Neuilly-sur-Seine, May 2021
Samantha Hauvette and Lucas Madani, interior architects and designers
An interview with interior architects Samantha Hauvette and Lucas Madani, founders of the Hauvette & Madani agency. Samantha and Lucas have been working together ever since they first met as students at the École Camondo design school, and have gone on to successfully complete high-end projects in France and abroad. We met them at Samantha’s elegant and refined duplex apartment decorated with a patina of modernist undertones, which has become their signature style.
Firstly, could you introduce yourself?
We are Samantha Hauvette and Lucas Madani. We first met while studying at École Camondo and have been running our interior architecture and design business for 10 years now.
Would we be right in saying you specialize in home interior projects?
Yes. Home interiors have been our agency’s flagship sector since we started out, along with a few shop design projects. But over the last few years we have branched out into the hotel and office sectors. Last year, for example, we successfully completed a hotel project for the Orso group, which owns six hotels in Paris. We think it’s interesting to bring our experience in home interiors, along with our attention to detail, to projects aimed at a wider public. It’s highly likely that our clients actually choose us for our ability to mix styles and skills that require attentiveness at all times, as well as a high attention to detail.
We have also just refurbished 4,000 sq. m of office space at the lower end of the Champs Elysées. Once again, it was stimulating to apply the codes for hotels and apartments to the tertiary sector. We think it appealed to our client and, on the whole, it’s rather a nice idea to want to reproduce a feeling of home in other non-residential sectors.
How do you work as a team? Do you each have separate roles?
Let’s say that we create everything together with equal input! We try to call each other’s ideas into question all the time. We start out with our intuitions and ideas about what we want to do, which are guided by our experience, our respective cultures, the changing times, the exhibitions we see, the trips we go on, and so on. We then embark on our quest for originality by challenging each other’s ideas. It’s this constant back and forth that finally leads to the perfect end result.
How would you describe Hauvette & Madani’s style?
We like to bring different periods and styles together. But let’s say that our starting point is an empty box to which we gradually add colours and hues found in the materials we use. For each project, we work very closely with our artisans to try and find new types of wood, varnishes or patina finishes. What we really like is places that have a story to tell. We want people who get home, employees who get to work, or clients who get to a hotel to step into a place that doesn’t smell new. When we hand over the keys, people should have the feeling that the place they are walking into has always been there, and has a certain patina to it.
Tell us about this apartment. Samantha lives here, but it’s also your showroom.
Samantha was looking for a place near our office, which is also in Neuilly-sur-Seine. When she found this duplex, we took it as an opportunity to keep part of it as a space where we could receive our clients and other visitors.
We receive journalists here and organise first meetings with clients here too, to break the ice. It also showcases the quality of finish we want to achieve, the objects we design and the types of material we use, among other things. The more technical meetings take place at our agency’s offices, with our materials library and our team.
Is this “Hauvette & Madani House” a true reflection of what you enjoy doing best?
Yes! It’s a place that came into being instinctively. We had a lot of fun putting all our eye-catching novelties into it! We took the things we love and combined them to create something that is useful and says a lot about us.
Each project is an opportunity to hunt for new trends, such as recreating beautiful old objects, and each project is crowned by an iconic piece, in a kind of humble homage. Here, for example, we chose a Charlotte Perriand table, yet for another project, we may decide go for a piece by Marcel Breuer.
People also come here to see our sofa, our lamps and so on. If we draw something new, it will find its way here.
Talking about your sofa, why don’t you tell us about it?
It’s our first self-produced piece. At the time, we couldn’t find a sofa we liked. We wanted it to be inviting, with quite a low seat, but also slightly imposing and solid, as if anchored into the ground like an architectural object. The seating space is generous, a little like a day bed. We added a bolster cushion on either side, which can be removed to provide more seating space, and several seating positions too. It has a kind of 70s spirit to it, as you can lounge on and around it as you like.
And where does USM fit into all of this?
We discovered USM during our studies at École Camondo. There were these huge USM shelves on wheels which were used as space dividers. We didn’t necessarily fall for them immediately, but they certainly piqued our interest. We then discovered that you could assemble them in countless different ways to suit your needs, which we found amazing. Similarly to bespoke joinery for an interior, you can place the sockets anywhere you want. Instead of having a core drilled hole in your wooden furniture, you can replace it with an in-built socket, and plan where to put a lamp or speakers, for example.
For one of our residential projects, the client wanted to create an industrial feel. We decided to install two huge black USM shelf units, offset by softer furnishings, including a linen sofa, fabrics, a carpet and low wooden coffee tables.
For architects who like precision, USM is great because you can adapt it to your needs.
When you suggest using USM to a client, how do they react?
Generally, clients have already seen USM furniture without necessarily knowing what USM is, or the story behind this architectural product designed by Franz Haller. As a result, for architects like us, the storytelling adds something special to this object.
Also, as we never go for one specific look but like to find a mix of different furnishings, a touch of USM will always fit right in, be it in terms of colour, size or use. For example, if we need a small storage unit of a certain height for a specific space, given that you can do almost anything with USM furniture, we know it will fit perfectly into our project.
There is always this notion of balance, invoked in all our projects and USM often participates in this good balance.
As it happens, the two USM pieces you have here have very specific uses. One of them is designed for child’s bedroom and the other is a bar cabinet. How did they come about?
The bar cabinet is an object we installed for one of our clients, and the in-built lighting is just perfect. The reflections created by the glass and the different drinks is beautiful! The other piece of USM furniture moved in with Samantha. It was a small storage unit before being transformed into a changing table.
USM goes with everything and that’s why we love it. We find it useful for striking the right tone in a project. There’s always this idea of balance in all our projects, and USM often contributes to a perfect equilibrium.
We thank Samantha Hauvette and Lucas Madani for their warm welcome and our fascinating discussions.
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