Sébastien Caron of Caron & Associés
- Paris-based design firm - shares with us his approach to design and his design philosophy.
At the time of the interview Sébastien was visiting Switzerland, I was eager to find out how travel inspires his work.
Sébastien: To me, travels are inspiring for sure, because you are breeding your eyes with unusual things under different colors of light. The sun does not shed light the same way in Paris and Marrakesh, for example, as Yves Saint Laurent also experienced. The perception of a particular color can be very different depending the location, the nature around you and the global atmosphere surrounding you. The design, clothes, materials, shapes, patterns, food, music, etc, are different from your habits and awakes inspirations.
"The design, clothes, materials, shapes, patterns, food, music, etc, are different from your habits and awakes inspirations."
Susannah - You explain how you “love comparing eras, details, objects so that they add value to each other”.
Sébastien - You're right - but to me, the more important thing is to create atmospheres, not just a decor. An atmosphere will not become aged with time but decor will. Do not follow trends, fashion. Just follow your instinct.
Susannah - What is your advice for selecting (and decorating with) antique and vintage furniture and objects?
"... I love comparing eras, details, objects so that they add value to each other"
Sébastien - When I choose an antique or vintage piece of furniture or decoration, I always keep in mind the story that has to be told in the project. I like to follow this way of thinking, to create a place depending on the story of the people who will live in that specific house, or apartment.
Susannah - How do you complement one piece with another, particularly from different periods?
Sébastien - I am always searching for beauty in antique or vintage pieces either expensive or cheap. Price doesn't define the level of beauty of an item it just has to catch you eye and your soul to be a good choice.
I wouldn't be able to define the way I mix them. I do it instinctively. I don't think there are rules about that. This mix needs to be a creative act together, it is an artistic way of thinking I guess.
"Price doesn't define the level of beauty of an item it just has to catch you eye and your soul to be a good choice."
What is your advice for decorating small spaces? And how do you make large spaces feel cozy and intimate?
Sébastien - I also don't think there are rules or specific tips for decorating little spaces to make them balanced. It really depends on the story you want to tell there and the global atmosphere you are searching for.
Some people will tell you: "white is a good way to bring more light and space into a little space", I will tell you: "all white is boring".
Some people will tell you "don't put too many things in a little space, things are much more well balanced by sets of three", I would say "it is never too much" lol. As you see: no rules, just instinct.
Some people will tell you : "white is a good way to bring more light and space into a little space", I will tell you: "all white is boring"
And I treat large spaces the same way. I just like to create little spaces in big spaces, keeping in mind the point of view you will have in the big room from all of those little spaces.
Light is very important too because it reveals everything. Light is the signature of an atmosphere. A bad color of light and strength can destroy everything...
Susannah - How do you use colour in your projects?
Sébastien - Colors are also important and I think they are not used enough. It is as if people are scared to use them and are reassured to choose white and beige, and light grey sometimes, but nothing too engaged, to dark, etc... I really don't understand why people are so scared of it. There are a lot of preconceived ideas that I am fighting again lol. My customers sometimes are worried about colors, but they never regret it.
Sometimes, I use colors from the nature outside to bring some connections with the inside colors, sometimes not. It really depends on my inspiration and instinct.
What is your approach to garden design?
Sébastien - Gardens are thought of in exactly the same way as the inside of the house. Creating many spaces, destined for different uses, and thought of as rooms that have to be related to the interior of the home. Colors are given by materials and nature itself.
There is nothing more generous than nature can be. In a garden, the more you give, the more nature will give back to you, but it takes time, you have to be patient... I mean in years...
All images via Caron & Associes
I conclude my way of thinking : No rules, just instinct and never trendy choices. I also never do mood-boards with pictures taken from magazines or the internet. Just a list of words at the very beginning to avoid limiting my creative process, even though I quickly have a clear vision of what should be the design of the project when I start to work on it and exchange with my clients. And more importantly, never do the same design twice: each project is different as everyone's stories are different. I really do personalized designs and it would be also boring to me to work in another way (as all-white interiors lol). To me, the more you give to a project, the more the final design will be successful, obvious, and natural. The result will pass time and will not be trendy.
Susannah - A few questions for fun, or as you call it a "Proust questionnaire" (referring to French writer Marcel Proust and a revealing questionnaire he answered in the late nineteenth century).
I cannot live without my
liberty of thinking.My favourite domestic luxuries
would be to eat good bread, good hand-made food with my family and friends.
The designers who influenced me:
- an unjustly unknown french interior designer form the 30's that settled many ways of thinking decoration that are still actual and was a big mixing style woman.
Image credit Architectural Digest
Raymond Loewy - a french designer and graphic designer who worked in the USA in the middle of the 20th century and settled also specific rules in design that are obvious today, but weren't really obvious in those times.
Jacques Grange - who is a mixing pieces master and a great atmosphere creator,
Image credit François Halard
- who brought back old french styles to an opulence level that I particularly like.
Image credit Jacques Garcia
Christian Dior - who gave back a stylish femininity to women at the end of a very dark period of our history,
"...Christian Dior - who gave back a stylish femininity to women at the end of a very dark period of our history..."
Yves Saint Laurent - the master of colors and creative master, visionary, a genius to me.
Jean Paul Gaultier - another genius, very creative who does unusual but spectacular things, as John Galliano did for Dior.
Balenciaga, Jeanne Lanvin - master of garment's cut,
Madame Grès, Madeleine Vionnet, masters of draped fabric design,
Jeanne Toussaint - wonderful jewelry designer for Cartier
Hubert de Givenchy - who fixed Audrey Hepburn's eternal beauty.
Image credit The Telegraph UK
Andrée Putman - who did marvelous projects with very simple materials, showing that beauty is not necessary a matter of budget.
- and painting masters, music masters, etc...
As you see, also a big mix of design that includes the environment where people are living, objects and furniture they are using, the way people are dressed up, and accessorized, what they can see, read, eat, smell, heard : the idea of a quintessence of the Art-de-Vivre.
Three design books I find most inspiring are:
Never leave well enough alone ( "La laideur se vend mal" in french) by Raymond Loewy for the above reasons
Les paradis secrets d'Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Bergé by Robert Murphy in which you can discover mythical interiors created by Mr Jacques Grange who I would like to meet one day.
Art Déco by Alastair Duncan, a condensed history of this very rich period of design.
... and a last one, that is not a design book : Emile Zola Au bonheur des dames, in which you can feel the transformations of Paris in the 19th century, the way the society was also changing with the arrival of department stores.
A grand merci to Sébastien Caron for this inspiring interview.
To discover more about this exceptional French designer you may visit his website