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10 Questions With… Philippe Starck

Photography by James Bort, courtesy of Philippe Starck.


“The beautiful story of our animal species in its evolution is my only source of inspiration,” says Philippe Starck, who first caught the public’s eye with an experimental inflatable structure exploring materiality in 1969. In 1983, the French designer—who was just 34 years old—was commissioned by the country’s president, François Mitterrand, for the high-profile interior renovation of his private apartments at the Élysée Palace. With his belief that “evolution is in everything—but only we can control our evolution,” Starck is now one of the most prolific designers in history, with some 10,000 creations in just about every genre, from watches and all types of furnishings to hotels, restaurants, super sail boats, and architectural landmarks.

Most recently, at furniture fair Salone del Mobile in Milan, Starck earned one of the design community’s most prestigious honors, the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award. The news came as he launched new furnishings for manufacturers including KartellFlos, and Glas Italia.

Read More: Check out full coverage of Milan Design Week 2019

Starck sat down with Interior Design to share more about the A.I. chair (the world’s first chair designed using artificial intelligence), how he wraps his mind around the colossal endeavor of designing the interior of a space ship, and what colorful custom chair stands out in his home office.

Interior Design: Could you describe a few highlights from your premieres at Salone del Mobile last month?

Philippe Starck: We had a very strong invention for Kartell, the A.I. chair, which I think will be a star. It is the first chair designed outside our brain, out of our habits and how we are used to thinking. Also for Kartell, we launched the Smart Wood seating collection. Like our previous seating collection Woody—which was sort of a revolution because it was the first time that Kartell produced in wood—it uses a very thin wood molded into a curve similar to plastic design. It is produced with real wood but is still very affordable.

The A.I. chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell. Photography courtesy of Kartell.

ID: What else have you launched recently?

PS: In February we launched a new collection of flexible sunglasses under the brand Starck Biotech Paris, which is distributed by Luxottica. Last year we completed the largest sail boat in history. At 480 feet long with three masts, it is an incredible addition to high technology and a revolution in marine history. I had designed a large boat before—for Steve Jobs—but that was definitely not a sail boat.

ID: What is upcoming for you?

PS: I am working with the company Axiom Space on the interior design of the habitation module for the Axiom Space Station. This will be part of the new International Space Station, which opens in 2020. I am also working on a new collection of perfume—adding to the three we already have—as well as a high-tech activewear collection with fabric that is really avant-garde.

The interior of the habitation module for the Axiom Space Station, designed by Philippe Starck. Photography courtesy of Philippe Starck.

ID: How do you think your childhood influences your design thinking?

PS: My father was a quite well-known inventor and aeronautical engineer. He had his own airplane company. It is definitely from him that I was born into the idea that creativity is the most beautiful job you can dream, the most beautiful work you can give to humanity. I continue the thinking of my father—and that’s why I am very comfortable working on something like a space ship. It’s in my DNA.

Read More: 10 Questions With… Jason Wu

ID: How do you start your design process?

PS: The process doesn’t start because it doesn’t stop. First you need to understand what is important for you. For me the main thing that is important is the story of humanity, of the animal species, how we started some millions of years ago when we were amoeba, when we became fish, when we became frogs, and then when we became monkeys. And what we shall be in four million years when the sun will implode and we shall explode? It is such a beautiful story, and it takes all my time. That means all my inspiration, all my work comes from this simple idea: there are useful projects which help our evolution and then there are useless projects that don’t help our evolution. The beauty of us is the stamina of our evolution. We are the only animal species that has taken control of the speed and quality of our evolution.

The Smart Wood chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell. Photography courtesy of Kartell.

ID: Which of your designs are around you right now?

PS:  I am in my home office and I have on some old Puma shoes I designed some years ago. I am also wearing a Starck watch and my perfume, Starck Paris. On my nose are my Starck Biotech Paris glasses. Near me there is a floor lamp I designed for Flos, a chair made by Kartell, and headphones from Parrot. I also see one chair, which is very special. It’s my Louis Ghost chair for Kartell covered in work by Joana Vasconcelos, who is a quite famous Portuguese artist.

The Dial for SNSM by Starck watch—which has a waterproof GPS tag—designed by Philippe Starck. Photography courtesy of Philippe Starck.

ID: Is there a person in the industry who you particularly admire?

PS: It is not possible to admire people who produce materiality. I am one and I am ashamed of it. Scientists, biologists, astronauts, mathematicians—these are my gods. They are really useful. Design is meaningless. We have to be clear with that. When you have a useless job, you cannot be proud of yourself. You can only dedicate all your admiration to those people who create strong innovation or who directly save lives. At its best, design can help the quality of life—but it will never save lives. It is not that powerful.

