Matali Crasset

Left: Matali Crasset, “Technocorner Room at Hi-Hôtel,” Nice, France. Right: Matali Crasset, “Transplant ≠ 06.” (Photos: Patrick Gries)

Before launching her own studio in 1998, French designer Matali Crasset spent five years working for Philippe Starck, first in his studio and later as head of design at Thomson Multimedia. Last September, Crasset collaborated with the artist Peter Halley for an exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris; she has plans to collaborate with Halley again next year at Cais Gallery in Seoul. Some of her recent major projects include design for the Hi-Hôtel in Nice, as well as for the temporary site of the Stedelijk Museum's–Hertogenbosch. Here she discusses some of her ideas on design and logics of living.

WE JUST RETURNED from an opening for the beach I designed at Hi-Hôtel in Nice. The Hi-Hôtel is an experimental hotel that I designed in 2003, the idea being that this might be a space where one could break certain domestic codes—or even hotel codes—and explore different logics of life. Rather than sticking with one color, like a bland chocolate brown, or having a uniform design, we decided to invite guests to try different things. We only had thirty-eight rooms, which we designed according to nine unique concepts, each of which involves a different level of experimentation.

One type of room is called “Up and Down”—the idea is that there’s nothing on the wall, because normally when we organize a space at home we put all the structure on the wall and then live in the center. In this room, there’s a big shelf—180 centimeters [seventy-one inches] high—in the middle, in which one finds the bed, the shower, the toilet, plants, etc. The most experimental style we developed was called the “Strates” room, which features seven different layers. If we normally live in a horizontal way, why not try living in a vertical way? Each of the room’s functions is piled at a different height, up to the last layer, which is storage. This type of room is very experimental because the shower is in the middle; it’s covered in colored glass but it’s still transparent, so it’s very . . . specific when you go there with a friend or something. We did the beach in front of the Hi-Hôtel to show that one could do an outside space according to different logics of living as well. There are three different sections with three different colors, and you can choose one according to your mood or the type of activity in which you’re engaged. (One section is better for children playing; in another, you can connect to the Internet and schedule your evening.)

When I work on an object, I’m already thinking of the space around it. I try not to work object by object; I prefer to make networks of things, because I like to conceive of an object as a life scenario. One of the first pieces of furniture I did is called “When Jim Comes to Paris” [1998]; it consists of a simple column you can unfold when friends come to your home—say, if you don’t have a guest room. So when “Jim” is not around, it’s very compact, just thirty-five centimeters by thirty-five centimeters and two meters high [fourteen inches by fourteen inches and seventy-nine inches high], and when “Jim” arrives, you just have to open this column and it becomes a bed with a lamp and an alarm clock. The idea of the space and the situation is already embedded in the object.

Recently I collaborated on a show with the artist Peter Halley; I like his use of color, the way he creates different mental spaces using simple geometric shapes. I think that there are fewer and fewer differences between art and design. Before, we would talk about the artist as the one who does the unique piece, while the designer was the one who did mass production. But today I’m doing small series and some artists are doing bigger series. What is more interesting now is what you do in which context; what I try to do is, say, when I’m working on a piece with an art gallery, I try to make a piece that makes sense for that gallery, in the context of the gallery’s history and with regard to the people who will come. I’ve spent a lot of energy over the past ten years developing my own personal approach, but now I’m more interested in collaborating with other artists and craftsmen. Sure, designers are always working with people in the studio, but I’m learning to enjoy collaborating in the creative part, stretching my thinking in a different way.