Opulence By Design
Our new overview of contemporary interiors demonstrates how our concept of grandeur and luxury has evolved
When it comes to interiors, opulence isn’t what it used to be. “Unlike decades ago, when the guiding principles for interior design were too often static and entrenched with worries about suitability and materialist display, designers today are most concerned about how their spaces will affect their inhabitants,” writes William Norwich, Phaidon’s commissioning editor for fashion and interior design, in the introduction to By Design: The World's Best Contemporary Interior Designers.
Of course, designers still instill spaces with a sense of luxury, yet this isn’t done through the simple placement of gaudy trinkets, but through the clever manipulation of upscale signifiers and atmospheres of wealth.
Take, for instance, the work of Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, whose studio, Humbert & Poyet, has gained a reputation throughout France for its order and restrained approach to haute interiors, drawing heavily on both early Modernism and the Jazz Age.
“Humbert, an architect, graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture Paris-Belleville, while Poyet, an interior architect, is a graduate of Académie Charpentier, the prestigious Parisian school of interior design,” explains our new book. “They met in 2007 and set up their studio in Monaco a year later, swiftly building up a worldwide portfolio of projects. Humbert & Poyet interiors combine a classical Modernism with a sharp, contemporary edge that appeals to clients who are visually and culturally aware.”
Stand out projects include a Côte d’Azur residence filled with references to Matisse and Picasso, a Monaco development, 26 Carré Or, shimmering with squared-off gold detailing, and the dining room at the Beefbar restaurant in Paris (top), which brings the Belle Epoque back to life.
The US-born, Bangkok-based architect, Bill Bensley takes a much more experiential approach to the high life. His studio’s highlights include a Malaysian sultan’s royal palace, the world’s longest, largest swimming pool, a thrilling zip-line ride over one of Asia’s most beautiful ecosystems, “and his personal favorites: a boutique hotel and tented camp, created in collaboration with the Shinta Mani Hotel Group,” explains our new book.
His studio’s work on Hotel de la Coupole in Vietnam, brings to mind the French-Indochine era, while introducing a whole new level of luxuriousness to the peninsula.
Joyce Wang, meanwhile, takes a more cosmopolitan approach to luxury. “Hawaii-born Wang was educated in the United Kingdom, studied architecture and materials science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, then collected degrees in London and the Netherlands,” as revealed in By Design. “This international upbringing has shaped her style, which delves deep into the intricacies of different cultures to deliver visionary results. Inspired by the immersive approach of legends such as Carlo Scarpa and Adolf Loos, Wang’s designs transport visitors into another world.”
You can detect echoes of these European masters in her work in the private dining room at Ichu Restaurant, Hong Kong; and the Mott 32 restaurant in Singapore, as well as within the Mandarin Oriental Hotel near Hyde Park in London, though this final commission drew on local influences too.
“Noting the ducks paddling outside, Wang introduced a feather motif pattern on silk-covered wall panels in the hotel’s suites,” reads the text in our book, “the changing seasons are referenced in abstract rugs that mirror the patterns cast by falling leaves. Hand-etched mirrors, velvet-upholstered chairs, and jeweled detailing on the light fixtures completed her vision: an English fairy tale brought to life.”
To see many more visions of modern opulence from around the world, order a copy of By Design here.