In the bathroom with Philippe Starck: a hut on the beach


Even if Philippe Starck wasn’t the first to turn his attention to the bathroom, nobody else has done so quite as successfully or taken such a radical approach. And especially not with such apparent ease: his drawings and designs look like inspired sketches, like ideas dashed down on paper – and yet the French designer brings every single detail to perfection. This precision and persistence when it comes to implementing details has certainly been a crucial factor for Philippe Starck’s success in the field of sanitaryware design. At the ISH 2015, the famous French designer was again presenting numerous new products for sanitaryware specialist Duravit. In this interview, Philippe Starck talks about real needs, new materials, sustainability and his dream of a hut on the beach. 

Philippe Starck (French, born 18 January 1949 in Paris) is perhaps the most famous living designer. His works cover a wide spectrum from interior design, product and food design to architecture. Starck studied at the École Nissim de Camondo in Paris, founded a company that produced inflatable objects in 1968 and worked as an art director for Pierre Cardin from 1971-72. In 1980 he founded Starck Product, a production and marketing studio. His open-minded idea of a design which is affordable and therefore accessible to the mainstream led, for example, to the creation of various product series for department store chains. At the same time he designed the interiors of a number of luxury hotels, which – starting with the Royalton (1988) and the Paramount (1990) in New York – helped create a new hotel image. 


Photo: Jean-Brice_Lemal 

How much design does a bathroom series need today?

Design is an important factor. Nowadays it’s integrated as a normal component of society. In the end, apart from the design, only authenticity and usefulness count. First, it’s about choosing partners with integrity and serious manufacturers like Duravit. Then, it’s about creating a useful product. We can never save lives with design, but we can try to improve them. And we create design objects for their usefulness. And that’s why it’s worth working with a partner like Duravit. Making a pretty product is easy, but if nobody buys it, it’s not interesting. The ideal is to deliver a good product at a good price. I think that’s what we have achieved with the new ME by Starck and Cape Cod from Duravit ranges. 

What was your original design intention for Cape Cod from Duravit?

We all dream of a hut on the beach where we can find stranded deadwood and enjoy the simple life in the company of our loved one. I am lucky to have something like that. In the beginning, this collection was designed just for myself - for me it was the most simple and perfect thing I’ve ever designed. Then I thought: what a pity that I’m the only one enjoying it. Why not ask Duravit whether they’d like to produce it on a larger scale? Of course they agreed to manufacture it in various materials recalling stranded deadwood. 

How do you choose materials for the series?

First, it’s all about sustainability. We have gone back to durable fundamentals like long-lasting ceramics and natural high-quality materials like wood. Further it’s important to offer an imaginative choice of colours – such as light and dark wood, which give scope for individual ideas. We worked a long time on the Cape Cod bathtub, with precision design of shape and function, and on DuraSolid, the new material we’ve developed with Duravit. It is surprisingly smooth, surprisingly feminine, and surprisingly human to the touch. It is also incredibly bright and deep, and extraordinarily solid. DuraSolid makes it possible to create a sculptured bathtub with amazing light effects and a fine interplay between light and shadow. 

Tell us the basic ideas behind your designs for Duravit.

In my collaboration with Duravit in general and the Cape Cod collection in particular, I have mainly used iconic shapes. Some people would call that archaic, but it’s not. The word archaic relates to the past, whereas icons refer to continuity in time. I step back and put all signs in perspective; all signs that are cleaned by time, washed by history, and therefore extremely comprehensive and universal in all cultures around the world. While we want quality, acceptable prices and mass-produced goods, we also want to have a unique object for ourselves. That’s human. But it is important that the longevity of high-quality products is never questioned. Longevity is fundamental. Because you are not going to change a washbasin every three months, it is part of the house - maybe for generations. It has to be perfectly factored. 

What additional benefit has Me by Starck for us, the consumers?

I asked myself: what do we all really need? Because everything we don’t really need is useless, and every useless thing will become obsolete one way or the other. So this collection, Me by Starck, is mainly and simply about our true needs, about me and you. Without any design gesture, without any trendiness, without any advertising effect. It’s all about what we really need. With the Duravit engineers we focused on true ergonomics, true body movements, how the water flows, how to have less dirt and how to clean up easily. These seem very modest requirements but done with fundamental and structural honesty they are the most incredible things. ME is simply designed with honesty and rigorous ergonomics. That’s it! 


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