In a Grand Parisian Building, a Secret Workshop
On a quiet stretch of Rue Saint-Lazare, sheltered from the hustle and bustle of the nearby Parisian train station that shares the street’s name, sits an ornate 1880s Haussmann-style building with a delicate limestone facade carved. It is by far the tallest building in this block of the ninth arrondissement – and therefore an unexpected home for Saint Lazarea product and design company known for its utilitarian aesthetic and elegant use of humble materials.
It’s here, just beyond a majestic inner courtyard, that 25 young designers crowd around one of three long communal wooden trestle tables, surrounded by plywood shelves containing rows of boxes of cardboard archives. Virtually every surface of the 1,800-square-foot venue is covered in arrays of Saint-Lazare products: vintage travel posters and colorful Op Art prints lean three-deep against a wall next to a stack of blankets in bold striped wool; pocket travel guides and soft leather pouches line the shelves. The opposite wall is lined with promotional posters for several of the same items — a tribute to the advertising kiosks that once lined city street corners — painted with the company logo.
“If you’re ready to push a few doors in this district, you’ll find plenty of beautiful things there,” says Clémentine Larroumet, designer who co-founded the agency with her childhood friend, Parisian architect Antoine Ricardou. For the past two decades, the duo, both in their late 40s, have run a studio called Be-Poles, known for branding and designing cosmopolitan hotels like NoMad in New York and Le Pigalle in Paris. , as well as several collaborations. with Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent.
Even back then – when the Be-Poles were perhaps involved in, say, a hotel’s signage or header, but not necessarily its interiors – the duo had started making their own products. “because we wanted to,” explains Larroumet. “We would see something missing in the market and we would be the ones creating it.” The first of these was “Portraits of Cities», an ongoing series of small books that associate a different artist with a different city (photographer Lina Scheynius in Sarajevo; illustrator Iris de Moüy in Kyoto). In 2010, shortly after the launch of Be-Poles’ New York studio, now led by partner Reynald Philippe, the company was hired to work on the brand identity of the NoMad; As the Jacques Garcia-designed project drew to a close, Be-Poles art curator Virginie Boulenger decorated her walls with photographs from her previously published guidebooks, alongside old prints of cityscapes and posters from retro trip. “Suddenly we were choosing art, hanging pictures and placing objects on tables,” says Ricardou. “It went from creating an abstract concept to touching every surface.”
In the years that followed – whether they worked on Les Roches Rouges, a chic seaside resort on the French Riviera, or Le Barn, a countryside getaway outside of Paris – the partners became experts in sourcing vintage items and manufacturing furniture and lighting in the name of hospitality. clients. About a year ago, in the midst of the pandemic, they decided to produce more of their own objects and renamed Saint-Lazare, moving from the top of a building opposite the Center Pompidou to their ground-floor studio. pavement. “We wanted the creative energy of a large space, where the team can experiment, prototype ideas, print their own artwork – there’s even a kiln to fire ceramics,” says Ricardou.
This dedication to experimentation and collaboration informs the design itself. There are no assigned seats and virtually all corners are designed for flexible and versatile use. At the center of the space is a white-tiled kitchen, where colleagues and clients can meet over coffee or chat with a chef who has come to prepare lunch. Lately, Saint-Lazare has been making wooden furniture—a simple bench for the foot of a bed; a matching trestle on which to throw clothes; square stools – which add touches of warmth and life. But as with all good design, the idea is that none of it – not the objects or the place in which they are imagined – seems designed on its own. “The goal,” says Larroumet, “is to only create things that have purpose, that are true to their function, and that are timeless.”
Photo assistant: Michael Campi