Gaultier, Pauline: can you introduce yourselves, please?
My name is Pauline, I grew up spending ten months of the year in the suburbs of Paris and the remaining two months in Corsica. I’ve been a fan of design, flea markets and decoration since I was a child. I studied political science and then marketing, and then I redirected myself towards my first loves again!
I was born and raised in Paris. I’ve always been interested in the world of creation. As a teenager, I wanted to become a designer, above all for cars and then for furniture. Architecture came later. After working in some fabulous agencies as an interior designer, I am now dedicating myself entirely to art, a very exciting new start!
Tell us about your education in art and design?
My earliest memories related to furniture and art are about being with my grandfather, who was an antique dealer. I was always fascinated by his huge cupboards and cabinets and by his ‘Haute Epoque’ sculptures. His workbench, piled with tools, and redolent with the smells of oil and wood, intrigued me too. What I do today is a mixture of all this. As soon as I turned 16, I began to take an interest in the design culture of the 20th century, and I began to ponder its history, its movements and the people involved. About that time, I started collecting chairs, and I continued until I ran out of space at home. There are still a few left in this apartment! Art has been important to me for a very long time. The walls of the family apartment were covered with paintings, and I’ve always been drawn to painting. My father, who draws very well, taught me to understand light and to transcribe it.
Unlike Gaultier, I grew up in a family context that was quite far removed from the world of art, architecture or design. My education was gained (and continues to be gained) through endless curiosity, the people I meet and the discussions I have.
Gaultier, have you always combined your two passions, interior design and art?
I got into interior design rather by chance. I was passionate about design, objects and furniture. This was an extra dimension that I really enjoyed. It was like little sculptures. Then I realised that you could compose them within the architecture, which multiplied the possibilities. Every one of the products I’ve worked on is the result of a drawing. For me, it’s a reflex action always to put an idea down on paper to see if it works or not; if the drawing works, it’s because the idea is worth developing. Drawing has always been a part of my life. I find it very meaningful for me, as it is for others. It allows you to escape totally, to forget constraints and to propose new things that you couldn’t see otherwise. For me, this discipline is clearly the bridge between interior design and art, and the blend of the two allows for more sensitivity and leads to some wonderful projects.
What made you decide to launch yourself as a designer and sculptor?
I have always drawn, and sketchbooks and design drawings were accumulating at home. So I started canvassing art galleries several years ago, in parallel with my activity as an interior designer, but reconciling the two was not necessarily easy. It was when I saw that art was taking a more and more prominent place in my life that I began to consider making it my profession as well. Having the freedom to create is an incredible feeling and materialising my ideas is fundamental for me, whether it is through drawing, painting, or even a piece of furniture.
Which techniques and materials do you like to work with/model in particular?
I have a particular affection for pencils which allow a great delicacy and beautiful modelling. You can obtain a whole range of shades, as well as beautiful contrasts. In the same way, Chinese ink gives beautiful variations, and I find that deep blacks are somehow more honest, more direct. I have a highly technical and academic background, and that guides me a lot in my work, whether it is figurative or abstract. Whether I am drawing or painting, I find myself using more black and white, which allows me to work with light. Perhaps the colour will come as time goes on. Conversely, wood for sculpture offers a warmth that I like very much. You can vary between the softness of the material and the brutality of the techniques; the smell is an integral part of the experience.
In your work, whatever it may be, what inspires you?
I am very sensitive to materials, whether it is wood, stone or metal. They all have different vibrations and tell their own individual story. You can tell many different stories with them, whether that is in architecture or through painting. Everything around me as a source of inspiration. You can transcribe a lot of sensations through spaces or compositions. The way I experience the places I go to always gives me new ideas for compositions, for lights.
Who are the designers, the artists whose work you appreciate particularly. Old and new generations combined.
Constantin Brancusi is obviously a reference; so inspiring, his work can relate to furniture, architecture, anything! In the same way, I appreciate Jean Arp’s sensitivity and subtlety, Rembrandt Bugatti’s way of grasping the essence of things, Auguste Bartholdi’s classicism and strength, the minimalist power of the “Dansaekhwa” movement and especially Lee Ufan. In architecture, Carlo Scarpa’s detailed work has always fascinated me; he is like a sculptor in his own way, he arranges forms and materials like no one else. More recently, Vincenzo de Cotiis has done fabulous work on using materials in unprecedented combinations.
Michel Boyer, Oscar Niemeyer and Gaultier Rimbault-Joffard!
I am very sensitive to materials, whether it is wood, stone or metal. They all have different vibrations and tell many different stories (...)
You have completely redesigned and remodelled this apartment. Tell us about the work.
