Outside France his name is synonymous with bespoke luxury. Drawing on the heritage of the leading interior designers from the 1920s and 30s, he applies his fluid style behind the four walls of private homes, in luxurious hotels and to furniture. We met Tristan Auer, Designer of the Year MAISON&OBJET September 2017
From his happy childhood growing up in Aix en Provence to the world of luxury, Tristan Auer tells the story of a winding path, fashioned by chance meetings and happy coincidences. His first steps took him to Paris to study at Penninghen. And then destiny took a hand with successive professional experiences working for Christian Liaigre and Philippe Starck. Now looking back at the age of the 48, he admits to having been fortunate enough to “start from the bottom and not to have missed any steps along the way”. When he opened his own design studio in Paris in 2002 there were no lack of amazing projects from boutique (Chanel, Nina Ricci, Lolita Lempicka) and hotel (Les Bains, l’Hôtel du Louvre) interiors to apartments: a slow but sure evolution that propelled him into the most exclusive spheres all over the world.
Contacted by the American firm Wilson Associates – a world leader in interior design – he accepted to accompany the 45-year-old company in developing an offer that gave pride of place to bespoke solutions. He became their artistic director. Bingo! The formula was a huge success. In fact, Tristan Auer is even more in demand abroad than in France. He is currently working on projects in China, Dubai, Europe, the United States and the Caribbean. “Our profession exports well. French interior designers are known for their sound taste based on the wealth of centuries of research.” Tristan Auer sees himself as following in the footsteps of the famous decorators of the 1920s and 30s, such as Paul Dupré Lafon, André Arbus and Jacques Adnet. He extols the way they worked hand-in-hand with artists and craftsmen, suggesting designs without ever imposing anything. “As the craftsmen knew their trade, they adapted the designs into something that it was possible to make and these technical constraints enhanced and made sublime abstract drawings that were often produced independently and alone at the worktable.” Tristan Auer is well aware of the importance of this input: “I wouldn’t amount to much without my team and my craftsmen behind me”, he says. The modest designer continues: “What really makes me proud is when my clients say that feel at home in an interior I have designed. It’s very gratifying for the ego!”
But don’t ask him to talk about his style. “I’ve got a very bad memory and quickly forget the things I have done. I’m not interested in reproducing the same things over and over.” He admits to never looking at home interior magazines and rarely visiting trade shows. “I think that the essential things are to be found deep down inside us. If you want to find original ideas, you need to listen more attentively to that little voice inside you, even if the ideas then need to be adapted to economic realities.” Drawing is at the heart of the MAISON&OBJET Designer of the Year’s creative process: “The blank page and the line are at the very core of everything. Lines become fluid and then you have to organise shapes, find the project’s voice and, once the ideas are in place, take them to a higher level.” According to him drawing is a true commitment, the moment when words become acts: “It would be marvellous if more people took up a pen to act on something, rather than just listening to the sound of their own voices. The result is immediate, instantaneous and, whether we find it pleasing or not, at least has the merit of confronting us with ourselves.”
Another imperative that guides his creativity is making sure the ideas are in tune with the times. It’s all about “getting the timing right, being in tune with what is changing and how people’s requirements are evolving”. To this end, he likes going for a stroll or contemplating the beauty of Paris on his motorbike. “When I’m on a train or plane, I leaf through a magazine that is completely foreign to my world. Macramé, fly-fishing, hunting etc. I find inspiration everywhere.” And the interior designer advocates taking risks, opening out to uncertainty and the provocative nature of previously unseen things: “You are never as good as when you are doing something you’ve never done before. I like to say yes to projects that create an upheaval in my certitudes.” What new creative horizons await? In addition to the common areas and boutiques at the eagerly awaited Hôtel de Crillon, Tristan Auer has stared a new adventure: bespoke car interiors. He also dreams of many other unexplored creative territories. “I would love to design stage sets for movies like Andrée Putman with Peter Greenaway on ‘The Pillow Book’ and many more things besides.” And the Designer of the Year MAISON&OBJET concludes: “Life belongs to us”.