This is the central issue occupying the interior architect Tristan Auer as he prepares for the opening of Paris’s Maison et Objet trade fair later this week. Auer has been appointed as the fair’s designer of the year – following in the footsteps of previous incumbents such as Pierre Charpin – and is therefore responsible for executing the event’s tentpole installation. It is a responsibility he is anxious to live up to.
“Interiors are a layer of sensuality,” says Auer, who trained with designers Christian Liaigre and Philippe Starck before founding his Paris-based studio in 2002. “Good design is not what you see, but what you feel. I want the installation to create a shelter for people where they can be quiet and have a real break; somewhere away from scanning millions and millions of objects.”
Auer’s installation is intended, then, as a place of respite from the commercial bustle of the fair. It is to be sealed off from the rest of the exhibiting booths, with access gained through two doors, and executed in a palette of white and pastel green. Within the space, Auer will install a bar, a series of alcoves displaying a number of his designs, as well as a vintage 1970s sports car for which he has redesigned the interior.
“The idea is to reveal different layers of a spaces,” says Auer. “Within interior design the first layer is your clothes. Then maybe there is the interior of a car, up through an apartment, a house, a maison, and maybe then something large like a hotel. These are all different layers for exploring how a space can make you feel.”
This kind of play with scale has been a constant feature of Auer’s work. His studio has renovated a number of hotels and villas – including Les Bains and the Hotel de Crillon in Paris – as well as working on smaller scale showrooms for brands such as Chanel, Cartier and Puiforcat. Alongside these architectural works, Auer has also completed furniture commissions for brands such as Holly Hunt and Ozone.
“My style is not well defined because every client asks me to tell a different story,” says Auer. “I’m more interested in building a style for my clients than creating one for myself. What I’m fighting for is the idea that luxury in design is about the bespoke and about something being tailored specifically for you. People are less and less interested in luxury products and are now becoming more focused on moments – luxury experiences.”
Auer links this change to a growing appreciation for interior architecture within both the public sphere and design disciplines. Previously linked to ideas of decoration and styling – and accordingly perceived as more frivolous than architecture – the field of interior architecture is now gaining credence as a form of serious spatial practice.
“Believe me, this discipline was not trendy at all when I started 15 years ago,” says Auer. “Now, however, I have some great clients and everyone has become far more interested in interiors as allowing for new experiences. Luxury is less about buying a new, expensive watch, and more about having a positive experience at home, or while travelling, or in a hotel. Interiors shape that.”
Within the context of Maison et Objet, a show whose January edition attracted 83,282 visitors, Aurer hopes that his designer of the year installation might have a similar effect. “Maison sells objects, but it’s also about trying to encourage more thinking around design,” he says. “We need that kind of attitude and if I can get people to stop for even just 10 minutes in my area, then I think I’d be a winner.