A question of balance
Marie Christine Dorner
Marie Christine Dorner likes balanced proportions. Her tables, shelves, beds and chairs for brands such as Ligne Roset, Montis and Zeus all have the feel of architecture on a small scale about them. For the Frenchwoman who says that she finds inspiration everywhere, the main focus is on bundling ideas to form a product without weighing the object down with too much ballast. Uta Abendroth spoke with the interior architect and designer about creating space, the idea of collages, and her new pieces for Ligne Roset.
Uta Abendroth: Many of your furniture designs resemble small-scale architecture. Is that intentional?
Marie Christine Dorner: Yes, most definitely. Architecture constantly inspires me in my work, specifically because for me it is all about balance. In the case of the “Allitération” shelves for Ligne Roset I play with open and closed drawers and vary the depth of the individual shelves, which taper from bottom to top or from left to right. If you initially see the shelves from the right side, then their volume seems to increase visually further to the left, like a wave. And if your gaze wanders over “Allitération” from the bottom upwards, then it tapers towards the ceiling. You can also place two shelves back to back to create a structure that can then be used from two sides. For the “Allégorie” coffee table (likewise for Ligne Roset, editor’s note) the lower panel is slightly larger than the top one. The thin rods between the upper and lower panels rise up in a way similar to pillars between floor and roof, creating a space which in this special case is suitable for magazines, books and other objects.
So the focus is on creating space in the furniture itself?
Marie Christine Dorner: Not just in the furniture, but also with the furniture. I think spatially, ponder what a table or set of shelves can themselves achieve, and what function the object can fulfill in the room. After all, the focus is not just on the product itself, but also on the people who live with it. One should feel at home with furniture. It is simply so close to us, surrounds us all day long. Which is why the colors and materials play such an important role.
But they are also subject to fashion trends …
Marie Christine Dorner: That’s true and I am convinced that the right thing is to have courage when it comes to colors and use them to make a statement. But pride of place goes to quality. In the case of wooden furniture not only the surface should look good, but it needs to be made well beneath the surface, too.
As with the “Episode” bedside table for Ligne Roset?
Marie Christine Dorner: That’s a good example, yes. The walnut is perfectly crafted at all points. And it has to be, as the user sees the table from various angles: You’ll look at it from above, and then again from the side. And from the vantage point of the bed, your eyes will no doubt come to rest on quite different spots. Incidentally, “Episode” also creates space at various levels, as you can place items in/on it at three levels.
This little table seems so completely unlike your other designs for Ligne Roset.
Marie Christine Dorner: Usually my pieces constitute a kind of collection in themselves, but there are repeatedly items that stick out, such as this bedside table. It has to do with the respective brief. I sometimes make suggestions, sometimes Ligne Roset expresses this or that wish along with the briefing – or I get carte blanche to do as I like. I feel it to be a privilege as a designer to work for a longer period of time with one and the same company. To my mind, that continuity is beneficial to both sides as it offers an opportunity to develop together.
How do you approach your designs?
Marie Christine Dorner: I am constantly drawing. Not always something specific, rather, I tend to process everything that has inspired me. The art is to subsequently focus it in a product. After all, you can’t take everything that interests you at a particular moment, that you see or think, and pack it into an object. It’s a real challenge at such a point to make a decision as to what you want and need – and what is best omitted. And sometimes pretty difficult.
Is there anything that has especially influenced you?
Marie Christine Dorner: After graduation I spent a year in Japan and the aesthetic there continues to shape my outlook. And before returning to Paris in 2008, I spent 12 years in Britain, although the influences from that sojourn are nowhere near as strong. There, I was stimulated most by working with students from all over the world (Marie Christine Dorner taught at the Royal College of Art in London, editor’s note). Yes, for me that was also real “learning”.
You are active in the field of interior design, have furnished French embassies, designed bus shelters and tableware, jewelry and luminaires for Cristalleries de Saint-Louis, Baccarat and Bernardaud. What would still really excite you as a new design project?
Marie Christine Dorner: I would really love to design a hotel. In this field, furniture design is becoming ever more important and I would then be able to combine it with my passion for interior design. I have a soft spot for vintage items, like the idea of collaging, of style mixes. Nothing could be worse than a home that looks like a showroom, even if only temporarily.
Marie Christine Dorner prefers furniture that looks like architecture. Photo © Martina Metzner, Stylepark
The shelf „Allitération“ is shaped like a wave and plays with different depths. Photo © Ligne Roset
Rendering of "Alliteration": The boards have different depths already, but they are not curved yet. Photo © MCD
Bronzed aluminum rods connect the laminate top of „Allégorie“ with the aluminum-base. Photo © Ligne Roset
Très francais: The bedside table „Episode“ in walnut with lead-gray finish inside. Photo © Ligne Roset
„Demi-Teintes“: The environment appears in gray or bronze tones, just one section is clear. Photo © Ligne Roset
The coffee table „Un & Deux“ combines three U-shaped elements in different sizes and materials. Photo © Ligne Roset