Art, design, science and technology are intelligently intertwined in Mathieu Lehanneur’s work. A veritable all-rounder whose creativity knows no bounds, he is one of the rare designers to have secured total design freedom by launching his own brand. A quest for the absolute, celebrated by Maison et Objet.
“30 years ago, when Maison&Objet first opened, I was just starting out as a design student. Even before I’d actually designed anything, getting to the trade fair was already my goal, if not my Holy Grail!” – Mathieu Lehanneur
Could French designers be on a quest to create their own iconic object? As a youngster, Mathieu Lehanneur spent many years honing his craft much like a knight of the round table… “30 years later, I’ve achieved precisely what I wanted, even exceeding my expectations,” he exclaims. And 2024 will see him become crowned the Maison et Objet Designer of the Year.
Round, square, oval… His design book may be overflowing with tables, but pre-existing silhouettes certainly don’t feature in his design vocabulary. His Ocean Memories furniture collection captures the relief of waves and currents in marble, leaving them seemingly frozen in time. His S.M.O.K.E. lamp appears to imprison a cloud of smoke in a glass bauble, its curvaceous lines a pure celebration of fleeting transparency. His Deep Time chandelier darts through the air resembling a flash of lightning. Mathieu Lehanneur gleans his inspiration from science and nature, an endless source of magic for anyone capable of taming their charm.
His most iconic object? Mathieu Lehanneur is more interested in creating magic. “In a world that’s overflowing with objects, all the materials used have been around since the dawn of time. I like playing around with them to make them express something slightly different. I want to create magic, but in the real world you need a few little tricks up your sleeve to make the magic happen”.
The designer has consequently surrounded himself with scientists, engineers and artisans to perfect his sleight of hand. An appetite for research is something he discovered very early on. Whilst completing his studies at the French National Institute for Advanced Studies in Industrial Design (Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Création Industrielle – ENSCI-Les Ateliers), his final year thesis focused on therapeutic design, a project now referenced at the MOMA in New York. A few years later, he worked hand-in-hand with Harvard professor David Edwards to design Andrea, an object that uses living plants to purify the air, based on tests carried out by NASA. Today, Mathieu Lehanneur is capable of balancing a one-tonne marble table top on nothing more than a few glass baubles. “It was an extremely precarious idea to begin with. I needed some good fairies to make it happen,” he comments. In this instance, the sprinkling of stardust came from a master glassmaker who agreed to help him with his research. 2024 already looks set to be a big year. Mathieu Lehanneur has just opened La Factory, the design office-workshop from which he designs, experiments, assembles and ships out everything that bears his name. He has designed the Olympic torch for the Paris Olympics. He will be celebrating his 50th birthday and Maison et Objet will be awarding him their highest accolade.