Balancing comfort, restraint, serenity, and minimalism to create a beautiful simplicity in interior design. Welcome to the mind of interior designer Guillaume Alan. Having grown up in a design-oriented environment with an architect father and interior designer mother, it seems only natural to have taken a similar career path. At just 22, he opened his own studio in Paris, in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, already displaying his unique style by refurbishing the space with concrete floors, wooden panels, and very pure lines. In 2011, he opened another design studio in London’s Mayfair, to cater for international clientele. We spoke to Guillaume to discuss his approach to design, the importance of simplicity, and what home means to him.
Simplicity is not only an aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities and essence of materials and objects.
What role does light play in your approach to interior design?
Light is fundamental in architecture and design. I am very impressed by the light in London. It’s not surprising that Monet spent his winters over there and painted so many times the Thames by early winters mornings. Skies of Turner are also so impressive. Light is key to our ethos and to our aesthetic. As Le Corbusier said: “the architecture is discovered while walking.”
Light makes architecture, it’s thanks to light that walls, space, and shadows can exist. Natural light but also electrical light are key in interiors. Space is shaped by light. Based on it, we create our own bespoke palette and that creates magical shades. The way each material and texture captures the light, creates a coherent whole. It not only creates the illusion of more space, but also allows more depth, texture, and warmth.
What makes a good interior design? What are your guiding principles?
Timelessness and elegance.
I truly believe in profound stories and authenticity. Through my work and my philosophy of aesthetic restraint, I always strongly believed in the essence of things—a quest for the essential.
We are always inspired by the precious gifts coming from nature and the genuine know-how. Instead of the obvious wealth and far away from the trends, our approach should occur in the minimisation of elements, our philosophy to create calm and serenity. Always dedicated to beauty, less but better.
How do you want people to feel when they see and experience a space you have designed?
As Luis Barragan stated: “any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake.”
I always focus on how to create a feeling of appeasement through beauty and purity. Sanctuaries, like ‘havens of peace’ in contrast with a vibrating life. Creating calm and pure spaces where luxury and rigour coexist without ostentation. Our projects are pure, flawless, and harmonious. And purity is a way of life.
As your work shapes the feeling of home for many other people: What is home to you yourself?
With Hyde Park as a garden, sharing my time between Paris and London, I transformed a great place into both home and studio. The home is almost monastic. Always inspired by history, combining minimalism with classicism, I have been inspired by old wood panels that I saw in a ‘Summer house’ in the British countryside. I made them bespoke and we can find them all across the house, in the architecture and on the furniture pieces.
The scheme here is almost masculine, all subtle in degraded shades of greys and braun, a bespoke colour ‘Beluga’. This project also highlights the new upholstery fabrics collection of the studio: Cashmere and ‘Savile Row’ wools weaved by mills in Scotland.
You work closely with your design partner Emilie Le Corre. What do you each bring to the creative process?
I’ve been working in cooperation with Emilie since the beginning. She plays a fundamental role in the process of obtaining an exclusive outcome. We share the same vision of what is an extraordinary rarity. We always try to reflect our sensitivity in order to arouse emotions. This is why our interiors are unique, recognisable, and timeless I think.
With elegance and refinement, the way how we define and treat the space is very clean. I would say that if I strongly believe in pure and strong lines, in impeccable proportions and precision, Emilie knows how to add douceur/softness, like a dream. It’s all about alchemy, balance guided by excellence.
With integrity as a ‘red thread’, we are both attached to follow our own vision, our own instinct and to share our philosophy, aesthetic, and taste. Our scope of work also includes art direction for lifestyle brands.
Has there been a past project of yours that stands out to you?
All our projects have been because they allow very nice meetings and relationships. I am very grateful to my clients, they have always been very supportive, embracing our plans. But we concentrate on the future. Our aim is to do better and better, and to never duplicate what we have already done.
Can you explain your creative process when tackling a new interior project? What part of the process do you enjoy most?
I love to embrace a project from scratch. This is truly magical when you have been given ‘carte blanche’ by your clients. You can just focus on creating. The idea of being able to open the doors of imagination is extraordinary.
The first site visit and the very first steps of a project are always very exciting. When you feel that you reach beauty in your drawings and when you can see tears in your clients eyes at the completion of your project, it brings a lot of emotion.
What do you feel are fundamental differences between minimalism and simplicity? And which do you gravitate more towards?
I would say that minimalism and simplicity are intrinsically linked. If minimalism can be considered as a means, simplicity is an end for me.
The concept of minimalist architecture is to strip everything down to its essential quality. A quest for the essential. Space is shaped by the minimal forms to avoid decoration that is not essential. Simplicity is not only an aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities and essence of materials and objects. There is a sense of clarity and richness in simplicity. Trends and commercial strategies too often dictate the spaces to be lived in.
A well-designed space exerts on the psychological well-being of its inhabitant. Purity and simplicity give birth to peaceful, calm spaces. It has a the spiritual dimension and discloses the beauty of the invisible. I don’t aim for the flashy or the display of wealth, I don’t follow dogmas. The calm tends to awake our minds, simplicity allows a personal journey, a quest towards beauty and sublime. And the deliberate moderation makes the discreet even more beautiful.
As Da Vinci stated: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
This is all about restraint in architecture and elements, but opulence in spirit.
Are there particular fabrics, textures, and materials you enjoy working with?
As we are obsessed with precision, in architecture and interiors, all our rooms are linked by materials and palettes. This philosophy also echoes our furniture pieces that feature beautiful materials, for their textures and their grains. I attach a particular value to an irreproachable craftsmanship or how the hand of the man can turn a texture into a beautiful object.
Our schemes are tactile and luxurious where we make use of fine woods, such as oak or ash in brushed finishes, as well as natural marble, brass, raw linen, soft leather, wool, silk, and bronze; and always focused on a bespoke palette. It’s always a quest for perfection based on tradition and craftsmanship with creativity, sensitivity, and poetry.
Putting design to one side, how do you enjoy your free time? Where do you find a sense of escapism?
In nature, walking in Hyde Park with my dog or to be near the sea. This encourages creation and allows me to dream.
What are 3 things you value most in design?
- Make the impossible possible.
- To reach the end of an idea, to fight to give birth to an idea initially thought out.
- When a project creates a feeling of well-being and brings an aesthetic emotion.
What are 3 things you value most in life?
- To love and to be loved.