ID: What are you currently reading?

PS: I read a lot of scientific magazines—astronomy, biology, anything that would help me understand from where we come and where we go. From the United States, it would be the scientific journal Nature. I am also reading “Leurs Enfants Après Eux” by Nicolas Mathieu, winner of the Prix Goncourt, a quite prestigious honor for books in France. This book deserves it—it’s about the life of a teen in a rural town in France—and is very well done.

The historic Venetian restaurant Quadri, renovated by Philippe Starck. Photography courtesy of Philippe Starck.

ID: How do you approach a hospitality project verses a residential project or product design? 

PS: It is very simple. In a restaurant you stay two hours; in a hotel you stay three days; in a residence you stay, well, I hope all your life; and, with product design, it is absolutely not the same thing every time. Everything has a different program or different needs. I don’t try to make something nice or trendy, which is absolutely not my style. I try only to help my friends to have a better time, to be more sexy, to be more funny and sparkling, to be more in love or more creative. That is all. I am always thinking on how I can help, how I can use my gift—which is creativity—to help my community.

ID: How do you take a break?

PS: When your work is creativity, it’s more a drug than work. The problem is when I travel and have no time to create, I am more tired if I’m unable to create. I wish everyone could be in the same situation: to have a job they love, which they are passionate about and do with passion. This is why I don’t need a break. You don’t need to play golf when you create.

Keep scrolling to see more work by Philippe Starck > > 

The Lady Hio table designed by Philippe Starck with Sergio Schito for Glas Italia. Photography courtesy of Philippe Starck.
The La Plus Belle mirrored light by Philippe Starck for Flos. Photogrpahy courtesy of Flos.
The Sun Tan collection of outdoor furniture by Philippe Starck for Kartell. Photography courtesy of Kartell.
The Woody collection of furniture by Philippe Starck for Kartell includes three chairs and a footstool. Photography courtesy of Kartell.
Sailing Yacht A by Philippe Starck. Photography courtesy of Philippe Starck.
Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos hand-crocheted the cover of Spring Ghost, which uses as its base a Louis Ghost chair by Philippe Starck for Kartell. It is among the furnishings in Philippe Starck’s home office. Photography courtesy of Joana Vasconcelos.
Starck Biotech Paris sunglasses by Philippe Starck for Luxottica. Photography courtesy of Philippe Starck.
The Torquemada chair in gouged oak by Philippe Starck for Driade. Photography courtesy of Driade.

Interested in more design insight? Check out our recent 10 Questions With… MoMA Curator Juliet Kinchin.

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10 Questions With… Jasper Morrison

The Soft Modular sofa by Jasper Morrison for Vitra. Photography by Marc Eggimann.

“From a very young age, I understood that I had a kind of over-sensitivity to atmospheres,” admits Jasper Morrison. In his desire to influence them, the British designer has become one of the most successful industrial designers of the modern day. Emeco, Flos, Vitra, and Mattiazzi are among his high-profile clients, while the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museumand the Museum of Modern Art in New York are just two of the prominent museums around the world highlighting his work.

In Morrison’s latest collection, a limited-edition cork furniture series launching during NYCxDESIGN this week, faulty wine bottle corks rejected during the production process find new life. To present the collection, Morrison turned to gallery Kasmin in New York—a union which also celebrates a lifelong friendship. In 1970s England, the Chelsea gallery’s owner, Paul Kasmin, was a schoolmate. On view May 9 through June 29, “Corks” unveils Morrison’s first complete series in the material, with a chaise longue, chairs, stools, bookshelves, and a fireplace. Interior Design sat down with Morrison to hear more about the new cork collection, recent Milan launches, and what London restaurant personifies his design mentality with celeriac and a boiled egg.

Interior Design: Why cork?

Jasper Morrison: I have done a few things in cork before and came to understand what a great material it is, both to the touch and in terms of what it does for the atmosphere of a room. It is difficult to do anything big industrially with it, because the material cost is quite high, the machining cost higher, and it needs to be hand-finished—so it really only works for limited production.

ID: What’s the design concept behind the cork pieces?

