day, I make a point of looking around me to capture a movement, a colour, an image that I could perhaps use one day. In this sense, I am reinvesting in this profession every day and devoting my life to it.

Hugo Toro sur son canapé en velours vert dans son salon à Paris

My Parisian living space is designed like the carriages in a train. The layout of the place is unusual in that it is a succession of rooms with different functions.

Salon rouge avec plante vertes chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Pochette de Fleetwood Mac chez Hugo Toro à Paris

Designers, artists: whose work has had a significant influence on you and your work?

Hugo

As I told you, I am Franco-Mexican. So I have a great many influences, from this side of the globe in Europe but also in South America or the rest of the world. I’ve studied in France, Australia, Austria and the USA, so my references are nomadic. I juggle the art nouveau and Otto Wagner’s attention to detail with the atmospheres and materiality created by the architect Adolf Loos, and then fall headlong into the modernism of Luis Baragan and return to my analytical studies of the Zaha Hadid’s paintings. Painting and installations are important to me. I am inspired by Richard Long, by Cy Twombly’s passion and gestural vocabulary, and by Gerhard Richter’s precision and ambiguity.

After starting your career as part of a duo, in 2020 you went solo. Tell us about your studio, about the vision behind it.

Hugo

The studio I have built is multifaceted, varied and eclectic. Multifaceted because even though I am the head and I set the tempo and the direction of the projects, I work with an “inner circle” that helps to clarify and enhance the projects every day. “Winning as A Team” could be our motto. Varied, because I am interested in everything, and I study every proposal bar none, whether it is a flat, a restaurant, a shop or a hotel. Finally, eclectic, because I work on the development and production of furniture collections too. THe first one is in preparation now. I’m a hyperactive jack-of-all-trades, and I want the studio to reflect that.

You tell us that you are multidisciplinary. What does this adjective mean in relation to your personality and your profession?

Hugo

During my training at Penninghen, I developed a certain academic expertise that meets precise standards, from which there is no escaping. I’m happy I was able to teach for two seasons in this school and guide students in the preparation of their diploma work. But I always wanted, or rather I always needed, to draw. I’m passionate about illustration. I draw every single day. Often as soon as I wake up, either with my pencils or on my tablet. If I don’t draw, something is wrong. At the moment, I’m on the move a lot; I’m hyper-productive during every trip. My second master’s degree was focused on experimental architecture and digital technology, which means that today I’m not restricted in my creative approach, and I try not to lock myself into an easy way of doing things (well, I hope I do) so that I can imagine drawing or painting on the walls for a project or creating the graphic design.

You strive to produce an “architectural narrative” for each of your projects. How does that apply to the space where you live?

Hugo

My Parisian living space is designed like the carriages in a train. The layout of the place is unusual in that it is a succession of rooms with different functions. So the idea grew naturally. I wanted the whole thing to be coherent and, at the same time, to reflect my personality, and I wanted the transition from one space to another to be fluid and simple.

Applique murale chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Plan de travail en marbre dans la cuisine d'Hugo Toro à Paris
Gâteau dans la cuisine d'Hugo Toro à Paris
Carafe en verre verte chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Cuisine rouge chez Hugo Toro à Paris

Tell us about this place. About how you found it.

Hugo

The apartment was occupied when I visited it. The owner and her family had lived here for over 60 years. I fell totally in love with the place, even though I really had to use my imagination, change all the spaces and rebuild everything. And then there was the woman who still lived there. She needed to feel comfortable with the buyer, to know that the place was (and would be) in good hands. When the work was finished, I sent photos to her daughter to show her the final result. I know she was happy about it! I like the idea of memory and positive nostalgia.

How did you think about it architecturally, stylistically speaking?

Hugo

I wanted the place to be instantly welcoming, to make me and my guests feel comfortable, right from the moment they walk in the door. I also wanted something that was strong, with colour everywhere and a contrast between the materials. For example, natural parquet contrasted with materials such as Macassar ebony in the kitchen with its highly graphic Rain Forest marble, highlighted by brass shadow joints. For the living area, a glowing green velvet with oversized tri-coloured piping, set against the aluminium walls to bring light and depth to the space.

What about furnishing?

Hugo

Everything or almost everything in the flat is tailor-made. This includes the Aztec-inspired bed with its brass rivets, the kitchen and the sofa, which has a brass block that houses all the home automation and the sound system. As the space isn’t huge, I tried to optimise everything like in a train carriage. I have some very personal objects, like the two resin coffee tables by my friend Hélène de Saint Lager (the aluminium work on the wall is by the same artist), and the leather and raffia lamp I found at a flea market – one of my passions. For some inexplicable reason, I also have a large collection of ashtrays, even though I’ve never smoked, and I don’t plan to (Laughs). The green pedestal table with its white marble is a touch of the Memphis style to break up the styles and accentuate my eclectic side, as is the brutalist Spanish stool from the 1930s and the lamp next to the bed from the Entler Studio in Los Angeles, which reminds me of my student days. I also have works by friends, a portrait of me (a birthday present, I might add) by my friend Leny Guetta and minimalist, airy compositions by Gauthier Rimbault-Joffard. Here, nothing is ever fixed, everything is always changing, in motion, like a moving train; So I have fun moving the objects around and rearranging them as the fancy takes me!

Console en bois et en verre dans la chambre d'Hugo Toro à Paris
Chambre avec tête de lit et dressing chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Croquis chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Rideau beige dans la chambre d'Hugo Toro à Paris

Colours are everywhere. How do you relate to them?

Hugo

Colour is certainly important in my work, but it’s not always omnipresent. I think that’s something that comes from my mother, who brought me up with colour and texture. My childhood home was a contemporary version of Frida Khalo’s house: yellow ochre kitchen, red living room, ultramarine blue winter garden… but the office was beige, and I never knew why! (Laughs) What I’m looking for is warmth and conviviality. This can be achieved by using colours, of course, but above all by working with light.

What does it say about you?

Hugo

It says a lot about the way I live my life: always seeking to have fun and indulge my passion while remaining involved in every project and that with a touch of madness! Otherwise, what is the point of expressing oneself? It also says it is important for me to design a project as a whole. That it is right, and thus long-lasting. Finally, it tells of my obsession with detail, as I said above.

For you, The Socialite Family is … ?

Hugo

Something I’m fond of: getting into the interiors, the places where people live. I like discovering beautiful examples of homes there, places in motion, alive and not sanitised. Spaces with accidental touches that help to create life and avoid the museum feel.

Where will we see you in the coming months?

Hugo

(Laughs) In Paris, but also in the south of France and abroad “London calling…”: in short, within a radius of 3,500 km! But let’s keep the suspense alive. You’ll know more soon.

Statue blanche d'oiseau chez Hugo Toro à Paris
Chambre Hugo Toro #2
Chambre Hugo Toro #1

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