Helene Van Marcke and the future of interior design

Hey Helene, what’s your background? What brought you to Interior design?
I’ve always been brought up with a very developed interest for aesthetics. Mainly through my mom! She’s a has an insatiable thirst for historic decors. Since we were little, she has brought us to the most amazing places. She told me that when when I was about 9, I used to write in friendship books that I wanted to become an architect, an interior designer or a veterinarian. I chose interior design because of the creative freedom. It is much more limited in the beginning careers of young architects… I met Georges Vanrijk, a photographer/painter, who became my mentor and followed my progress throughout my studies. He taught me everything that I couldn’t learn in school, as well as the humane part of our profession.

Are you based in Paris? Do you find it easy to work internationally?
I’m based in both Ghent (Belgium) and Paris. I’ll always go back to Belgium, for love (my boyfriends lives and works there), friends and family and for that certain “je-ne-sais-quoi” epicurean and creative lifestyle that Belgians have. Belgium is ideally situated to work throughout Europe. I love being on the go, so yes, it’s quite easy for me to work abroad.

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When do you start working on a project? Alongside with an architect, or do you come afterwards?
It depends on the projects. In Paris, I mainly do everything on my own, since it’s mostly existing habitations. I would rather come in with existing places, since they give me a lot of inspiration on how the project is going to be after. I think it’s important to respect the location and the history of a place before renovating it.

What was your favourite project to work on?
I just finished a penthouse at the Pantheon, in Paris. The views are amazing and the clients were as well. They gave me a lot of creative freedom and were very open minded to my proposals. They have an amazing taste in furniture and art, which is important to me to have a project that feels personal to them afterwards.

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You’ve worked on housing, offices and and restaurant, how different are they? Do you feel that you can have more freedom in some than others?
On housing, you have to be in sync with your client because he is the one who’ll have to spend his days there. It’s a very interesting relation in terms of psychology as well. You have to listen to your clients instincts and advise them in directions, they wouldn’t always think of by themselves. Restaurants, offices and hotels is easier designees because you often get more creative freedom. Though, they are often more complicated budget- and schedule-wise.

You also design furniture, do you collaborate with brands? do you sometime design a piece for a project?
I have my Up Up Up bench that is edited , but it’s not my main goal for the objects I design. I’m much more inspired to design a piece, when I know exactly for who it is and where it is going to go. I love the dialogue with the clients, it channels my inspiration into something more specific.

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What’s your favorite room to work on?
The library. My boyfriend, who’s a real technology geek (he designs mobile applications), always laughs when he sees me read so much on paper and not on screen… What can I say, I love a nice fully stocked bookcase!

Your favorite material?
All kinds of plaster. Simple, clean and to be used in so many ways!

What do you think about sustainable design, are you considering it when you work on a project?
I try to buy local materials, or at least European. It’s not always easy since the prices of foreign wood etc. have become so cheap. I think it’s also interesting to have something built with materials, that are supposed to be used in that part of the world. As people used to do it in the past. I don’t like for instance, when an interior is going to look exactly the same, wether it’s in New York or in Fomentera. Thus, to me the act of using local materials gives way to a very logical aesthetic answer.

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How do you see the future for interior design or furniture design?
I think social media has a very impersonal effect on interior design. Everyone wants the same boho living room (for now) and the personality of some many decors are lost through that. In an ideal world, it would be like a discovery, every new place you’d visit, you’d be surprised by the difference of it’s décor. It would be in real relation with the geographical environment and the personality of it’s inhabitants. I’d rather predict an utopic future… I hate that everything is so mass produced.

Find Helene’s work on her website

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