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Getting a Handle on Design

InspireDesign recently spoke with Marie-Veronique Swannell, founder of Haute Déco, a company specializing in luxury decorative hardware, about her career and the latest trends in doorknobs.

Have you always been passionate about the interiors industry?

My passion for interiors actually predates my interest in the industry: Creating an environment that reflects my sense of elegance, interests and character has always been disproportionally important to me and is what led me to the interiors industry in my twenties. What is equally important to me is that we nurture a specialist savoir-faire in this country, and I am so pleased that Haute Déco was a precursor in this respect, setting-up our production in this country when everyone else was subcontracting to Southeast Asia.

How important are finishing touches added to a room, such as luxury handles?

Finishing touches add character and individuality to a room, so they are fundamental in terms of what a room will feel like, not just look like. Having said that, in my opinion, luxury handles are much more than finishing touches. Visually, they add texture and interest to a room—but, in addition, they are one of the elements of design that one comes into contact with on a daily basis. When the handles are especially beautiful or tactile, there is a sense of pleasure each time a handle is turned or pulled. But you need to have experienced it for yourself to understand how much of a difference it will make.

Do you feel smaller details are often overlooked?

This is one aspect that has changed a lot since we started out: There is a much greater understanding—at least by interior designers—of the potential for smaller details to add personality to a room—and, equally, that cabinet handles can make, or ruin for that matter, a beautiful piece of furniture. But a recurring problem is that choosing handles is often left to the last minute when they actually need to be considered early on in the project.

Tell us about the design of your contemporary handles.

We are unique in the industry in that our handles are fashioned by hand in the design process, giving them a sculptural quality that you cannot achieve with CAD. Another defining factor is getting the detailing just right, as it is so easily overdone. One of the reasons our clients find our handles special has to do with what I call effortless elegance, and I think that may be in part because they are designed by a woman, whereas the rest of the market is primarily dominated by men with a background in hardware.

What determines the design for different projects? Is it important to consider the space and design of the room?

The style of the room absolutely determines the choice of handles as you want them to complement the design scheme. The scale of the room determines what format of handles will work best—but as most of our handles are available in multiple formats that’s not an issue.

What is your design process?

A lot of our work is texture-led and I have a permanent radar for texture and pattern. Generally, I tend not to have a structured design process: Rather, I have sudden flashes of inspiration as to how something I have seen and stored in my mind can be turned into a handle. From that point onward, I will research materials, draw up specifications and get our workshop to produce an initial set of prototypes, which gets fine-tuned.

Do you feel that luxury interiors and luxury design details are becoming more popular?

The current trend is for glamorous interiors with an abundance of luxury materials, which has been described as maximalist interiors. In terms of our handles, we have also seen a shift to the jewelry end of the spectrum, which have the most luxurious feel.