Gaultier had totally free rein regarding space management. I trusted him completely. On the other hand, there was a lot of discussion when it came to choosing materials and colours. It was a period during which I learned a lot!
It all happened quite quickly. We had quite clear ideas on what we wanted, except of course on the choice of a shower or bathtub… I monitored the construction site almost every day for three months, just to be sure we got the results we expected. The apartment was very pleasant at first, but the idea was to give it personality in addition to its Parisian charm. I really like the demolition and bare-bones phase, which makes everything look like a battlefield but also reveals all the possibilities of the place. We exploited the natural light by opening up a roof light between the bedroom and the living room and enlarged the room by placing a wall-mounted mirror high up, which visually adds a window. The apartment is full of little details, small surprises, such as a wooden mini-bar and mirror hidden in the bookshelves, a desk that sticks out of the wall and pocket doors. I really like to bring a playful side to the spaces; my mother has a secret passage in her house, in a cupboard, and I’ve always thought that was great! When it’s a building site, you have the opportunity to discover things that weren’t necessarily planned at the beginning, but constraints create new solutions.
What sort of style were you aiming to achieve?
I like to create a mix of memories, photos, antique furniture, Scandinavian lines, Italian icons, Dimore colours, stainless steel, wood, the warm atmosphere of the 1970s… For me, it was very important that this apartment felt lived-in, warm, and not too strict. I am fully satisfied with the mixes that we managed to integrate into it. It feels great!
We weren’t really looking for a style, the idea was to feel good. We wanted something warm, with lots of soul, a bit like a country house but in a city version! I was absolutely determined to have a large bookcase in the living room through which we would enter, and which would bring a pleasant presence to the room. This had to be combined with keeping the living room low enough to highlight the window and the natural light. For the kitchen, I wanted to have a floor and walls that were all white, just like I used to see in the furniture shops in Milan when I undertook part of my studies there. The light is even brighter there, and every trace of colour or piece of wooden furniture stands out very strongly; it’s one of the most pleasant rooms. In the bedroom, we wanted a much more cosy atmosphere with fairly strong colours, again a bit Italian, so we combined green walls with the burgundy carpet and the touches of wood that give rhythm to the whole apartment. Finally, the bathroom, which has been through about twenty iterations, has been treated like a cabin. All the corners on the ceiling and floor are rounded, and touches of marble and lacquered wood punctuate the overall warm grey like a beautifully clean cocoon! Each room has a very distinct personality, which reflects in a way how we use it, but everything is in the “home-made” spirit that we wanted at the outset.
You have a jumble of artworks, iconic pieces and items from new designers here. Tell us about your finds. What sort of things do you like to have around you?
The furniture and the objects here come from all over the place. We go bargain-hunting a lot, in Paris (not yet in Saint-Ouen, but soon, I hope) in the attics of our respective families (including the QuadriFOGLIO lamp by Gae Aulenti), on Instagram and so on. Here, one of my favourite pieces is the polystyrene coffee table I found at Tempolino’s in the 9th arrondissement! I’m quite a fan of the bedside tables and stools that Gaultier designs as well as the column that we have in the bedroom. This was the first designer piece we bought together. The antique dealer where we found it never could tell us who the producer/designer was. All we know is that it comes from Italy! We’d be delighted to know the answer (laughs).
Of course, there’s no shortage of chairs here, I collected them when I was younger, so there are examples of all styles! I love each of them for their story. My favourite is undoubtedly the Bertoia, which dates back to the 1960s. It was probably the first thing I bought with the wages from my first job. There is also the LCM by Charles and Ray Eames from the 1950s, the history of its design alone is fascinating. It was brought back from the USA 20 years ago and finally landed in our living room. The apartment also serves as my studio, so it’s home to many of my paintings and drawings, and also to some stools that I’ve been making lately, while we’ve been in lockdown in the country.
What was your most recent acquisition? How about your next?
The Rotondo Sofa from The Socialite Family! I dream of owning a pair of Michel Boyer’s Brasilia lamps!
The latest acquisition is a very fine large photo of the “Maison La Roche” by my friend Alexis Lamesta. Now, I would like the next one to be a sculpture, we have too much furniture and too many paintings!
Where will we find you in the next few months?
At The Socialite Family! I’ve been managing the brand’s BtoB projects for the past six months. I’m loving it. I love having the opportunity to be in contact with architectural agencies whose projects speak to me, discovering names I didn’t know, being there on the building sites… I’m learning every day, it’s very inspiring!
On the face of it, more in the galleries than in the office. I’m leaving architecture for the moment to concentrate on drawing, painting and furniture. My work is also on show at Amélie Maison d’art, do go and take a look!
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily