Tristan Auer, Principal Designer, Wilson Associates Paris
SPACE’s Can Faik speaks to Tristan Auer, Principal Designer and the creative vision behind Wilson Associates Paris…
Tristan Auer is a prevailing force in the interior design world who came of age under icons Christian Liaigre and Philippe Starck. He is an entrepreneurial interior architect who founded his own studio in 2002, which specialises in ultra high-end residences, boutique hotels and retail, as well as bespoke furniture design. A couturier, Tristan’s signature panache can be found across the globe. As Principal of Wilson Associates’ Paris atelier, he will oversee the firm’s ‘hautest’ design projects across Europe.
Tell me about your role at Wilson Associates?
As the artistic director for the Atelier in Paris, my job is to communicate my designs and inspirations to our design team in order to create high-end hospitality and residential projects around the world.
What five words would you use to describe Wilson Associates?
The five words I would use to describe Wilson Associates are: experienced, legacy, performance, progressive, and creative.
How long have you been involved with hotel design?
A very long time! I first became involved in hotel design with the interior design of the Mercer Hotel in New York City, circa 1996. It’s been about 20 years since then and my hotel design portfolio has continued to expand with no signs of slowing down (I hope not!).
What do you love about being a designer?
As a designer, every day is a new discovery; you jump from one world to another, one design to another. I love the variety and flexibility my job allows me to have. Every project is different from the last, allowing me to really experiment and be as creative as I can be.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw my experience from the unknown; from things I don’t know or have yet to experience. I have a strong curiosity and interest in so many things and I believe it’s that curiosity which drives a lot of my inspiration.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
As a designer, I don’t really like to focus on specific trends, rather, try to develop each project individually. Each project should be different, adapting to the environment in order to meet the client’s expectations and needs.
How important are public spaces in hotels?
I believe public spaces are one of the most important areas within a hotel. They create a social hub not only for hotel guests, but for the city itself. They are a place of gathering, meeting and discovery. The design of such areas are one of the most important spaces for a designer.
With so many hospitality designers in the industry, how does Wilson Associates stand out from the rest?
Wilson Associates is one of the top global interior design firms in the world. I feel we’re afforded with that reputation because we’re always seeking to reinvent our ideas and approach, open to self-criticism, and the capability to adapt and move forward.
How is the current economic climate affecting the hotel design market? And has Wilson Associates felt the effects?
I actually think the hospitality market is in good health. At this juncture, you see a mass wave of expansion, with many hotel groups looking for new identities and ways to reinvent themselves. In particular, the boutique hotels industry seems to be open to this market. All of these new concepts and ideas are positively affecting the design market and faring well for Wilson Associates.
Being based in Paris, which hotels are you currently working on?
We’re working a handful of iconic hotels throughout Europe including Hotel Scribe, Carlton Cannes, and a new luxury hotel in Florence, Italy. We also have two high-end residential projects in London underway, and a new Waldorf Astoria in China.
What is the biggest thing the company has learnt over its years in the industry?
Being flexible and adaptable is key to success and creating new opportunities.
How would you define your ‘Hotel Style’?
I would like to say I don’t have a specific ‘style’, rather I feel it’s more important to have every hotel adapted to their individual needs. As a designer, your goal is to create a style that tells a visual and compelling story by adjusting to the hotel’s environment and conform to their needs. When you’ve accomplished all of that then it leads to a happy client, which is the ultimate goal for every designer.
What does design mean to you?
Design is here to help us feel good within a certain space or environment and the people that surround us. It’s meant to evoke certain feelings, emotions and interactions within a space.
What do you want in a hotel room?
Personally, I find what I need in a hotel room is serenity and flexibility that adjusts to my needs. I like spaces that feel personal and unique to me for the length of time spent there.
What’s your favourite part of a hotel?
Definitely the hotel bar! It’s one of the main locations within a hotel where you meet new people; a dynamic area that adapts to me as an individual or member of a group.
Have you seen exceptional growth in any part of the world in hotel design?
Yes; in big cities like London and New York, there is a huge capacity for reinvention, which is seen every day. In other cities, such as Dubai, you see an endless possibility for hotel design as there are so many factors to consider when creating a hotel space. I believe locations such as these will continue to develop, reinvent themselves and move the needle within their prospective markets.
What has been your favourite project to date?
I love all of the projects I’ve been fortunate enough to work on, but I would say the renovation of the Hotel de Crillon – a Rosewood hotel in Paris. It’s a well-known landmark and a very historical building in the city. It’s exciting to find the balance between historical preservation and modernisation to create something that feels new yet nods to its history.
What’s next for Wilson Associates?
So much! Wilson Associates has recently partnered with Zaha Hadid Architects; we have opened three new offices and are continuing to grow, offering a variety of new services to our clients that create full and enriching experiences.
Is there anything exciting that you are working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Currently, we are working on the refurbishment of Hotel Scribe and Hotel Carlton Cannes, a French myth at the Côte d’Azur. Both projects are phenomenal and we are excited to be able to help bring back their past glory.
How much time do you dedicate to sourcing products and suppliers for the projects you work on?
Sourcing products and suppliers is certainly a full-time job! That said, I am constantly on alert for new possibilities and inspirations for each individual project.
Do you find it easy to source new suppliers or do you work with existing companies on a long-term basis?
While I am always looking for new ideas in products, I prefer to work with longtime and trusted partners and I work with them on developing new products.
What would be your dream hotel project?
My dream project is always the next one.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
I would love to visit South America, that is definitely on my travel wish list.
Where do you see hotel design in the future?
I think our partners do realise how important design is for hotels. There is a new wave or energy that is moving away from standardised designs. Hotels have elevated themselves, bringing and creating experiences for guests.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
The Amangiri Resort in Utah, Mercer hotel in New York City, The hotel Danieli in Venice.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I have given up trying to find a balance between work and personal life, my kids usually say “Bonjour Monsieur” when I come home at night. Joking apart, I try to have incorporate my family into my work life, showing them my projects and bringing them to the sites. It’s one solution that also allows them to T understand why design is so important to me.