JM: The process is rather sculptural as the pieces have to be machined out of large blocks of cork. It’s very different from designing things for mass production, which tends to be more about structure than volume. The concept is really just about finding good shapes to make each piece of furniture work well. The material suggests its own formal language, but you need to make sure there’s the right balance of softness and tension in the forms. The repurposed corks come from a producer in Portugal. The primary product produced by cork is still the wine bottle stopper, and they grind these up and form them into blocks under pressure with a glue. I’ve known about this material for many years and have used it for a few smaller pieces, which were economic enough to be made in quantities.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Bethan Gray

“Corks,” a series of limited-edition furniture by Jasper Morrison, on view at gallery Kasmin in New York. Photography courtesy of Jasper Morrison Studio.

ID: What else have you completed recently?

JM: Some new chairs as usual—at any one time I’m always working on at least four or five chairs. At Salone del Mobile this year, I presented a slightly sculptural solid wood chair called Fugu for the Japanese brand Maruni.

For Emeco, a company I have been working with very closely for the last five years or so, I did a cleaning-up job of a few of their heritage pieces—a chair, armchair, and swivel chairs from 1948 known as the Navy Officers collection. When I first saw them, I nicknamed them the ugly sisters. We really had to rework and fine-tune them to make them more appealing for today’s market. From the proportions and thicknesses of structure to upholstery detailing, they really came from another era, when things were done in a very different way. I guess they were made to last, but they were a bit over-the-top in terms of structure.

We also just completed a big collection of tableware called Raami for the Finnish brand Iittala.

ID: What’s upcoming for you?

JM: For Vitra, I have been working on a long-term project that is a quite technologically advanced chair. We hope to launch it in Milan 2020. We are also working on adding to the tableware collection we just finished for Iittala and on another chair for Emeco.

Read more: 15 Young Design Talents to Watch from Salone del Mobile

The Fugu chair by Jasper Morrison for Maruni. Photography courtesy of Maruni.


ID: How did your childhood influence your design thinking?

JM: When I was growing up in London in the early 1960s, the standard interior was very claustrophobic and quite gloomy, with a lot of curtains, upholstery, and sofas—everything was heavy and upholstered.

Then, at maybe four or five years old, I discovered this room my grandfather had made for himself. It was in England—but, while working for a Danish company, he had discovered the Scandinavian way of making interiors. I think he had quite a good eye, and the room was well-lit with lots of daylight, wooden floors, and just a few rugs. There was less upholstery and more lightweight seating, a record player by Dieter Rams from the German company Braun, and an open fire. Suddenly I just felt way better in that space, and realizing that there were some places that made me feel good and others that didn’t had a huge effect on me. I’m pretty sure I became a designer to have some influence on my surroundings and to generally improve atmospheres for others as well.

ID: In what kind of home do you live?

JM: I live in a few different homes, but mostly on the south coast of England with my wife and three children. These places are all furnished either with my own designs (for testing purposes) or with other designs I admire. I have a lot of Danish furniture, especially Børge Mogensen and Mogens Koch, but also pieces by Enzo Mari and Achille Castiglioni. There’s a Charlotte Perriand armchair which I got recently which I love. Right now, my Alfi chairs for Emeco are around my dining table. It’s an important learning process to live with things and assess how successful they are or not!

The Lepic kitchen by Jasper Morrison for Schiffini. Photography by Miro Zagnoli.

ID: Is there a person in the industry that you particularly admire?

JM: When Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec hit the scene, I remember describing their design language as like a new color—something you haven’t seen before, something you didn’t expect. They made a big impression on me and today they are still probably the designers I respect the most. Their vision is very individual and they have great design.

ID: Could you name an Instagram account you follow?

JM: There’s a funny little account that actually hardly anyone follows. It’s called @terencepoe and is by architect Terence Poe of Poe + Poe. I share an eye with him somehow and he actually posts a lot of my stuff as well. But that’s not why I’m following him! He posts things that are quite obscure but interesting, which I really like, which I may know and also think are great.

The Zampa stool by Jasper Morrison for Mattiazzi. Photography by Fabian Frinzel.

ID: What are you reading?

JM: “Hokusai: A Life in Drawing,” which is an illustrated introduction by Henri-Alexis Baatsch to the work of Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, who is somebody I’ve been interested in for a long time. He did a lot of woodblock prints but he also did a lot of drawings, which I like as they’re very human. He just drew these kind of normal things, everyday stuff, and I admire that because that could not have been easy at that time. He was supposed to toe the line and do beautiful drawings of actors and actresses and set pieces, but he just did his own thing. They’re incredibly great drawings and there’s nothing old about them, they’re still very contemporary.

ID: Do you have a secret you can share?

