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In Starck Terms

The innovative French designer speaks candidly with MILIEU about his ongoing work and the role good design plays for everyone

The French have always had a handle on style. No one is more adept at inventing and reinventing today’s lifestyle than French design superstar Philippe Starck. He started his style revolution by designing nightclubs in the late ’70s. When he was chosen in 1983 by President Mitterrand to be one of the designers to re-imagine the private presidential apartments in the Elysées Palace, the young Starck stepped into the spotlight. Some thirty-five years later, he is a confirmed French design legend, still stage center. His hotels, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs, boutiques, private homes, museums, even wine cellars, are each divertingly distinct. What’s so much fun about following Starck is that there’s always something new and surprising. MILIEU European contributing editor Jean Bond Rafferty conversed with Starck.

RAFFERTY: Architecture, furniture, kitchenware, toothbrushes, yachts, and, a hydrogen-fueled car. One of your most iconic designs is the Louis Ghost Chair, a transparent polycarbonate take on Louis XVI fauteuils (armchairs) that has sold millions. I don’t know how you do it.

STARCK: Me too, I don’t know how we can make all of this. One reason is that I work alone. We (Philippe and his wife, Jasmine) don’t go to cocktails, we don’t go to dinners. We are very alone. It’s easy.

RAFFERTY: Then there is your own collection of seventeen houses, including a Manhattan apartment, a cabin near Ibiza, a place on Cap Ferret, a fisherman’s house on the Venetian lagoon, a Portuguese home on a beach. How do you live in them?

STARCK: They are in the middle of mud (in Venice), the middle of forests, the middle of sand, the middle of the sea. There’s the apartment in New York, a wooden ecological house, which is the prototype of a build-it-yourself home sold in a kit that I designed in 1994 for a mail-order firm. All the houses are refuges reserved only for work, where I live like a monk, only to create. Each house is measured by the level of concentration I can have in it. When I know the people around them, the level is low. I meet friends at night, take my boat out during the day. When I don’t know the people, the level of concentration is high.

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This story appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of MILIEU.