We fell in hopelessly in love with L’Atelier d’exercices’s intriguing products, featured today on Fab, as soon as they entered the office. Meredith Spencer investigates the vision behind this intriguing brand.
Je ne sais quoi. For those of us rusty on high school French, it literally means “I don’t know what.” Figuratively, it’s a way of describing a mysterious quality that is as alluring as it’s impossible to describe in words. And, yes, it’s something fancy people (and everyone who works in fashion) say to sound fancy. We roll our eyes at it too. But sometimes it’s totally apt. Like when it comes to the collection of L’Atelier d’exercices—which has been stopping foot traffic in the office on a regular basis.
Though only three years old, the Paris-based company draws on multiple generations of experience. It was founded by the Richard family, a creative lot with backgrounds in architecture, art, and industrial design, plus decades of experience in product design and development from the other family business: L’Atelier du Vin. Yup. That’s right, wine accessories. C’est si bon.
With a design studio based in Paris and manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics facilities just a short distance north in Picardie, L’Atelier d’exercices is French through and through. In addition to their own projects, the Richards collaborate with designers from all over the globe.
We exchanged some transatlantic communication with Georges Richard from Paris to learn more about the Gallic home goods that have captivated us.
Can you tell us about your design philosophy?
We freely juxtapose everyday products with a use value with “unnecessary products”. Those that are essential to our daily life thanks to their poetry,
their appearance, and their provocative nature. All are designed with care and manufactured with the right materials. We produce limited editions—or according to designers’ wishes—unique handmade pieces.
The studio’s housewares are divided into exercises in memory, exercises in collection, exercises in measure and so on. Can you explain the concept behind this thematic organization?
The ordinary user, the simple DIYer or someone who is a true new product seeker—we all exercise methods to improve adapt and modify our surroundings. The exploration of such new paths (even if they should be modest ones) always begins with many tries and attempts.
Introducing a thematic structure shows our vision through the angle of several human pastimes. To us, the formulation allows the following benefits:
§ To gather new projects with an analogy between them, speaking to the user or raising questions.
§ To outline cross-disciplinary fields through traditional product segmentation like: kitchen, tabletop, office, artistic products, toys and so forth.
§ To give the designers the freedom to interpret the meaning—literally or figuratively—of the design categories. “Measure Exercises” could, for instance, be understood as actual measurements or as pure intellectual assessments.
§ To explore and nourish these themes as much as the designers (or ourselves as designers).
What qualities do you look for in a collaborator? Can you explain the process of working together with a designer on a new object?
Whatever the size and the nature of a project, the key factor is the sincerity of the designer toward her or his proposal. Asking “What does this project add in its category to a user’s life?” Also, without being naïve and when it applies: what are her/his thoughts about the manufacturing process—from labor rules to environment friendly materials.
At our in-house design studio, we bring a special attention to the first drawings, sketches, words, crossing-outs, and modifications. They seem to be the very essence of a new idea spark. Capturing and storing these first design
exercises is one of our major rules. Having the ability to return to them—with outside designers and their first proposals as well—whenever we need, is important to the product development process.
Do you have any on your desk at the moment?
As designers ourselves, we’re intimate with each new project from its inception. We live in the middle of our paper and wood models. We’re lucky to use three different workshops: our Paris design studio, our factory, and our Champagne country home. And, naturally, our family living places are filled with our products (frequently at prototype stages), where we shoot most of them of them for illustrating our catalogues and shops.
What’s in the future for the company?
Even if L’ Atelier d’exercices life is still too short to show it, our team aims to contribute—at its level—to larger issues like renewable energy, sustainable development, society wellness, and innovation.
Bid adieu to boring household items and explore L’Atelier d’exercices collection today on Fab.