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Listen to the conversation between Rosanna and Maxime Boutillier.

Maxime Boutillier designs objects that have an architectural sense of weight and permanence -both pleasingly solid yet perfectly modern. Founded in 2020, Boutillier established his eponymous Paris-based design studio in order to give form to the ideas that he most “needed to express.”

A student of the prestigious Penninghen School, Boutillier studied Interior Architecture, which continues to inform his work as a designer: “Some of my pieces could be qualified as sculptural or even architectural. I used to love architect-designed objects and furniture – Pierre Charot, Le Corbusier, Jean Prové – and my vision as an Interior Architect may still influence my creativity as a designer.”

Boutillier’s palette is that of the sculptor – working in stone, wood and metal – natural materials that have a tactile charm and a unique atmospheric quality. “A token of quality and durability,” Boutillier’s use of solid organic materials conjures feelings of stability and permanence, which are further amplified by the unwavering quality of their craftsmanship: “Each piece is carried out by traditional craftsmen with traditional know-how, which may also help explain the feeling of solidity in my work.”

An ode to materiality, Boutillier’s designs often feature a single material; a slab of stone or a block of wood, which holds an enormous amount of information, both sensory and visual, geological and historical. Sculpted into clean yet complex shapes, each object is an exploration of the material’s characteristics and qualities – a chance to discover its depths. Drawn to these materials for their idiosyncrasies, Boutillier enjoys the subtle variations and markings, which he “considers to be part of the design.”

Working alone and without compromise, Boutillier develops his designs on paper. “The creative part [of the design process] is something I do not share, each piece is designed entirely by myself – but, at different moments during the process I will exchange with craftsmen to discuss the materials, finishes and technical processes in order to give each piece the highest level of materiality.” Each object achieves technical perfection, and so the viewer can meditate on the finer details: the way the forms interact, the crispness of an edge, the subtle changes in texture and tone,.

Boutillier designs bases and supports flare out, becoming broader, more abundant and weighty as they make contact with the ground; a recurring silhouette, the designer cites his formal training as a continued influence on his work: “Maybe it’s because I studied architecture, where one of the essential characteristics of a building is that the base is necessarily wider than the top, due to the natural forces of weight and gravity.” There is a certain comfort in these forms, and Boutillier is able to approach the heavy, the robust and the sturdy with an innate lightness-of-touch.

“It’s a constant balance between harmony and opposition”

Boutillier’s first collections – a series of chairs and stools titled ‘Iliade’ and tables named ‘Odyssée’ – feature asymmetrical wooden supports that taper and flare, adding a sense of movement to their hearty proportions. Sitting outside the boundary of the object itself, the solid wooden legs do not support the seat or table top from underneath, instead they surround the surface, pressing up against its edges, trying to keep it afloat in a perpetual balancing act.

The Trèfle collection is an abstraction of its namesake – the ‘trèfle’ or clover leaf. The gently curved silhouette of the clover leaf is translated into solid stone, its peaks and troughs forming a wonderfully wavy base. Made in cream-coloured travertine with subtle striations in milky white and pale greys, the purity and simplicity of the design directs focus onto the material itself. Shape and material are deeply connected, with each element amplifying the other: the undulating base of the Trèfle mirrors the markings in the travertine, as well as bringing lightness and joy to the decadence and weight of the stone.

“Designing a piece of furniture is seeking – through form, shape and material – the very essence of an object”

Typically, Boutillier’s concepts start as a drawing, and the design finds its physical form later in the process – however, his Nugère collection was designed in reverse: “Stone carvers came to me to suggest a type of black volcanic stone. This material comes from an extinct volcano in the centre of France – [and so] there is a great history behind it.” Sculptural, architectural, monolithic – the Nugère series of tables have a powerful presence thanks to their weighty design and solid form, which feature, “an inverted cupola shape inspired by the volcano’s crater.” The matt black surfaces reflect and absorb light, subtly describing the different planes and accentuating its sharp angles and rounded forms : “[the black lava stone] is something very powerful, almost like an artwork.”

A striking example of minimal design, each element of the Sérénade collection is considered, and every detail is artful. The almond-shaped bases are crafted in Chauvigny stone – a pure, flat white material that has an appealingly matt texture. Chalky and unreflective, the material qualities of this particular type of stone helps to describe the duality of the elliptical form – both broad and expansive, yet pointed and angular. “What is interesting about this shape is that it creates optical games … it is a play on the idea of the vacuum and the solid.”

Working in a single material, Boutillier plays with contrasting textures, offering two very different finishes on the same object – “the opposition of finish between the feet and the top.” The vertical surfaces of the Sérénade, its base and sides, have a rough textured finish that is similar to weather-beaten cliffs or raw concrete – whilst the upper surfaces have a smooth, honed finish. A crisp, clean bevelled edge offers an elegant transition from one texture to the other, bringing together the rough and the smooth in a defined yet harmonious manner.

Designed in distinct and individual collections, Boutillier’s work is nonetheless driven by a singular vision of beauty, purity and design: “Each collection has its own shape, size and materials – but behind each there is a common sense of proportion and a certain idea of elegance.” Combining pure materials with monumental architectural forms, Maxime Boutillier’s vision is, “resolutely modern yet still conscious of the past.”

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