For over 20 years, the sleek style of interior designer Marie Deroudilhe has been captivating the French capital. Find out more in our interview.
MONNIER Frères: How did you start out?
Marie Deroudilhe: I started out doing a pretty standard architecture qualification at an engineering school in Strasbourg. Then I went to London to look for my first job. After 2 or 3 small agencies, I was hired by the Terence Conran firm, which combined design, interior architecture, retail and the restaurant business.
MF: Have you always known that you would become an interior designer?
MD: My mother always had an eye for doing up our homes, our apartments, we always had subscriptions to magazines... I think that's why I was so quick to take an interest. I originally planned to do engineering studies. When I was doing my scientific preparation course, I realised that it wasn't going to suit me at all. It kind of happened naturally, but as soon as I was offered this position, I knew that going into retail, telling stories through interiors, and being on projects that regularly changed was the perfect fit for me.
MF: How do you choose your projects?
MD: I wish I could choose my projects! Generally, projects come to us and, as a result, a sort of connection is created because word of mouth means that similar sensibilities tend to be drawn together. The people who come to us like what we do: a fairly clean look, a bit of modernity, softness, attention to lighting, etc. We are fortunate to be contacted by people who have a vision that resembles our own, and who trust us.
MF: What is your working process?
MD: It's a methodology that, I think, is much like that of fashion designers. To start with, there's the brief, the customer’s desires, the features and functionalities, the use that will be made of the space... Then there’s a whole period where it's all about inspiration, in the broadest sense of the term.
In both design and fashion, I think that from this point of view, our way of working is more or less the same: you can find inspiration in a work of art, a piece of fabric, and so on. Then, like everyone else, you are guided by things like budgets and feasibility. As a rule, you need to make the most of the very, very short and completely free period of looking for inspiration and creation.
MF: When you create, do you favour functionality or design?
MD: We are, of course, very focused on functionality. Because when you design an object for a restaurant, it means somebody will have to carry it: it can't be too heavy, it has to be stable... it’ll be used 20 times a day so naturally we’re forced to think about these things.
MF: You work a lot in the restaurant business…
MD: Yes, we have a good mix of residential and commercial projects including a lot of restaurant work. It's sort of linked to my time at Conran, where I ended up in a job in which I stayed for a long time: I was lucky enough to spend five years working for the designer Patrick Jouin, who did (and still does) a lot of restaurants for Alain Ducasse. I was in charge of 3 or 4 projects that I managed from start to finish and so I was able to develop solid experience in this field. When I first started out on my own, restaurant owners came to me quite quickly - I have Alain Ducasse to thank for that, as he passed on my details for projects that were too small for agencies like Patrick Jouin.
MF: The restaurant is an environment that seems to have dramatically changed…
MD: When I started at Conran twenty years ago, he was one of the pioneers of restaurant design. When he decided to start his own brand, he took it very seriously, and aimed to create a harmony between what was on the plate and inside the premises. Today this approach has become widespread. Guests are photographing their meal as well as the armchair, the velvet bench, etc. Food has become really fashionable: people want to discover new chefs, cook, buy good produce... Nowadays, I don't think there can be very many restaurant owners or retailers who open a place dedicated to gastronomy and don't use an architect or an interior designer to create an atmosphere, tell their story.
MF: What are you currently working on?
MD: We are opening a new restaurant in three weeks, with a chef named Christophe Saintagne. He already has a restaurant in Paris's 17th arrondissement, Butterfly, and he was at Meurice before, with three Michelin stars. He is opening his second restaurant not very far from the Châtelet metro station in central Paris. It's going to be called Pique-Nique.
MF: Do you remember your first project?
MD: I remember it very well... because it's the only project I've ever done with my partner! We agreed that it went well, we had succeeded but we wouldn't repeat the experience! It was a small hair salon on Rue Madame in the 6th arrondissement, which is still there and is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Françoise, the hairdresser, had spent two years working at home before finding the premises she wanted. So, we recreated her a little home from home, with a Parisian-style lounge for cutting and a kitchen area fully tiled from floor to ceiling for colour.
MF: Which project are you most proud of?
MD: That's a tricky question! There are several: there's the little tearoom, Lily of the Valley, in the Marais that we did on a shoestring but that has generated a lot of buzz. It’s one of the projects that has been shared the most online. Doing things with very little money, with a small surface area, and in a short space of time is a challenge too. We managed to find a way to make an impact: the hanging flowers and mirror ceiling that enlarges the space, it works.The Nomicos restaurant too, in the 16th, for which I was asked to do something very contemporary but was given carte blanche. It needed to evoke the Mediterranean. I think it's one of the only times we really expressed ourselves without paying attention. This is also the advantage of public places: you're not in a family's intimate space, so you can be a little crazier. We made huge architectural gestures and incorporated a bit of contemporary art... It's a project that represents me well. It's a bit abstract.
MF: Is there a project you wished you had done?
MD: The designs of Charlotte Perriand, especially the "Free Form" table, and the headquarters of the Communist Party in Paris.
MF: What is our favourite accessory?
MD: My watch, which belonged to my mother and which she left to me. I can't manage without a watch. For lots of people, it's all about their phone, but I never know where mine is. When it's being repaired, I find myself constantly looking at my bare wrist. We are very busy, we have super busy careers, children to manage, so a watch is essential.
MF: Do you remember your first accessory?
MD: There have been so many! I tend to spend the most money on shoes and bags, the rest can be H&M. I think when I got my first salary, it was a pair of Miu Miu boots that were completely ridiculous. Flat, a bit Courrèges but with a hyper-futuristic notched rubber sole. So it was impossible to get them resoled. I wore them until they had no more soles.
MF: Your three favourite places in Paris?
MD: The Lily of the Valley Tea Room to enjoy tea and a delicious piece of cake. The Design Shop at the Georges Pompidou Centre for gift ideas. The Nomicos restaurant for a trip to the Mediterranean.
MF: Bag or shoes?
MD: Shoes. Because that's how I was raised. My mother always told me: you can get your clothes at the supermarket, at a thrift shop, anywhere you want, but if you have beautiful shoes it will make all the difference. It's always stayed with me. And also, in my job I always have a million things to lug around, folders, samples, laser tape measures... so it's tricky to have a cute little handbag.
MF: Flat shoes or heels?
MD: Mostly flat, so I can run everywhere!