Pierre-Marie Couturier has designs on the life of luxury.
French interior designer Pierre-Marie Couturier is almost as mellow as the Buddha statue sitting in his East-meets-West gallery in the Passage du Grand Cerf in Paris. Given his apparent penchant for exotica, it’s not hard to picture Couturier as a young boy, dreaming about transporting tales. “[Karen Blixen’s] book, La ferme africaine—adapted under the title Out of Africa at the movies—was the trigger,” says the designer, whose first major assignment was to re-create Blixen’s African home for a display at the Samaritaine department store more than 15 years ago. “I like the idea of borrowing the know-how of other cultures and transporting it into the Parisian universe,” says the 46-year-old, for whom traveling offers the deepest well of inspiration.
Instead of clubbing his youth away at storied Parisian clubs such as The Palace, Couturier was on the road, traveling to Africa, India, Japan, China, Mexico and Brazil.
Today, he is an in-demand designer whose clients include French luxury goods tycoon Bernard Arnault, with whom he’s collaborated on several projects, including Arnault’s new private yacht, Amadeus, and the luxury hotel Cheval Blanc, which opened earlier this year in the French ski resort Courchevel.
More projects for Couturier are in the works as Arnault plans a Cheval Blanc opening in Saint-Tropez in the near future. The chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton also is said to be scouting for a Paris location. “It’s an exciting project as each hotel needs to melt in the local landscape,” explains Couturier, who also has been tapped to do the interior of the Paris Mandarin hotel, scheduled to open in 2010.
Couturier began his career at Habitat working with Terence Conran for four years until 1990, when he joined Samaritaine—where he met Arnault when he was doing an exhibit on “modern India through design.” After working for a time as a freelance stylist, he set up his own firm, Pmco, eight years ago. And having designed private houses and major corporate sites, Couturier is now bringing his style to the masses with his first furniture collection, Suite 50, which was introduced last year and was inspired by Wong Kar Wai movies such as In the Mood for Love or 2046.
“I like to incorporate the feeling of the elegant and refined China of the Fifties into the modern world,” he explains.The result is a sensual and contemporary collection that includes sofas, stools and armchairs made with fine leather and rosewood. In general, Couturier favors mixing references and atmospheres. “Ethnic mélange is really my motto,” says the boyish designer.
Words like “tolerance,” “humanity,” “diversity” and “feeling” pepper his vocabulary, and it shows in his concepts meant to evoke emotions. For instance, Couturier will mix an ancestral massage table from India with a sofa from his own line and a Chinese cabinet. “I want to evolve through material and people and not be a prisoner of a style,” he says. “Prove, please and move emotionally is what I like to do with each new project.”