Isabelle Stanislas creates concepts for luxury boutiques and residences around the world. She has worked with Hermès, Cartier, Céline, Zadig et Voltaire and has redesigned apartments and luxury hotels belonging to art collectors. Her work has been exhibited at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Decorative Arts Museum) and the Paris Museum of Modern Art… In her role as architect for the French President Emmanuel Macron, Isabelle Stanislas has recently redesigned and redecorated the famous Salle des Fêtesin the Elysée Palace, the President’s official residence.
We spoke to Isabelle, who pursues her dreams through a harmonious balance of heritage and creative vision.
What sustains and inspires you in your work?
Part of agreeing to take on a project is accepting to discover the unknown, getting to grips with an unfamiliar place, delving into its background and the lives of those who inhabit it, in order ultimately to propose a design that reflects their personalities. Every time the magical powers of alchemy occur, inventing a new narrative crafted from a combination of the sounds, lifestyle and soul of a place. I believe in the underlying energy of spaces, I sense the power of things, I like understanding what may have happened, why things are so, or why they have changed. I like returning a place to its initial state, its original raison d’être. And above all, I refuse to impose a specific architectural statement!
Which individuals or projects do you particularly admire?
All my references are firmly anchored in the worlds of fashion, art and architecture. All those who I admire can be characterised by the way they inject their very souls into each creation. In my opinion, this is the most important driving force behind successful design. I admire the masculine and feminine aspects and unique fluidity of Kim Jones’ work, which is at once highly contemporary and perfectly timeless. Another example is the geometric perfection of Buren’s designs; their candid simplicity, his creative ideas enabling the transformation of otherwise plain wood. He later developed this idea into an artistic performance, working to his own particular scale, with a sense of pertinence which he alone could achieve. Tadao Ando is constantly challenging himself, his work combines instinct, heart and balance. This self-taught architect works with the rawest of materials such as concrete or the sun. Finally, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who quite simply reinvented perspective, opening up the field of vision with interrupted perpendicular lines, allowing free movement from one place to the next, with few doors and totally unexpected viewpoints. He created spaces by simply using partitions and perpendicular panels that in the end combined to produce circular navigation.
What kind of compliment about your work do you appreciate the most as an interior designer?
I have often read that my vision and style is seen as minimal, that the lines are simple and pure. But really, I would prefer to hear that my designs offer a sense of well-being, harmonious balance and a welcoming spirit. I do not see minimal as being synonymous with cold, quite the opposite, minimalism enables each person to express their individuality, to create their own warmth. My work aims to let people and life occupy the space. Yesterday, I was invited to dinner in a location that I have just finished working on, it was a moment I shall treasure; I could feel the space and its inhabitants starting to thrive together, like a machine that has been set in motion.
Is there a city that inspires you or that reflects your personality?
I adore Florence. I love to wander around, stop, make detours, discover secret squares, hidden passageways, walk into an exhibit. There’s always a good reason to stop. But I’ll always be in love with Paris, for those exact same reasons. Architecture in Paris spans every period, I appreciate the fact that Paris is a barometer for fashion and time, that it goes from calm to stormy every six months.
What is your idea of the perfect lifestyle? How would you describe your philosophy of life?
It’s all about being able to appreciate life and embrace what comes our way. Appreciate the small things of daily life, considered by some as banal, make sure each day bodes well and face it with a positive attitude, ensure good energy flow, be curious, be happy with yourself from the moment you wake up. And to embrace… In order to rally energy, to offer and receive guidance, to open up to new things, the opportunities that life offers, the gaze of loved ones, to take pleasure in other people’s happiness. Embracing is a gift both to ourselves and to others.
What particular themes underlie your creative approach?
Whatever the project, I always consider the volume, light and materials. My ability to create a harmonious balance and ensure that a space feels good is all down to getting the alchemy right.
If you could cite one standout project, what would it be?
I would say the Elysée Palace, which is also my most recent project. It combines all the values that I mentioned earlier. It is a place steeped in history and yet was in need of a new interpretation of the past. Rather than giving it a decorative overhaul, I preferred to concentrate on the architectural aspects such as space distribution, the pilasters, ceilings and windows. It needed to become a more practical rather than symbolic space to serve the French Republic. I was asked to highlight what had been created under Mitterrand, like the wall inserts and the perspective provided by certain walk-through windows. I accepted the request with huge pride. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the views of and listen to the people who work there today as well as those of past presidencies, to understand how they occupy and live in the space.
What are your favourite materials, forms or motifs?
Concrete, marble, cashmere, silk, straight lines, the odd curve… I see beauty in many things, but what I like best is to combine opposites. Stumbling on a creative accident is far more interesting than seeking perfection. That’s what fascinates me, but it is not always easy to achieve. I believe in the natural harmony of things and contrasts.
What is your biggest challenge – past, present or future?
Building. I am an architect at heart and I always approach a project starting with the foundations. Once you have created the base, the anchor of the building, you can add elements to it. I have already built projects, but I would like to tackle a public building from its roots, maybe a foundation or a library.
Do you have any work rituals?
I always draw with a fountain pen. I love the feeling of the nib running along the paper, the danger of it sliding off course, the need to control the line. The pen seems to glide more quickly as the project progresses.
Is there a kind of architecture that irritates you?
Soulless architectural statements, I’d even say architectural statements in general. It’s like adorning a building in a disjointed way, roughly, without considering what it represents at heart. As if it was just for show. There is also the approach, albeit a caricature, of focussing entirely on the exterior and forgetting the interior, or vice-versa, with a total disregard for balance.
If you were not an interior designer, what do you see yourself doing?
I sincerely believe that decoration, architecture and fashion are narrative expressions. I had always dreamt of being a writer. What a privilege to be able to invent stories. I tell my stories through my work, but ultimately it is a series of narratives. A project that works successfully is one that you can express through words alone, without having to show images.
Do you have a favourite haunt that you visit regularly?
Italy. I really discovered it a couple of years ago. Whether Milan, Florence or Venice, each place has its own architecture and identity. It’s as if music is always playing in Italy…
Do you have a particular object or good-luck charm that you cherish? How much does it weigh?
I don’t really have one. Although I consider my Statement ring to be a favourite piece of my wardrobe. It’s more like an item of clothing than a piece of jewellery, it makes me feel dressed, ready.
What matters to you?
True meaning. We are only passing through this world, it’s important to find meaning to your life and share it. It doesn’t make sense to never listen or smile, even less so to be unhappy. Once your life has meaning, you are grounded, and from that point on, anything is possible.
Do you have any pieces by LE GRAMME? How do you wear or use them?
I have three bracelets, one 41g and two 21g in black Sterling Silver 925 brushed.I wear all of them together; I don’t like to separate them. I play with them, their visual rhythm, their hollows and forms, I move the widest to the front, then behind, clasp them on top or underneath my wrist. I love the philosophy of this brand, the way it was created, the people behind it and what they have achieved.
If LE GRAMME were to be an architectural element, what would it be?
The Guggenheim Museum. You never tire of it… The way it is designed means you can spend forever inside but feel like you have been there 5 minutes. It’s part of the landscape, at once simple and always evolving.
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