Family, Friends and Furniture: A Studio Visit with Marina Bautier

Deceptively simplistic. Function first design. These are just a few phrases which come to mind when thinking of Marina Bautier’s furniture pieces. In 2003 this Brussels based designer established her own studio and set to work, collaborating for with brands worldwide such as Case Furniture (Engalnd), Idée (Japan), Ligne Roset (France), Stattmann Neue Moebel (Germany), and Swedese (Sweden). Three years ago she launched her own label BAUTIER. The label is exclusively Belgian and only available for purchase at her Brussel’s studio or online.

I Love Belgium had the great pleasure of talking with Marina about how she got into furniture design, her label and her creative process.

Why did you chose to design furniture?

From the start it's been an interest for me. I studied a foundation course in England in art and design and started orientating into design which was still three-D and a mix of different things. Then at the time of choosing my studies I went to a course in High Wycombe, just outside of London, which was a product and furniture course but really renown for its furniture industry for a long time. So the course was mostly furniture- modern projects. I like that it's related to the home and to the human beings- the functional aspect of it. What is the most important aspect of furniture design? To me it's really about functionality- the furniture. Of course the aesthetics follow and has it's importance but it's all based around the function of the product. The production of the product is also really important. The way it's going to be made. I think heavily about that. It needs to last and be built in a way that can last. Once you produce furniture it needs to exist in a way that can persist.

Walk us through how one of your designs goes from concept to the final product.

It's a bit various from one product to the other. For example, Lap Shelving that I designed for a British company Brace Furniture. The year before I had done a project- a little desk in wood and metal- where the metal was just an accessory and here I wanted to work on something where both the wood and metal had its importance. So the wood here is really the main frame of the shelf, giving the body to it and warmth and the metal is really used for its function. There are different elements that rest into the wood structure. So each material has it's properties that are appropriate in the product. Here we started working together from the start. I think they were looking for a shelving unit, but there was no guidance into what direction to take. It was quite free. So basically when I start work it's first by sketching, then I start to do computer drawings, models, and then full sized mock-ups and then finally prototype before it goes out into production.

Wood is featured prominently in your work. Why do you chose to use this material over others?
Many reasons I guess. I've always worked with wood, even as a kid. Then the school I was in was renown for it's wood workshops so many of our projects were in wood. It’s a material I like because it's alive in a way. Each piece is different. So, especially my work globally, the lines are usually quite clean and in a way we could say quite minimal but then using wood gives life to the product in itself. So, that enables me to work with quite simple shapes while still having a product that has some warmth and feel to it. Then it also started that I really liked to work on the prototypes myself and work quite hand-on the product and the wood is quite accessible material for that. And the more I work with it, the more I know the material, and the more I want to explore it and continue to work with it.

Why did you start your own label?
I wanted to, partly, have more freedom over what items to develop and also to be able develop a whole range and not just one item for one brand and then an item for another brand. When you need to, in a way you, make a different product every time and somehow innovate every time and I wanted to have this freedom. When I do a project I often I have an idea for a next one and I could freely do it. I also like to be able to really manage the whole process of exactly how the item will be built, constructed and even promoted. I don't sell through other realtors. The whole process is under my control and management. And also to be able to work on very basic products such as beds which is not so easy to find partnerships to work on such basic products which I thought were interesting to work on.

What do you enjoy most about having your own label?

To be able to chose from beginning to end how the product will be and how it will be promoted. However, I like to continue to work on both collaboration and my brand because both have their advantages and disadvantages. What I have when I work with other brands is their input in the project makes me explore those things that maybe I wouldn't do by myself it also gives another rhythm because there is a request and a deadline which I don't have with my own project.

Every last Friday of the month you host Vendredi, where you cook lunch for 20 guests here in your studio. How did that begin?

That started with opening my showroom here and starting the brand. I've always liked cooking and always thought one day I'll do some kind of large table dinners and then I had the space here for that. And also, thinking of how to promote my place and my brand I thought it was a nice way to bring people to come to the showroom. I like to organize events. It’s a nice way to remind people of the place every month. It's also a nice rhythm for me- to have that every month. It brings people here and makes the place alive.

Has it changed at all since the beginning?

The people changing a little bit. At the beginning it was mostly friends and family and slowly more and more people I don't know because the word gets spread. So now I'd say it’s a bit of a mix. I have usual customers that come and then some people that I don't know that come along. But the formula hasn't changed.

What has been your favorite piece to design?Is there a certain furniture item you prefer to design?
I couldn't really pick one. Because each piece is quite different I think. The work has been different. The finished product has been different. I'm very happy with this chair (Cruiser) for example but I couldn't pick just one. I am very interested in the mix of wood and upholstery. Seating is very interesting. I've done for Idée some dining chairs. But there's not one thing that comes out that I prefer to work on. I would like to do a dining chair but it hasn't come yet so maybe it's not what interests me the most. Seating , I mean more globally than just dining chairs, is something really interesting and quite challenging- technically, comfort wise, and aesthetically.

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