JM: The St. John restaurant Smithfield Supper on St. John Street in Smithfield, London is hardly a secret, but I think they do with food exactly what I do with things. As an example, a French friend of mine went there for dinner and ordered a dish called Celeriac and Boiled Egg. When the plate arrived, it was just a plate of celeriac with a boiled egg on top—with its shell still on. My friend was outraged she had to do all the work, but for me that’s a fantastic example of what they do best. It’s really straightforward: What you order is what you get. That really matches my design philosophy.

Keep scrolling to see more of Jasper Morrison’s work >

The O Watt restaurant, with interior design by Jasper Morrison, in the historic EDP building in Lisbon, Portugal. Photography by Francisco Rivotti.
“Corks,” a series of limited-edition furniture by Jasper Morrison, on view at gallery Kasmin in New York. Photography courtesy of Jasper Morrison Studio.
The Zampa stool by Jasper Morrison for Mattiazzi. Photography by Fabian Frinzel.
The T&O table by Jasper Morrison for Maruni. Photography courtesy of Maruni.
The Superloon adjustable LED panel light by Jasper Morrison for Flos. Photography by Jasper Morrison Studio.
The Palma cast iron cookware set by Jasper Morrison for Oigen. Photography courtesy of Jasper Morrison Studio.
The 2 Inch aluminum table by Jasper Morrison for Emeco. Photography by Miro Zagnoli.
The Navy Officer chair series with an update by Jasper Morrison for Emeco. Photography courtesy of Emeco.

Read more: 10 Questions With… Philippe Starck

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Installation Highlights from 3DaysofDesign 2019

A funny thing happened shortly after Signe Terenziani founded annual Danish design event 3DaysofDesign in 2014: Everyone wanted to join in, Danish or not. As seen at this year’s event, which ran May 23-25 in Copenhagen, there was a clever workaround: Coinciding exhibitions and installations—many of them held at embassies. From a house that fits together like a puzzle at the Swiss embassy to swamp foliage filling the prim and stately interior of the Institut Français to a concept store virtually overcome with grass, here are 12 of our favorite installations seen at this year’s event.

Photography courtesy of HHF Architects.

Interlocking plastic components ingeniously formed the Puzzle House by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels of Bjarke Ingels Group and Swiss architect Simon Frommenwiler of HHF Architects, presented at Copenhagen’s waterfront Embassy of Switzerland; they can be broken down into seating elements and partitions offering wind protection. 

Photography courtesy of Gubi.

In sharp contrast to the stately ambience of the Institut Français, swamp grass surrounded newly reissued pieces by iconic French designers from Gubi. A chandelier hung over the C-Chair dining chair, nestled in pampas grass dried to a honey hue. It was designed by Marcel Gascoin in 1947 and is now available in walnut or oak.

Photography courtesy of Gubi.

The legless Pacha lounge chair—introduced by Pierre Paulin in 1975 as a low but elegant way of seating—was also presented at the Institut Français. A pampas grass installation was dyed to match the blue upholstery from French fabric house Pierre Frey.

Photography courtesy of 3DaysofDesign.

At the residence of the Finnish Ambassador to Denmark, Petite 4630 lamps from Finnish brand Secto Design sprouted from a bed of moss, as part of an exhibition featuring Finnish design and lifestyle brands.

Photography courtesy of LesnaVesna.

At the Embassy of Slovenia, the exhibit “Narava” celebrated young design talents from the central European country. The Miss Petticoat lamp collection from design studio LesnaVesna has playful dual-structured shades in walnut, birch, or plywood designed to resemble the retro fashion item. 

Photography by Alastair Philip Wiper, courtesy of Nomad Workspace.

At Nomad Workspace, a co-working space in the former Nørrebro Courthouse, 30 designers took over the ground floor as part of “DAWN x Nomad Workspace,” an exhibit curated by Natalia Sanchez. The Cherry on Top is a collection of mouth-blown glass objects by Helle Mardahl.

Photography by Maja Karen Hansen, courtesy of Nomad Workspace.

Carpets by Layered and Poppykalas were also featured in “DAWN x Nomad Workspace.” 

Photography courtesy of Louise Roe Gallery.

Verdant green grass grew throughout concept store Louise Roe Gallery, as part of the installation “A Walk in the Park.” 

Photography courtesy of Louise Roe Gallery.

“A Walk in the Park” also marked the launch of new materials for the Balloon 04 vase by Louise Roe—among them sky-blue-glazed ceramic.

Photography courtesy of Dinesen.

What does a tree smell like? For the instillation “The Scent of Dinesen,” wood plank manufacturer Dinesen dove deep on this topic, collaborating with Norwegian artist and scent researcher Sissel Tolaas to create an archive of recorded smell molecules. Despite attracting those keen to purchase, the resulting collection of scents—surprisingly diverse and complex—are not for sale.

