He is often among the most quoted designers. He has worked with the biggest brands, a list without end: Hermès, Pierre Frey, ToolsGalerie, Ligne Roset, Habitat, Lexon, Tefal, Karakter or Berluti. Guillaume Delvigne welcomes us in his studio in Montreuil, a space he shares with a dozen “co-tenants”, happy to cohabit in a place where each one manages his time in his own way.
After a few years of working with an assistant, since the arrival of Covid, he is working alone again. “I was a little afraid of having to work all the time, 24 hours a day… but with experience you become efficient, I found my cruising rhythm and it works pretty well. My schedule is finally dictated by the hours of my son’s school: 9am-6pm, not a huge amplitude for a designer, but for the last 6 years I’ve gotten used to this rhythm. When I was younger I used to work 12 hours a day… but that’s long gone now.”
Training Nantes Atlantique
He was trained at the Ecole de Design Nantes Atlantique in its early days when it still had an almost family format. The School moved this year to the Ile de Nantes in a new building designed by Marc Mimram, GPAA and the Jouin Manku agency. It has grown from 100 to 1750 students, 400 teachers, 11600m2 of surface and 700m2 of manufacturing space. Since its graduation in 2002, the Ecole de design Nantes Atlantique has grown and established itself on the international market of design schools.
“I did the 5 years of training in industrial design there, at the time more dedicated to training integrated designers than freelancers. Many of the alumni work for large companies like Decathlon, Airbus, Brandt… it’s a school with a good reputation. I was one of the first to take advantage of the Erasmus program, a key element in my career. I loved the history of Italian design, rich, fascinating, I wanted to live the Italian experience. I went to the Politecnico of Milan and there I found the opposite of Nantes Atlantique, a kind of big design university, not very human. But there were legends among the teachers, like Andrea Branzi, Vico Magistretti or Alessandro Mendini. I chose to follow the project supervised by Andrea Branzi; he was there every week and we had interviews with him, which made a big impression on me. We also had 3D classes… we didn’t understand much but we went. I learned to speak Italian too. Then I found my end-of-study internship with George Sowden. I worked for him for two years and that’s where we started “In dust we trust”. That’s also where I met other young designers like Philippe Nigro or Samuel Accoceberry, that was already almost 20 years ago!”
The Villa Albertine project
In New York, from where he has just returned, he is working on a project launched by the Mobilier National for the Villa Albertine, a listed building from the beginning of the 20th century, located in front of Central Park, right next to the MET. The interior is rather baroque, with a different intervention on each floor. The goal is to renovate the upstairs room, a beautiful vaulted space of 60m2 that was the studio of Helen Hay Whitney, a wealthy artist and poet of the time. In the 1950s, the house was bought by France, which installed the cultural services of the French Embassy in the United States.
“In short, it’s a bit like a Villa Medicis from which France distributes all its artists in the USA. The first floor is open to the public with the largest French bookstore in New York, on the second floor there is a conference room and above that offices. The famous top floor will be both a meeting room and a reception room, for cocktails or private dinners. We have carte blanche to design the room, but under a listed ceiling that is currently being renovated, which we cannot touch, it is a real challenge. We also have to think about specific furniture that will adapt to the changes of function of the room. When I saw this project coming up, I felt I had to work with an architect, so I proposed the idea to my long-time friend Vincent Eschalier, who immediately agreed. Vincent now manages an agency with which he leads big projects like the French Rugby Federation or BlaBlaCar. We met when we were both working at Marc Newson in Paris, he was the assistant of Sébastien Segers, Marc’s architect. Vincent and I share a lot of things, he is a lover of design and detail, we understand each other. There are five teams competing in this competition: Hugo Toro, Dorothée Mélichzon, Maison Leuleu with Sommer Lamm and Studio Haddou Dufourcq. We are currently designing the project, results in early November… ”
To refurbish the Oval Room of the National Library of France in the rue de Richelieu, he was invited 4 years ago to compete to design the chair, in front of some designers like Patrick Jouin (winner) or Constance Guisset. He believed in it, but his project did not pass. “For the Villa Albertine, the work of the other competitors seems to me to be more “decorative” than mine, that could please the taste of the Americans but the jury will be mainly French. Should we go towards a “design-decor”, some will propose tapestry, wallpaper, pattern … We will see. I stayed 5 days in New York to immerse myself in the spirit of the city. I am focused on this goal, working most of my time on the project…”
“For the design of the Villa Albertine there is a large modular table to be designed, a real project within the project. Of course I intend to propose some furniture recently published by Pierre Frey, they lend themselves to it and the company knows the American market well, they are recognized there. We are also invited to draw from the collections of the Mobilier National. I discover fascinating pieces, the work of Pierre Paulin obviously speaks to me a lot, but I also find stranger things, it’s very heterogeneous, a certain reflection of French creation?”
For Lexon, he designed a collection of nomadic accessories that he will soon complete with a water bottle, a travel toothbrush and picnic cutlery. With Loïc Bigot of ToolsGalerie, where he exhibited a series of massive side tables in January 2022, they observe that sales are mainly coming through the internet, less directly in galleries.
“When we look at the current landscape we see that it is mostly the extravagant pieces that sell well, and mainly abroad, he adds. When it is more sober, it is more difficult, my name is not bankable enough! (laughs)” Elisabeth Leriche nevertheless invited him to design glass and lacquer pieces, cups, mirrors and boxes for the CFOC. With Maison Matisse, he is preparing a collection of objects based on a material and a technique that will make a reference to the famous Thousand and One Nights of the painter. A designer in the air of time.