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Meeting with The Interior Designer: Nicolas Adnet From French Studio MHNA

In this exclusive interview, Nicolas Adnet shares the history of the MHNA studio, meeting Marc Hertrich and the secrets of the studio’s success for over 25 years.

What inspired the creation of the MHNA studio?

The MHNA studio is about 30 years old. It was founded by Marc Hertrich, a graduate of the Ecole Boule who very quickly felt the need to create his own structure. We met 25 years ago. At that time, I was working in haute-couture. I sometimes helped him in his work on harmonies and other private projects. Then one day, Marc proposed that I join him.

I decided to completely change my career, we became partners and grew the office together. Marc’s first client was for a project in a hotel and we remained in the hospitality business afterwards. We have built our reputation in this business while keeping other projects and private clients on the side. The hotel business is a real laboratory for ideas. We make tailor-made solutions for our clients with storytelling, a very fashionable concept at the moment, but which has been in our mission for more than 30 years now.

How has fashion influenced your work as a designer?

I was lucky enough to discover the world of fashion when I was 13 years old because I had an older sister in the industry. I saw my first Yves Saint Laurent fashion show when I was 13, which was a marvel. Very quickly, I knew that I wanted to work in this field. My first career was in the Lanvin house, where I worked for 11 years in the finance sector.

What I liked in fashion was the creation, craftsmanship and haute couture. Little by little marketing took over. What I liked in the fashion world was starting to disappear and I became less passionate about it.

What I was able to rediscover with Marc was creation. That’s why I changed. I had this opportunity to do what I had always dreamed of even if it wasn’t in fashion. There are strong similarities between these two worlds: constantly reinventing and renewing themselves. At the studio, we do really tailor-made work and it’s a concept that is also found in haute-couture.

What is the style of the MHNA studio?

So there is this method of tailor-made and storytelling. We also have a very down-to-earth approach, i.e. we are aware that something functional needs to be dressed with poetry, especially in the hotel business.

Above all, we are committed to sustainability. Our studio seeks to create something that has its own timeless identity rather than something consumable. Thus, we are wary of fashion phenomena.

What is the secret of your studio’s success after 25 years of collaboration?

It is to remain true to ourselves. Working from our sensitivity, we acquire professionalism day by day. We remain passionate, honest and personal, and I think that’s what touches people.

What is your creative process?

The first step is to be in agreement with our clients. We seek to analyse and understand the location, the client’s expectations and profile, and the competition.

The second step, which comes before the design, is to work on a concept that will be the answer to a precise question. Then we start to illustrate this concept with mood boards to understand how this concept will be received in different spaces, creating the story.

Finally we create our patterns and materials. Here we are constantly juggling all tradition and modernity.

Do you have a favourite step in your creative process?

It’s a job that’s pretty great because the stages are very different but I really like each of them. When you feel that you are on the verge of defining a concept, for example when you see the first 3D or simulation images of your project, it’s very exciting. It’s a joy when you’re planning, excitement when the furniture arrives and great to finalise the project with some decorative objects and hang artwork on the walls. The most incredible moment is when we deliver the project, which we have sometimes been working on for more than 5 years.

What is your best memory with the MHNA studio?

I still have a hard time answering this question, I don’t have a favourite project. I have some favourites. It’s a special moment to be able to stay in one of the hotels we helped create! I particularly enjoy staying in one of the hotels we’ve worked for in the Maldives, it’s the perfect place to recharge your batteries. Even if it’s not my favourite project aesthetically, it’s a question of history and memories.

Where do you get your inspiration?

We are very curious, open-minded and eclectic; we love to travel and are interested in art history and contemporary art. We find it especially in travelling, reading and walking.

La Rotonde du Palace Le Negresco in Nice – Credits: Francis Amiand

What projects have you been working on this year?

This year, we carried out a few projects despite some delays with COVID. We launched the new Petrossian caviar shop in Paris Rue de la Pompe, a small studio that we love. It’s got a beautiful family story with character and a desire for modernity while respecting tradition.

Otherwise, we have quite a few hotels in the pipeline. We have also created a VIP lounge for a client at Charles de Gaulle airport, a Club Med in Spain, collaborations with the Constance group, notably in the Maldives. Some projects remain on stand-by as we cannot travel. We are quite happy with our year and we feel very lucky.

What role does art play in your work?

It has a prominent place. We do not live without art, in the broadest sense. Art is everywhere, we don’t lock ourselves in anything and we don’t forbid ourselves anything. We have this freedom of tone and this openness to art that influences our choices and selections for later projects. Art influences the materials, colours, scenography; we will create places so that there are emotions. Art generates emotions, which is why it is very much linked to our approach.

How does the current situation of COVID influence design?

I’m not sure that COVID will have such a big impact on design. We already knew that we needed to change the way we create by taking the environment into account. There will be some awareness as a result of this situation for sure, but I believe that the key characteristic of the human is the ability to adapt and move on to something else. We will resume our lives quickly and normally.

What’s in store for you in 2021?

I hope to resume certain projects that are very important to us. I also hope to continue to be more and more focused on persuing what we like and to continue on our way while keeping our special touch.