As Maison&Objet 2022 finally gets underway on the outskirts of Paris, homegrown designer Laura Gonzalez, named the furniture fair’s Designer of the Year in 2019, opens her new showroom at 3 rue de Lille in the 7th arrondissement of the French capital. Known for transforming mythical venues or masterminding original spaces from the ground up in Paris, she’s responsible for the interior design of historic restaurants Lapérouse and La Gare, traditional brasseries La Coupole, La Lorraine and Auteuil, English pub Sir Winston, hotels Saint James Paris, Relais Christine and Maison Malesherbes, the concept store 86Champs showcasing L’Occitane and Pierre Hermé, and Cartier boutiques worldwide. I sit down with her to discuss her design language.
You were born in Paris in 1983. Tell me about your background, your parents and what your childhood was like.
I grew up in the southeast of France in Cannes, in a family of entrepreneurs involved in the hospitality and restaurant industry. They surrounded me with their vision of projects and, as an only child, I followed them everywhere they went: museums, auctions, flea markets, etc. From an early age and given my family’s roots, I was exposed to light, color, cultural diversity and patterns on a daily basis, so it was only natural to grow an appetite for interior design a few years later.
You founded your own design studio in 2008 while still a student at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture of Paris-Malaquais. What was your path to success like?
It all happened by chance. I was only 23 and still at university when a friend asked me to work on a custom-made shirt boutique, which was followed by a couple of residential projects, and before I even completed my degree, I was already working on the very first project of my career in late 2008: Bus Palladium.
How would you describe yourself as a designer, your design language and approach, your sources of inspiration and what do you hope to achieve at the end of the day?
When I first began to work, my inspirations were at the crossroads of Dorothy Draper’s, Gio Ponti’s and Josef Hoffmann’s style. And even though I believe in a designer’s signature, universe and references, I don’t think they should remain as they are. On the contrary, my style doesn’t cease to evolve and to go towards the unknown where I feel challenged and stimulated to come up with creative and esthetic responses. However, I remain loyal to some basic aspects of my creative DNA – fabrics, color mixes, arts and crafts, etc. – while twisting them according to the client’s brief and my inspirations of the moment, which I nurture through exhibitions, piles of books and visual surroundings during trips and discoveries at flea markets. Take restaurants La Gare and Lapérouse, for instance. People know they’re my projects, but they’re intimately different. At the end of the day, I wish for my work to be the accomplishment of a proposal’s renewal of timeless and eclectic interiors.
What criteria do you use to decide which projects to accept?
The project has to be stimulating for me and my team; there must be opportunities for cultural and historical references, it must be challenging and, of course, it has to broaden our demographic and represent a different typology of project, making all of us evolve.
What do you like about the French tradition of the decorative arts and contemporary art, and how are they reflected in your work?
I love everything about them! They are at the very heart of my creative process. We are very lucky to have in France such an extraordinary pool of craftsmen and to be where so much savoir-faire was born! It all happened so many centuries ago. I am on a constant lookout for new discoveries to include in my projects, and I go almost every week to the flea markets Paul Bert Serpette and Chatou, to name a few, and I attend the auctions, of course.
What are your favorite materials and colors to work with?
I tend to blend many materials and colors in my work, and I love to collaborate with craftsmen to create something new. Fabrics are one of the most important parts of my projects.