This in-demand designer from Paris is rewriting the rules of French decorative art

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The French designer and interior architect Pierre Gonalons is nourished by the rich history of the decorative arts, with a particular fondness for the late 19th century.e century, relying on the rich knowledge of French and Italian craftsmen. I speak to him about his practice, which gives a new perspective to traditional forms and materials.

Tell me about your background, your parents and what your childhood was like. How, when and why did you realize you wanted to build and design things?

I was born in Lyon in 1977 to parents of Italian and Spanish descent. My childhood was very happy in the countryside of Lyon and, when I think about it now, it was very much connected with the beautiful country house in which we lived. None of my relatives worked in design or any creative field. As long as I can remember I have always been interested in beautiful objects, furniture and places. I remember wanting to see the antique dealers and auction houses every weekend since I was 12!

At the age of 23 you founded your own design studio. What did your path to success look like?

I can’t really explain what my path to success was. It means nothing concrete to me. I have always tried to express my thoughts and ideas, first to myself, then to one or 10,000 people. No strategic plan, just passion and perseverance. Different projects bring me different target groups at different levels, but maybe I can say that my collaboration with the Italian brand Paradisoterrestre was a turning point.

Why was it a turning point?

Paradisoterrestre is a historic Italian design brand, relaunched in 2016 by Gherardo Tonelli. I was appointed in 2017 to design the new showroom in the center of Bologna and the contemporary furniture collections in 2018 and 2019. I became Artistic Director in 2018. Paradisoterrestre has an important historical design background thanks to its founder Dino Gavina, who was a creative model for me when I was a student, and I am very proud to work for them now.

How would you describe yourself as a designer, your design language and approach?

I like to describe myself as a designer, product and interior designer and also creative director. Words to describe my works are: playful, poetic, surprising, colorful and spectacular. I use them to write down my ideas with materials and shapes. My sources of inspiration are so many that I cannot name them all, but I can say that I am very passionate about the era at the end of the 19th century.e century, this moment when the world fell into “modernity”. In addition, many artists inspire me such as René Lalique, René Gruau, Piero Fornasetti… all exceptional dreamers and storytellers.

What criteria do you use to decide which projects to accept?

I love it when brands or private customers come with a deep desire to create beauty, a project that makes sense in terms of quality, know-how or history. I love the enchanting everyday life.

What do you love about the French decorative arts, Italian history and minimalism, and how do they show up in your work?

I can say that my creative process is largely based on reinventing the history of decorative arts in my own way. French and Italian creations through the ages are so rich and eclectic that the inspiration is endless. For me, each project is a new exercise, a new adventure to balance many historical inputs.

What are your favorite materials and colors to work with, and why?

I really love materials and colors. Usually the material comes in the first step of my creative process, because at least I want to use a specific material. For example, I like to use specific marbles because they are naturally colored and tell the story of our earth. As for my favorite colors, light pinks and greens are part of my favorite palette.

Tell me about some interior or furniture design projects you are currently working on or have recently completed.

I completed a bookshop in Paris for which I had the pleasure of absolute freedom. I also delivered a beautiful apartment in Venice last year. A beautiful hotel in Italy and a French historic restaurant will also be completed in 2023. In terms of product design, many new collaborations have been unveiled in 2022: a collection of carpets for a prestigious French brand, a collection of industrial lighting and a capsule collection of shades for Lanors Paint.

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