Finding the balance between severity and softness
Guillaume Delvigne's style is pure, simple and clear. The precise form of his objects often reveals something quite unexpected. And this is particularly evident in Losange, an extending table that he has recently designed for Habitat's Spring-Summer 2015 collection. An interview with this eclectic and talented designer.
What's your background ?
After graduating from the École de Design Nantes Atlantique and the Politecnico di Milano, I worked in Milan with George J. Sowden, a co-founder of the Memphis movement. At the same time, I started designing my own pieces, which were produced by the Industreal design company. I then returned to Paris and worked for various studios such as RADI Designers, Delo Lindo, Marc Newson, Cédric Ragot and so on. In 2011, I won the Grand Prix de la création de la Ville de Paris and following on from that I opened my own studio. Up until now, I have worked on very different projects with famous brands such as Tefal, Hermès, Fabbian, Habitat as well as up-and-coming design studios like super-ette, La Chance and Hartö. With ToolsGalerie and other personal projects, I can really give my artistic nature free reign!
What are your influences?
Well, there are many but I must admit that my time in Italy heavily influenced me. Design is a key part of Italian culture with designers such as Ettore Sottsass, Enzo Mari and Achille Castiglioni. For me, this is essential in design - an open mind. I couldn't have had better training between having Andrea Branzi as a teacher and working with Sowden. What stands out the most for me is their extraordinary desire to delight people, find multiple uses, and mix materials and volumes as a response to sanitised design. I also really admire the work of Ettore Sottsass and his ability to push design boundaries.
How would you describe yourself in terms of today's design scene?
Free and eclectic! I think people choose to work with me for my sense of balance between severity and softness. While I tend to work mainly in domestic design, industrial design and object design (kitchen items, tableware, objects and furniture for the home), it is important to be able to employ different scales. Being able to meet the requirements of mass distribution or high-end luxury is an exercise in style that I impose on myself. Designers should not shut themselves up in ivory towers, I think they should create products which are more humble and more accessible.
Quelle est votre approche créative ?
Je recherche avant tout la pureté et l’évidence dans la lecture de l’objet. Une certaine élégance dans la simplicité aussi. Tout part du dessin, c’est lui qui mène à une qualité plastique et sculpturale de l’objet. Je privilégie les formes douces et simples avec une constance pour les formes géométriques. Des lignes droites et des cercles que je travaille sans fin à la règle et au compas ! Je fuis surtout les formes molles. Il faut de la rigueur, du tranchant, des arêtes pour que la lumière accroche. Bref, la forme prime avant le matériau et la couleur. De ce côté, je n’ai aucune prérogative, c’est souvent l’univers de la marque ou la demande créative qui induit le choix du matériau. Côté couleurs, je réfléchis d’abord en termes de masse, clair/foncé, froid/chaud, et la gamme vient après. Quelle que soit le type de collaboration, mon travail s’instruit dans l’univers de la marque. À moi de le comprendre, d’en traduire le brief avec son cahier des charges. Les dessins suivent et laissent place au débat avec la direction artistique.
What were you asked to design for Habitat?
An extending table but one with lots of character, not rigid or minimalist. This was quite a challenge as it was important to maintain the table's core function. The extension leaf was problematic so I decided to make it the table's focal point by playing around with geometric shapes in the centre of the table. So, I chose a lozenge shape that turns into a hexagon when you extend the table. I also used two shades of wood - pale and dark - which echo the simple codes of marquetry. When we look at the table, the solid wood tabletop seems much wider in relation to what's going on underneath the table. To achieve this, the table is 'lightened' thanks to the use of recessed edges and legs that are placed at a fairly steep angle. It's pleasing to the eye, rounded, fluid and understated - in the spirit of Habitat design!
What other objects/furniture would you like to create for Habitat?
Furniture used for storage. It is a complex exercise but one I 'd like to attempt simply because it's difficult to make something interesting in this area! It's a very real challenge and one that answers a very real demand in today's market. And because I often design small pieces of furniture, I'd love to create a simple yet original modern sofa.
« Il faut de la rigueur, du tranchant, des arêtes pour que la lumière accroche. »
What are your views on design today?
It's clear that if there are more and more designers on the scene, then there are more opportunities for them to express themselves. So, we're really lucky in that respect! Although, you still have to find your own style and approach, which is not so easy in today's market. It's important to find your own path, to understand where you see yourself and to nurture your own personal expression. That's what I'm doing with ToolsGalerie and by working with up-and-coming design studios, which can also act as a springboard to reach international
What are you up to now?
In addition to the Losange table for Habitat, I have created an illuminated shelving unit for Bellila, which will be launched in January at Maison & Objet. And an armchair for Harto for the September session. I'm also working on ongoing projects with Hermès, Veuve Clicquot and Tefal. For kitchen accessories, I'm taking part in the next design biennial in Saint-Etienne as part of a group show bringing together 16 designers. "À toutes les sauces" showcases new kitchen and table art designs The aim is to propose new objects, focusing on their shape, colour and function as well as their material, dreamlike and poetic qualities.
International Design Biennial in Saint-Etienne - Le sens du beau - From 12 March to 12 April 2015
Guillaume Delvigne © Baptiste Heller.
O10 lamp, Guillaume Delvigne (2010), Specimen
Editions © Gabriel de Vienne
Uluru coffee table, Guillaume Delvigne (2011), ToolsGalerie © Thomas Mailaender
Losange table, Guillaume Delvigne, Habitat
Staffa sideboard, Guillaume Delvigne (2011), ToolsGalerie © Thomas Mailaender