The interior of Gilles & Boissier

Assigning Gilles & Boissier a stylistic label is an impossible task – the couple’s eclectic vision confounds anyone who attempts to reduce their interior design style to a single definition. It is the invisible and elusive balance between an emotional shock and a mathematical calculation that governs Dorothée and Patrick’s approach to the world of interior design.
This unpredictable, but concrete approach has led them to success in a world – the hospitality sector – in which the customer is not only an investor, but also the person who chooses this or that hotel or restaurant and decides in a second whether or not it is acceptable. The hospitality challenge has inevitably been passed on to Generation Y and even in this setting, Gilles & Boissier’s ideas are clear and, naturally, somewhat visionary.

The friend Costas “Yatzer” Voyatzis, now one of the most followed stakeholders in the world of the picture representing art and design, in the opening of his article about your home in Paris, says that “Gilles & Boissier are definitively no strangers to anyone involved in anything remotely close to high-end design”.
It seems to be a paradox for a couple of designers who have signed such luxury hotels. Do you feel represented by Yatzer’s statement? And if so, how and why?

Interior design is a long path. In French, it is translated into “architecture d’intérieur “. I think it takes time to understand how linked are our projects and our own inside architectures. If high-end design means trying to go as high as possible in the directions we are aiming, I will accept it with pleasure.

In the hospitality design hotels are decreasing while the ones that choose a style called “classic international” are increasing: do you agree with this definition?
They were a reproduction of magnificent interiors but not an invention. Design hotels from the 90’s wanted to propose a new way of living, new codes, new references, new materials, new shapes. As did brilliantly Philippe Starck with the “Delano”. With years, this architecture, which is made of two architectures (Patrick and I), is becoming more elaborated, more thought, more powerful, more free. And it gives, with the time, a different meaning to our work.
We like to touch all kinds of interior design (residential, hospitality, retail, yachts), to continue to learn, to be challenged and to improve. We are sure that, at the end, our projects will be even better and our clients more and more satisfied. There is still a wave of boutique hotels trying to invent, to propose a new life style. They may not be called anymore design hotels but they are very designed! Andre Balazs is the king of fully controlled projects, with strong design and stories, from interior designs to staff uniforms, music. By working on bigger unit hotels, we try to play with them with the same codes, as smaller hotels, as private houses, as movies. “Classic international” is not our taste. And I think there is a rebel attitude against it!

Is it better a hotel “where you feel at home” or a hotel “where you feel comfortable away from home”?
I prefer to feel comfortable away from home. Our hotels are not a duplication of a comfortable house. Their purpose is to shake emotions, to provoke questions, to reactivate a smile, to give a new surprise, to awake our brain spoiled by thousands of images. You should feel away. But, in this wish to take the customer into a different world, he has to understand the story, to feel mentally comfortable, to recognize his marks. He should not be harassed nor violented but sometimes a little bit shaken!

Owners and developers of hotel industry projects deal with Millennials (or Generation Y), seeking to intercept and retain them: has it ever happened to you in your latest design project that your clients spoke or asked about them? Do you find clarity of ideas on customer targets on behalf of the investors in hospitality?
Hospitality is living a total mutation and progression phase. For the well-known brands, it is time to answer to the coming generation, without Lying to their original message. The recipe is not so clear and brands are taking risks by guessing what would be the wish of this Y generation. I have to say that we are not trying to analyze the wishes of the Y but to be creative enough to still give them emotions. This generation is attacked by images and information and to surprise them is a challenge. But as soon as you continue to invent a story and built the decor around it, they become again children ready to listen and they stop for a while (from their mobile).

How has (if it has) your design approach changed in the last 5 years?
We are spoiled adults. Images have gone so far and in such a quantity in our imagination that there is not so many space for additional information. It is now a challenge to surprise a client. He has been everywhere, seen everything. And I feel that now, in an unconscious manner, our clients are willing to put content in their project. Beautiful is not enough. Value is now coming from the story, the scenario, the purpose. There is an important time dedicated to understand the project and define which movie we would like to develop, with which actors, decors, art, lighting, music, food. Design is not anymore about designing but creating/ editing a whole moment which stimulates our five senses. We are finally rediscovering life!

You’re two designers who were not born specifically in the hotel world, but suddenly and in little time you have signed 4 projects of the highest level and above all you have been chosen for the unique Baccarat Hotel in the world: if you close your eyes, and you wonder why, which answers would you give to you?
We are two. And so unexpectedly different. And we love to share, to fight, to leave the arms and to reborn… Each project, whatever is the scale, the client, the budget, is another story to invent. And this process can lead you to any kind of projects that require an imagination. We love working on so many subjects/topics which require each time a new understanding, analysis. We are little but very greedy and willing to taste all the delicious food to be more gourmet at the end!
When Kemper Hyers, the artistic director of Starwood Capital Group, came to see us in Paris, we had immediately a “coup de foudre”. He had this brilliant vision that we could adapt our Frenchness to their American culture by integrating a French brand of 250 years old to create the first Baccarat hotel in NY. He knew we were ready to be shaken and I guess that the cocktail was good!

Who inspires you? Are there any forms of art that evoke feeling that first become ideas and then projects?
Nature, human being and its creations inspire us. A text, a plant, a stone, a smile, a dawn, a jump, a laugh, a perfume, a photography, a pot, a touch, a wave… Ballet, opera, cinema, photography, music, architecture, fashion…
Each project is starting on a specific emotion. We are both inspired by different things. I love literature, ballet, philosophy. He loves cinema, photography, painting, books. I have a deep respect for people that have a vision and a path to follow, without no compromise. Nietzsche, Picasso, Socrate, Louise Bourgeois, Oscar Niemeyer, David Lynch… And especially when they are women.

The interview of Gilles & Boissier is part of the collection Contract&Hospitality – Spring/Sumer Book 2016 by IFDM, also available in digital version.