Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance could have been a metal sculptor. Instead, he chose to create objects and interiors on commission and today, at 43 years old, he is one of the most sought-after French designers in the world.
Combining early 20th-century Art Nouveau style and a futuristic vision of design that allows us to reconnect with nature, Duchaufour-Lawrance’s elegant shapes are vegetal, flexible and fluid, yet structured with tension, geometry and straight lines. He’s known for his work on projects ranging in scale from small to large, ranging from a fragrance bottle for Paco Rabanne, a Rémanence optical-illusion candelabra for Baccarat, to the refurbishments of the Ciel de Paris restaurant atop Montparnasse Tower.
Born in 1974 in a small seaside village in northern Finistère, in the Brittany region of France, Duchaufour-Lawrance was raised in a creative environment; his father was a sculptor and his mother an art teacher. By age 13, Duchaufour-Lawrance had decided to become a designer.
A chance meeting with an interior designer led to Duchaufour-Lawrance’s introduction to Algerian restaurateur Mourad Mazouz, who asked him to design high-end restaurant Sketch in London in 2002. The project earned him Time Out London’s Best Design Award, paving the way for a series of dining projects including the Sénéquier brasserie in Saint-Tropez; Megu in Gstaad, Switzerland; and the Maya Bay lounge in Monaco.
In 2003, he set up his studio Néonata (meaning “new birth”) in Paris, went on to design the 3rd Culture boutique in Tokyo at the request of the exclusive distributor of Azzedine Alaïa and Manolo Blahnik in Japan, and was named Designer of the Year at the 2007 Maison & Objet fair.
Among Duchaufour-Lawrance’s first furniture designs were the Dessouschic console table for Zanotta in 2005 and the Manta desk set for Ceccotti in 2006. His long-term relationships with those two brands resulted from an appearance at their booths at the Milan Furniture Fair; armed with his oversized art portfolio under his arm, he proposed his services. He recalls: “I’m enthusiastic about what I do because I believe in what I do, even though I have doubts, and I keep my feet on the ground. I loved what they were doing, so I said, ‘I would love to do something with you.’”
Take a closer look at some of his key designs here.
Cinna Ottoman Armchair & Settee
Duchaufour-Lawrance’s first collaboration with Cinna was inspired by his links to Morocco, where his then girlfriend became pregnant with his first child. It's also where he met his current wife years later, when he returned to work on the W hotel project in Marrakech that didn’t pan out. Originally designed for this hotel, the Ottoman is all about comfort and well-being,. It plays with geometry and softness, transposing the Moroccan pouf onto the archetype of the classic Cinna foam sofa, while the work on colour – single or bicolour versions – ensures it’s rooted in modernity.
Hermès Sellier Sofa
Made by Italian craftsmen, it brings together métiers like cabinetmaking, upholstering and caning. It also harks back to Hermès’ 19th-century origins, a time when this material was used for building horse-drawn carriages. It was the first time Duchaufour-Lawrance has worked with cane, which is still very modern today as it was one of the first materials used in furniture-making in a way that combines lightness and resistance, and can be repaired. Equipped with delightful hidden pockets and compartments, the sofa shows his evolution as a designer and what he wishes to express now – quality of execution and a philosophy of sustainability – while referencing Hermès’ equestrian heritage and its signature use of leather.
Zanotta Calla Armchair
The work of curves, details and topstitching tell the story of highly-skilled savoir-faire as well as the sensuality and strength of flora and fauna through the use of leather and the fluidity of shapes. This dichotomy between power and sensitivity is the raison d’être of the object itself.
Chevalier Edition Plis Rug
Imagining the rug as a living space on the floor (as it was originally used in Middle-Eastern and Eastern cultures), Duchaufour-Lawrance links the carpet with three distinct folded forms for different levels of comfort to encourage users to live in an almost horizontal way. Crafted from hand-knotted wool, its abstract graphics suggest the presence of the sculptural forms made of Corian beneath.
This story was adapted from 'Nature's Sculptor', first published in Singapore Tatler Homes April-May 2017.