Over the past decade, Parisian interior designer, Joseph Dirand, has emerged as one of the titans of the interior design industry. Coveted by all and sundry, from Kanye West to Balenciaga, Dirand’s unique aesthetic has redefined Minimalism for the modern age.
Dirand’s introduction to the world of design began at an early age. His late father, Jacques Dirand, was a highly successful photographer specialising in architecture and interior design (notably working for The World Of Interiors). As a child he would often accompany his father on work trips and beside him, learnt not only to appreciate, but truly understand the deft, balancing act played between the structure of a building and the context of its interiors.
The impact of spending his formative years surrounded by design masters such as Le Corbusier, Scarpa and Mies Van Der Rohe was profound and ignited a passion for architecture that remains to this day. He procured his first Jean Prouve chair at the tender age of 17 and even recalls writing a book on Le Corbusier at only 13. Today, the principle of form following function, championed by his design heroes, is still very much evident in Dirand’s process.
Throughout his undergraduate years, which took place at both the Paris La Seine and Paris Belle-ville, Dirand undertook various design projects for friends of the family. These experiences, all interior design based, as opposed to architecture, provided the perfect complement to his academic studies. Following several successful commissions, including the interiors of Japanese fashion designer Junko Shimada’s Parisian store as well as his own apartment which featured in the French edition ofElle Decoration, Dirand established his own studio upon graduating in 1999.
At the start of his career, Dirand’s predilection for Modernism was clear and drew parallels to designers such as John Pawson and David Chipperfield. His neutral palette of black and white became his signature. However, over the years his style has evolved in line with the focus of his projects which are increasingly commercial, he has begun to introduce softer, more subtle hues. His ability to marry the two disciplines is rare in this industry and provides him with an almost intuitive understanding of the necessary and the superfluous.
His design process has also been subject to a significant revision. At the beginning he would start by imagining “the blank white page—I had to start there.” Now, it is very different: all Dirand’s designs begin with references from movie scenes, books and other iconic designers. With each new project, Dirand will first turn to his own bookshelf for inspiration. He explains that this method allows him to form a narrative, a term that he often uses to define his style.
It is unsurprising that with Dirand’s ability to create spaces rich in context and narrative has attracted the attention of many within the world of fashion. Indeed, there is an obvious overlap with these complimentary disciplines: each season’s collection seeks to demonstrate a story told through the medium of a ‘house style’. Accordingly, he has earned devotion from a discerning clientele, including fashion houses like Chloé, Balmain, and Emilio Pucci.
Alongside designing flagship stores for these fashion houses, Dirand continues to explore new projects. In 2015 he introduced a nine-piece furniture collection. The series pays homage to the early-20th-century icons whose work he collects and helped shape his design philosophy. “This is an homage to my heroes, masters like Carlo Scarpa and Alvar Aalto.” His personal style is evident in the neutral palette, but this is softened by the materials. In particular, his monolithic desk has been sculpted in smoked burled elm. “The wood has a lot of movement,” Dirand says. “There’s something magical about it—it seems like a living material.” He added further designs to the collection in 2017.
In a career spanning almost 20 years, Dirand has built up an enviable (and growing) global portfolio. From restaurants and boutiques to hotels and yachts, his inimitable aesthetic has become the standard by which others will be judged.