He's designed world-renowned hotels and restaurants, created iconic pieces of furniture (more than a million of his famed acrylic Ghost Chairs have been sold to date), and even conceived a presidential palace, but French design guru Philippe Starck has never sent a single email.
The 68-year-old creative visionary admits that he prefers to keep it old-school: he's been using the same exact notepad and writing instrument for nearly four decades. "I never change my pen, my paper, my friends, my wife, or my bicycle," says Starck. "I'm very loyal. I like to spend my life with the same things."
One could say the same about his roster of clients. Starck's latest project, the just-opened Katsuya restaurant at Baha Mar in the Bahamas, will be the tenth outpost he's designed for the hospitality company SBE. (Other locations of the high-end sushi chain include South Beach, Dubai, and Los Angeles.)
It turns out, his aversion to technology isn't the only fascinating thing about Starck, whose previous design projects have ranged from Steve Jobs' yacht to Le Royal Monceau in Paris. Below, he chats with T&C about his most challenging client, how he'd redesign the Oval Office, and more.
IS IT TRUE YOU DON'T OWN A COMPUTER?
I have no telephone and no computer. I do have an iPad, but I only use it to listen to music.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TYPE OF NOTEBOOK FOR YOUR SKETCHES?
I've been using the same type of pad for 30 or 40 years. It's tracing paper made of plastic because the water in the air can completely destroy it when I travel. A regular piece of paper might be flat in LA, and destroyed by the time I get to Hong Kong.
AND THE PEN?
I've been using the same Japanese pen made by Pentel forever. It was only available in Tokyo. Twenty years ago they stopped making it so I bought all of what was left in production. I still have thousands and thousands of pens.
The Louis ghost chair, Starck’s most recognizable design.
IS THERE ONE INTERIOR DESIGN EXPERIENCE YOU CONSIDER THE MOST CHALLENGING OF YOUR CAREER?
When I was young, I was hired to design the private quarters of Élysée Palace for France's then-president, François Mitterrand. I was 30 years old at the time—and I was a nobody! He was twice my age, and very powerful. When I designed his bedroom, he asked me to make a library for 14,000 books, and I said, "No way! The bedroom is the place to rest and to dream, and if you're in front of books, that will bring you back to the past." He ended up getting his way.
WHAT’S A TELL-TALE SIGN OF BAD TASTE IN YOUR OPINION?
When a space doesn't offer a warm welcoming. You can make the most beautiful place in the world, but if the people who welcome you aren’t friendly and warm, it's the worst.
IF YOU COULD COMPLETELY REDESIGN ONE ROOM IN THE WHITE HOUSE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH IT?
I would not work in the White House right now, for personal reasons. But it would be interesting to design underneath the desk in the Oval Office. I remember this picture of Kennedy with his son hiding under the desk—I’ve always tried to imagine making a quiet place for Kennedy to go for a few minutes alone. To concentrate. It would have really soft upholstery and a good air conditioner.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK STYLE?
I don’t work like an interior designer or like an architect. I work like a movie director, where the customers are the actors. When I'm designing a space, I always imagine everything they see and everything they feel.
WHAT'S THE BEST THING TO ORDER AT KATSUYA?
The Katsuya Fresh. It's the best cocktail in the world. When my wife and I arrive in a city where there's a Katsuya, we always go and order it. We're addicted.
HOW DO YOU CELEBRATE THE COMPLETION OF A BIG PROJECT?
I always cry when a project is finished. I'm always deeply depressed. I think about how I wasn't good enough, or how I was too lazy. I feel bad because I try to make everything perfect, but when it’s finished, you always realize it was not so perfect. I'm very hard on myself.
The Bahamas location will be Katsuya's tenth restaurant.
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.