“Designing something for someone is a huge act of generosity”
He was born in Paris, but it was in Shanghai that, in 2006, Thomas Dariel founded Dariel Studio and undertook dozens of residential, commercial and hotel projects, such as Baccarat House, Johnnie Walker House or The Fat Olive restaurant. Drawing his inspiration from the east and west to create fun environments, the French designer has a daring and cliché-challenging style, which has already earned him many awards, the most recent of which were given at the A&D Trophy Awards 2014 (for the Beijing Fantasy apartment) and at the Shanghai WOW! 2014 Best 50 (which considered Lady Bund the best new restaurant in the city).
Always on the lookout for new challenges, Thomas Dariel plans to mark ten years of Dariel Studio with the opening, in 2016, of an office in New York. In the meantime, 2015 has already been marked by the launch of the first collection from Maison Dada, his new furniture, lighting and accessories brand.
You were born into a family of furniture designers, architects and artists. How much does your family heritage influence your work?
The notion of heritage has been at the centre of my creation since I started to create. I feel lucky and honoured to come from an artistic family. Sometimes it comes with some pressure because when I finish something I always wonder if my grandfather or my great grandfather would be proud of me. Not in terms of reputation, but in terms of creation, pertinence and depth of the creation. It influences me in terms of responsibility.
Born and educated in Paris, why did you choose Shanghai to base Dariel Studio?
Because Shanghai is an extraordinary challenge and an extraordinary choice to make when you are young and come from Paris. And what a fantastic place to grow up, to learn your job and learn that everything is possible and that you don’t need to have boundaries. You need boundaries to create, it is very important, but you have to create your own boundaries, not other people, not the economy, not the context, it’s you. And China taught me this, that everything is possible and that you can create your own boundaries. Ten years ago Shanghai was still a very young, naïve and shy city. Now it is the centre of Asia; it is the crossroads of everyone in the world.
Is there a difference between the eastern and western markets when it comes to interior designing?
Yes and no. In terms of cost, China is certainly still very interesting. But at the end of the day every client is the same. People in Europe, in Portugal, in France, in London, in China, they are all demanding and they are demanding the best. They are all expecting the same in terms of quality, in terms of execution, production, in terms of professionalism, etc.. In terms of market everything is different - the way of building, the way people work, the labour costs, construction costs… It is still very different.
"My challenge is to merge the client's taste and my signature."
What inspires you?
People, family… Everything is about people. And when I say people I mean the relationships between them. I cannot understand some designers, who are very arrogant and selfish. For me, this is nonsense. Designing something for someone is a huge act of generosity, of imagination. You give a part of yourself to someone else.
How would you define your design style?
It is outside-the-boundary design. My philosophy is always to try to give the best; always thinking by making; always making by thinking. I am too young to say I have one design style. My design is generous, for sure, it’s questionable sometimes, for sure, but I like to meet people who don’t like my design; this is interesting. If someone tells you “you can do better”, it is an open door for improvement.
What is your priority: giving the client what he asks for or making sure each of your projects is faithful to your signature as a designer?
That is a very interesting question. My job is to be able to connect both and that’s why it is challenging. Ideally I would do everything I wanted to, but I think it is interesting to be challenged by the client. My challenge is to merge the client’s taste and my signature.
What sets you and Dariel Studio apart from other interior designers?
We never give up. Never ever give up.