Bismut & Bismut on Designing the Unexpected—from Chairs to Yachts

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Bismut & Bismut design for Hôtel de la Bucherie in France. Photo courtesy of Bismut & Bismut

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June 28, 2022

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Some siblings finish each other’s sentences. French architects and interior designers Daniel and Michel Bismut finish each other’s sketches. As Bismut & Bismut, they’ve designed everything from accessories for Dior to luxury homes. When I toured their space in Paris in spring they were excited about a new chair—their first. “We have been trying to design a chair since we started. This is our new baby,” Michel says.

The C Chair combines wood, metal, and fabric—a nod to their love of mixing texture. The back of the chair has a copper frame, and the wood is inspired by old driftwood. “We like to work with this idea of sharp and clean and then with things that are quiet, old, and warm,” Michel says. They also designed the chair to have three legs instead of the more expected four.

But getting here wasn’t easy. Michel had tried to design his perfect chair for years. “As many architects, we all dream of designing a chair,” he says. “I had designed two chairs for hotels we did in the past, but I wasn’t too happy with the results. They were very banal. They were nothing special.”

It seems the pressure and excitement of having a beautiful new gallery open in Megéve in 2022 was the push he needed, as he remembers thinking, “It’s quite a big space, and we can’t open the space without a chair.”

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Table 2+1, surrounded by C chairs. by Bismut & Bismut. Photo by Francis Amiand

Bismut & Bismut has designed plenty of elegant, interesting furniture over the years—outfitting many high-end hotels, luxury apartments, and even a big shop in Geneva for Cartier recently. “We have so much furniture,” he says, but the missing chair haunted him. Michel got to work sketching and, within a day, had something that excited him. He shared it with his brother Daniel and within 15 days they had a mockup. “We were so happy with the result. It was funny because we’d been trying for years to do a chair, but then in 10 days we made it.”

It may seem simple, but Michel says that’s exactly the challenge. “You just need to sit on it. You need four legs and something to put your back on. The idea is simple, but then it has to be different. This was what we tried to do—something different.”

Depending on the C Chair, the wood is painted a very dark black or kept much lighter in clean oak. Michel loves the way the light reflects on the copper or warms up the fabric.

In general Michel spends his days bouncing from one project to the next. “I can’t spend a whole day on the same project. I don’t know how to do that,” he laughs. “My brother is the same way. We get more ideas like that. If you look at my desk at the moment it’s a mess because there are four projects at the same time.”

He and his brother have always worked together, and virtually every design they put out bears both of their marks. “One of us starts with the sketch, then I go to his desk and grab it and start changing parts,” he says, or vice versa, and back and forth. “In the end we never know who has designed something.”

The C Chair started with Michel sketching when he was out of town. Then he sent it to Daniel for feedback. “We are not twins, but we act a little bit like twins,” he laughs. “It’s kind of weird—we don’t talk a lot together, but he knows what I think and I know what he thinks. We don’t need to talk.” They grew up surrounded by art—their father and grandfather were also artists who worked in furniture.

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The Wizz coffee tables are now part of the Salon Pompadour in the Élysée Palace. Photo courtesy of Bismut & Bismut

Michel says the C Chair design happened at the same time as Bismut & Bismut was working on four houses in Portugal and a yacht (the second Bismut & Bismut-designed yacht).

“Every day is a new day and every day is different,” he says, adding that, altogether, the Bismut & Bismut team is made up of 10 to 12 people. “It’s important for us to have various typologies of projects because we don’t want to get bored. When we work it’s like the day we first started. That makes our work very fun.”

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