Photography courtesy of Karimoku Case Study.

The Kinfolk Gallery served as backdrop for the launch of new lifestyle brand Karimoku Case Study, with products presented as a well-appointed apartment. The brainchild of Japanese wood furniture manufacturer Karimoku in collaboration with architecture and design studios Norm Architects and Keiji Ashizawa Design, Karimoku Case Study features products inspired by the temples, shrines, and gardens of Japan. The Case Study Kinuta N-CT01 low table by Norm Architects draws its form from Japanese facades and doors. 

Photography courtesy of Mia Lagerman.

Mia Lagerman, a designer who has lived much of her life straddling the two countries of Sweden and Denmark, was the focus of an exhibit at the Embassy of Sweden. Lagerman’s Sky Wood is a lightweight, stackable chair in molded FSC-certified oak.

Photography courtesy of Hay.

Hay took over two stories of the historic Lindencrone Palais villa to examine the future of live and work spaces. This vignette features the Bernard chair by Shane Schneck—launched last month—paired with the Fifty-Fifty floor lamp by Sam Weller and the Slit table.

Photography courtesy of Hay.

A dining/communal work space area at the Hay installation was furnished with the Result chair by Friso Kramer and Wim Rietveld, a melamine Fleck bowl, and a Pyramid table and bench in matte-lacquered oak.

Photography courtesy of Odd Fellows Mansion.

A giant version of the iconic Ball Chair by Finnish designer Eero Aarnio was clearly winning the prize for most popular photo op at Odd Fellows Mansion, the location of “Framing,” an exhibit presented by PR firm Samira Kudsk in collaboration with industry brands and experts.

Photography styled by Pernille Vest, courtesy of Ole Palsby Design.

At the Hotel Charlottenborg in the historic Charlottenborg Festsal building, 16 brands were featured in an exhibit curated by Ark Journalfocusing on the hospitality market. The Frama|Ole Palsby collection by Ole Palsby Design in collaboration with Frama consists of cutlery produced in Japan with a matt surface achieved by high-pressure polishing.

Read more: 16 Danish Furniture Highlights from Copenhagen’s 3DaysofDesign

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5 Young Designer Highlights from SaloneSatellite 2018

Flexibility and unexplored categories have fresh new talent inspired, Salone Internazionale del Mobile’s SaloneSatellite proves. This year, the ninth edition of the international young designer exhibition focusing on new prototypes for the home and office featured 650 designers under 35. From a kitchen with just seven parts to a portable stackable bed to lines dedicated to the emotional needs of cats and children, here are five of our favorite finds.

1. Cucina Leggera by Stefano Carta Vasconcellos

Cucina Leggera by Stefano Carta Vasconcellos. Photography courtesy of Stefano Carta Vasconcellos.

The first-prize winner of the prestigious SaloneSatellite Award 2018, Cucina Leggera (Light Kitchen) by Stefano Carta Vasconcellos has a mere seven parts that can be assembled glue- and screw-free—thanks to an ingenious joint system.

2. Me & Meow Collection by But Yet

Me & Meow Collection by But Yet. Photography courtesy of But Yet.

The Me & Meow furniture collection by But Yet assumes a cat is in your life, with nooks and crannies appealing to both the human eye and the feline pet’s instinct to play and hide.

3. Rehome

Rehome. Photography courtesy of Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Design.

With a cot that grows with a child, a stackable bed, space dividers, and a dining set among the quickly assembled, sustainable, and affordable items, the Rehome furniture collection by 10 students from the Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Institute of Design meets temporary housing needs, from emergency structures to festivals.

4. Mia Chair by Tink Things

Mia Chair by Tink Things. Photography courtesy of Tink Things.

Furnishings abound to meet the physical demands of a child—but what about emotional needs? Tink Things by Benussi&theFish is a line of furniture for children that keeps “sensory intelligence” in mind. The Mia chair, for example, has a non-fixed fabric seat that allows gentle rocking and can be pulled up over the head for cocoon-like isolation.

5. Soffio by Claudio Gatto

Soffio by Claudio Gatto. Photography courtesy of Claudio Gatto.

Drawing technical know-how from inflatable standup paddleboards, the durable PVC and nylon wire Soffio inflatable furniture collection by Claudio Gatto consists of a table and two stools—weighing a total of 23 pounds—that can be transported in two backpacks.

Continue reading 5 Young Designer Highlights from SaloneSatellite 2018

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