Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec

Aged 41 and 48 years respectively, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec can look back on a career spanning twenty years. From the very beginning they were able to work for prestigious (and picky) companies like Vitra, Magis, Artek, Established & Sons, Cappelini, Hay, Kvadrat, Ligne Roset, Flos, Axor, etc. Simultaneously they kept doing experimental projects for Galerie kreo. The legendary Bouroullec brothers rarely do interviews. Not because they’re snobbish or misanthropic but because they want to preserve their day-to-day routine and focus on what they find most important, which is designing objects. In their small unobtrusive studio in the tenth Arrondissement in Paris we meet Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, of whom the latter does most of the talking.

blue note

‘We only want to do what we love doing: thinking, designing, drawing, photographing in our studio. We realise that we are very lucky and we want to keep it that way. To be quite honest we feel the same about meetings and appointments as about interviews. Fortunately, we have a small team so we are able to spare ourselves most of the ordeal. There’s just the two of us plus some assistants. We never wanted to become leaders of a large corporation. When you have attained fame but want to remain a small and modest studio, you have to limit yourself to the projects you can handle. You have to know what you take on and say no if there is nothing to invent.’ ‘Research in design is very similar to cooking. We look for that wonderful moment when different tastes blend together harmoniously and complement each another. It’s the blue note in jazz; when everything is perfect and there is no need to add anything or make any changes. It is a sensation of fullness, both delicate and surprising, like a very beautiful simple chair in a plain café near a window or a beautifully coloured terrace in the centre of an old town.’

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Ronan Erwan Bouroullec Vase Decoupage 2020 credit photo studio bouroullec
Decoupage vase 2020
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Palissade collection for HAY

letting go

‘Somehow we have come to dislike the word ‘design’ a bit. It has become a hollow adjective. When someone tells you a chair is ‘design’, you have to be very wary’, Ronan laughs. ‘We think objects should be designed in a controlled, intelligent and respectful way. Less is more works in theory, but in reality it is much more complex. Refining is almost too easy and too obvious. Often it’s not a question of control but letting go. We never work according to a system. Sometimes ideas strike like lightning and sometimes it takes years. All in all, every design is a lot of work, even if you can’t tell by looking at it.’


When their drawings came face to face in an exhibition at Galerie kreo last March, it felt not so much like a confrontation between two personalities but rather between two notions of time: the body of work based on a diary of drawings by Ronan versus the concentrated attention Erwan invested in the more technical and theoretical research for a television project. ‘I need to do a hundredthousand projects at the same time and have difficulty containing myself. You can see this ‘bulimic’ side of my personality in my drawings. I have drawn every day since I was ten years old – it’s a need, a necessity. Erwan is more focused on one subject; he can remain concentrated on a technical problem for as long as it takes to solve it. This permits us to overcome complicated projects such as office chairs. Naturally, we have a changing relationship, each of us being at a different stage in life. Erwan is passionate about digital technology at the moment, whereas for me it’s now mostly about urban projects.’

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Rope chair for artek
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‘For a long time and for various reasons – for example because we wanted to produce locally and ethically – the main body of our work was restricted to a small audience. Now, thanks to these urban projects, we are finally able to reach out on the scale of a building or a square. This led us to develop what we call ‘microarchitectures’ to be installed in the street, like the Kiosque in 2015 and the pieces at the palace of Versailles. After the recently inaugurated fountain on Rond Point in Paris, we are now creating public benches for Aarhus, Miami and Poitiers.’


‘The Pinault Collection in Paris, due to open in the spring of 2020, is a building for which we designed and selected everything ourselves, including the urban furniture, the future pedestrian square as well as the signage around it. We started working on it a year and a half ago. François Pinault, a Breton like us, discovered us at our first exhibition at Galerie kreo and wanted to order some custom-made pieces. Erwan was still a student at the time. Despite our precarious financial situation we declined the commission, because we wanted to continue producing series and limited editions. Our aplomb amused him greatly.’

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Wonderglas Alcova
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Nuage vases for Vitra
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Ruuto Vases for iittala


The Bouroullec’s are always looking for craftsmen and industries to realize their products the way they envision them. This can be a small traditional lacquer factory in Japan (Wajima) or a multinational like Samsung. For the Gabriel chandelier that adorns the entrance of the King’s apartments at the Palace of Versailles they worked with Swarovski. For their fountain on the Avenue des Champs Elysées they collaborated with Blam, a small engineering company from Nantes and Les Bronzes d’Industrie from the Lorraine.


‘Among the artisans for the Pinault project, we selected a local company from the north of France specialised in stair carpets for buildings from the Haussman period (the large-scale urban renewal of Paris during the second half of the nineteenth century). And in the museum there will also be a restaurant run by the extraordinary chef-restaurateur Michel Brun. This will be a classic restaurant meeting all the criteria of comfort.’

Ruutu limited edition, Iittala & kreo gallery ­ 2016
Ruutu limited edition, Iittala & kreo gallery ­2016
e 2 casting call bouroullec wonderglass salone 2018


‘A large number of our creations are what we call ‘microarchitectures’. These are modular elements to create a space within space. During our career we have been fortunate enough to experience a profound change in the layout of office spaces: from the traditional plan to modular open spaces. This historical transformation prompted us to think of ways to divide spaces and preserve privacy. We try to infuse space with flexibility but also with poetry, like a natural landscape. When you’re in a meadow, sometimes you want to shelter underneath a tree and sometimes wander around in the open.’


‘We grew up surrounded by nature in Finistère Nord, on the rugged westcoast of Brittany. The environment is exceptional. And yet, during our adolescence it also engendered a deep despair. My drawings are clearly born from this boredom. I still go back there every two or three weeks. I need these landscapes, the sea and the variety of colours. However present they may be in our work, it is not a direct, literal inspiration. What interest us is more a form of elegance and clarity.’


‘Not long ago we read that in the nineteenth century the average family owned two-hundred objects and today the equivalent of that family owns two-thousand objects (not even counting dishes, books and clothing). Everything seems to have exploded. We must start aiming for an ‘intelligence of objects’. We come from a modest background where you do not consume to consume and when you break something you fix it. To us, each object solves a problem. As designers, we think about what makes an object last. We take a lot of care in our choice of materials. We choose them for their durability, for the way they age, their patina. The main ingredient for longevity in a design object is delicacy'.

This interview was published in WOTH issue No15 still available in our shop.