Laurent Maugoust graduated from the Camondo School in 1999 and is now the director of his own interior design agency. For more than 15 years, the architect has brought his expertise to the international high-end hotel industry. During an exclusive meeting, Singulart was able to exchange with the architect about his career and his projects.
What inspired you to become an interior designer?
My father is passionate about architecture. So I grew up in an environment that is sensitive to art in general. I have always loved to draw, I attended evening classes at the Beaux-Arts from the age of 12. I didn’t know how to take advantage of this inclination. I could have been a car designer or a set decorator, but as I worked on building sites in the summer and loved to see the trades unfold, I very quickly thought I could really make it my profession.
I went to the Camondo School in 1999. But while the culture of that time tended to value radical vocabularies, I was already in the mood for confrontations, drapes and ornaments. Very quickly, I had the chance to work with fascinating people like Patrick Rubin, Marc Mimram, Christian de Portzamparc. I then joined Jean Philippe Nuel’s team as an assistant director and since then, the projects have followed one after the other.
How do you work? What are the steps in your creative process?
I’m an instinctive person, I try to find in each project a way to enter by leaving particular writing. Obviously, I love working on places with a story. And I make no secret of the fact that, as a good Parisian, I have a particular taste for classic Haussmannian buildings.
It is then a question of establishing a dialogue with the remains of a building. I like to preserve the original typology of the places I invest in. In hotel programmes, I am dependent on dense specifications, but personally, I like to work in the purest possible way. Volume and light make up 70% of a project, my job is to enhance them. The rest I could go so far as to say that it’s incidental. I have sometimes refused projects in which the owners wanted to destroy rather than restore. I work mainly on renovations but I would love to collaborate on an ambitious contemporary architectural project.
Which project in your portfolio are you most proud of?
I am working on a 5-star project in a former 18th Century gendarmerie barracks that I particularly like because it is the sum of what I love most about my work. But I only have sketches to offer you. Among the many projects I have done, I would say the Bowman for the scale of the work, the Trinité Haussmann which is an old project but one I like. Roosevelt also because it is a colour project. Colour is not necessarily what I like the most but I find this project very successful. I also loved working with the client, I think that the quality of the human relationship is also a significant factor in the success of any project.
What is the current trend in interior design for you?
I don’t know, I’d even say I’m not interested. The trend is pretty much everything I try to avoid, even if economic and marketing constraints often bring us back to it. Between the moment we conceive a project and the moment we deliver it, it takes between 1 and 3 years. I think it is necessary to free ourselves from this kind of consideration if we want to be relevant. And I would even say that we need to adopt a more forward-looking approach.
If we had to cite an orientation, it would be in the search for ecologically responsible solutions. This is the only one that, in my opinion, really makes sense.
What is your favourite space in a house?
I love disappeared, obsolete or hidden spaces: a hallway, a belvedere, an antechamber, a passageway. I find that their names alone have strong evocative potential. In one of my first projects, a restaurant in Avignon, I made a toilet that I loved. Everyone was talking about nothing else. A successful place for me is immediate, alchemy. Thinking about a hotel is an ambivalent approach because you are looking for both the exceptional and familiar in the same space.
Where do you get your inspiration?
It varies – I have of course a pool of references. I must have quoted Le Guépard 20 times and 2001, L’Odyssée de l’espace. But to tell the truth, I think that inspiration is a complex mesh of a lifetime. I could tell you that I love Jérôme Bosch. Nobody will see how he influences my style. I can see it very well, but deep down it’s not very important, there’s no recipe for inspiration I think.
A tip for our collectors who wish to redecorate their homes? What is the first thing to do?
I think that when you are lucky enough to be a collector, the whole space must be put at the service of the works of art you have chosen to acquire. I tend towards more confidential and residential things at the moment. I have several projects that go in this direction, particularly in terms of furniture design. It’s very stimulating to work on completely opposite projects. It makes you question yourself.
What do you think is your best memory as an interior designer?
The Maison Henri Charpentier project in Japan. I was 27 years old and was then artistic director at Jean Philippe Nuel. We had imagined a concept of a French-style tea room from Tokyo, Osaka to all corners of the country.
Working with the Japanese was a great and foundational experience in my work. When I went back in 2019, to inaugurate a presidential suite in Tokyo, I found my fascination and sensations intact. There is a special bond between our two cultures. I don’t speak a word of Japanese, but through drawing, it was easy to communicate. I like this requirement mixed with simplicity.
Who is your favourite artist?
I mentioned Bosch a little earlier, but I claim a certain eclecticism. I love land art, Richard Long, I love Christo, James Turrell but also Delacroix, van Eyck, Dali, Pierre Soulages, Jean-Pierre Raynaud. And Jean-Jacques Sempé since always.
What is the relationship between art and interior design for you?
It depends on what you mean by art… not all artworks are art. A well thought-out collection says a lot about its collector. To design an interesting and relevant interior requires paradoxically to loose yourself.