Enter the modernist world of Garance Vallée

Garance Vallée in her studio in Paris.

Paris-based artist and architect Garance Vallée is impossible to box in. Her creative practice goes far beyond a singular art form. Vallée’s drawings, sculptures, paintings and sets are all key to her creative universe that she’s built over time. We recently collaborated with Vallée on a three piece collection and wanted to know more about the Parisian artist’s practice. Here, she shares how her upbringing has influenced her work, the importance of creating with function in mind and the meaning of home.

Vallée’s take on our signature Grand.

Was there anyone in your life, or a specific experience that sparked your interest in interior design?

I danced for 15 years, so how I discover spaces is with my body and my eyes. I have this ‘dancer’ sense of what’s around me. That’s why I think after dancing, I started to love architecture and exterior performance. I focus on smaller objects and the direct relationship with the hands and body and how you react to the objects around you.

What was it like growing up in an artistic environment?

I grew up in my father’s art studio. It was in the same apartment in the center of Paris. My mom is an art historian and my big brother was in music. There were a lot of conversations about what exhibitions to see, what performances to see. I used to see people dancing naked on a Sunday. All very normal for a 13 year old girl. I was really in-between all art [forms]. It was a very open-minded family, but even my parents said to me: “Don’t be an artist.” It makes you start to deny this [artistic] side to you, but you can’t control it.

The wall of my bedroom was the same wall as my father’s art studio, so I used to fall asleep to the sound of brushstrokes against the wall.

At what age did you realize that you couldn’t stop yourself from not becoming an artist?

My mom always tells me: “I always knew”. But they didn’t want to push me into it. Of course, the story I’m telling here sounds very beautiful but [the life of an artist] is hard. Sometimes you have to eat pasta for a month, and sometimes collectors buy a few paintings and your parents drink champagne. It’s definitely not a quiet life. It was hard to understand as a child because sometimes everyone was happy and sometimes there was a lot of anxiety. My father is a painter who is really in his bubble, which makes it hard to communicate sometimes.

I think being an artist is inside of you and you try to push it away. But every job I had, even as a waitress, I always had my own way of doing it. I see things differently, and I’m very sensitive to every detail. I think my art education shaped my eye, and dance made me understand my body, and studying architecture gave me this architectural base knowledge. I thought to myself: “I like art, painting, sculpture. I know the contemporary art world in France. I have all the architectural knowledge. And I have this love of dance and performing.” From there I started to think about how I could come up with a new universe. I started doing drawings, paintings, sculptures and sets. We’re in this era where you can show off your work too, so I know I have the eyes of my generation through social media. For me it was natural to think about how I wanted to present my work to the world. For example when I have a drawing, I’m putting it here maybe with my little chair in my bedroom, adding a little light there. I have to tell a story, and every piece I create brings me to another idea or project. It’s this organic thing that has evolved. I think you don’t have to stick to one material for one idea.

Garance Vallée playing around with miniature sculptures.

A corner of the Parisian artist and architect’s studio.

What inspires you?

It’s a hard question to answer. When you have an eye for details, everything can inspire you. I grew up in an artist family, [and I grew up around] contemporary art and a lot of paintings. I learned how to see and understand paintings. The details, the gesture behind the pencil.

What was your starting point when creating your collection for Nordic Knots?

I didn’t want to just draw or paint on a rug. The idea started with: how can we bring something new yet simple. Working with shapes, lines or frames, and finding a way to involve the customer in the process. What I mentioned earlier about the body and the dialogue with the objects around you, I wanted to construct something for humankind. I think in our society we sometimes forget that things should be made with people in mind. The modularity [of the collection] allows you to play with the shapes. You can be your own designer, and understand yourself a bit more in the space you inhabit. For me, that’s the point of the project. It’s not just about the rug. It’s about how you’re going to place it in your space, and through that reinvent your space. Maybe you’ll see another dimension to your home.

What’s the reason you did three rugs that connect instead of one rug?

The rug comes in three pieces, and they’re connected together like a puzzle. There are different ways to connect the rugs together. It works like tiny architecture. It’s like a small modernist house. That’s why we decided to shoot the collection in a very old modernist villa. To create the link between my inspiration of the modernist movement, combined with these contemporary, almost laser-cut shapes.

I started the project by cutting cardboard. I always create tiny models for my projects, so I had some fun with adding in little chairs, a sofa and creating my tiny world. Sometimes it’s great when you don’t have to be too serious about a brief. Nordic Knots gave me this creative carte blanche to come up with an idea. It was really fun to focus on the shape over color. So I started with cutting the cardboard, trying to find the right fit because there are three pieces, but you can also have two or just one. You could have one in your bedroom, two in your living room or you can have all three and explore it in your space.

It’s really about having the option of one, two or three rugs. And to play with is to play it to play with your space.

One of Garance Vallée’s paintings.

Grand designed by Garance Vallée, captured in her studio.

Details at Vallée’s studio.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on my dream project. I always dreamt of doing something with the ballet or a theater. I had the chance to work with a big name in dance, who’s going to choreograph a new ballet for the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. I’m doing all the scenography and furniture. The project isn’t only about the designer doing things and the dancer doing their things. I was there when they created the choreography, so I understand how the body can react with the chairs, with the table and how they can dance with it. It’s the perfect cycle of how things can work with my universe. You have this dialogue between objects and the human body. It’s amazing to work like this.

What are the key ingredients to a great interior?

The only thing I know is that I don’t know. It’s an experiment, it’s about things that you come up with. Sometimes when you enter a space, you feel the sensation that everything is in the right place. It could be very simple lines and minimalist, but I also love the very busy living spaces where there are memories in the different objects. It’s really about the feeling of the space and and trusting your vision and your body when you feel the space around you.

What does home mean to you?

I’m sitting beside a fireplace here, and in French we have this word foyer which comes from the word fu (fire). It means home, and we really understand that as a family you gather around the fireplace. Here in Villa Louis Carré, every room has a fireplace. For me, the walls, floors and ceilings are very rigid, but you have this life and this movement inside and the dialog between the two is what’s called a home.

Photography by Diana Bartlett