Taking over the Studio Putman after her iconic mother Andrée Putman could have felt intimidating to many. To Olivia, born and raised in design, it seemed the obvious thing to do. She says, “As a child, Andrées’s education of me was a silent training. More than anything, she passed on to me her rigour and her love for hard work.” The family context with mother a designer, father an art collector, editor and critic, created an environment where she met fascinating figures from the fashion and art scenes, including one of her best friends, Christian Louboutin.
It must have helped too that before becoming head of Studio Putman, she trod many other paths. After a degree in Art History at the Sorbonne, she shared her time between Paris and New York where she became the Ivorian painter Ouattara Watts’ agent, before settling in Paris in 1990 and working for the association Usines Ephémères. She then went into landscaping, working with names like Jean Pierre Ganem and Louis Benech (the latter on the layout of the Tuileries Gardens). Joining the Studio as its art director in 2007, she immersed herself in the team’s multiple projects and took steps to expand the company’s scope. “To keep alive Andrée’s spirit, her singular approach to design, her original understanding of spaces and objects, their meaning and use – while establishing my own identity and touch – was a true challenge.” Studio Putman’s restrained and elegant style is written on major projects such as Le Rivage Hotel in Hong-Kong, the Sofitel Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Hotel Can Faustino in Menorca plus restaurants, scenographies for events and exhibitions, and commercial spaces in Tokyo, New York and London. Design remains important in the company’s field of expertise with the creation of objects and lamps for prestigious brands such as Lalique, Christofle, Nina Ricci, Nespresso, furniture for editors such as Silvera, Fermob, Ralph Pucci, Serralunga, and a textile collection for Pierre Frey.
Would you say design runs in your bloodstream?
My childhood was naturally cultural as my father was a collector of modern art. I had the chance to meet artists at home, listening to their conversation and admiring their freedom. My parents encouraged my curiosity. Andrée was, from the beginning, a ‘different’ mother in the sense she brought me to her professional meetings. When I was young, I used to spend my holidays on a couch at the Morgans Hotel. I saw Andrée work and exchanged points of view with her. Design is part of my DNA.
An important step in your career was landscape designing. What did that chapter bring to your vision as an interior designer?
Studio Putman is the third chapter of my career. After school I curated exhibitions and joined the association Usines Ephémères where we helped to convert old factories into artist studios. After five years, I became a landscape designer. My gardens taught me how to play with space, light and geometry but also with the different colours and materials nature and plants offer you.
How does one live up style wise to a legendary figure such as Andrée Putman?
Andrée achieved a remarkable body of work that is both timeless and beyond fashion. Most of the pressures came from myself as I wondered if I would be able to make it. For years, Andrée had been waiting for me but I needed to follow my own path before coming to her. Times have changed since Andrée opened the Studio in Paris. We have new approaches due to our attention to new technologies, including a special care for the environment. For example, Andrée worked a lot with lighting but never has the opportunity to work with LEDs.
Define Studio Putman’s style in design and interior architecture.
The Putman style is like an alphabet that enables me to create my own words. It is very diverse, free and generous. There’s no diktat, except not to use too many colours. We try to be close to what people want today and anticipate what they will be looking for tomorrow.
From coffee cups to the textiles, via hotels and scenographies, Studio Putman ranges widely. Does this make the Studio’s signature unique?
We have the chance of working on many different projects that make every day a new challenge and give us the opportunity to surpass ourselves. We are now finishing a yacht in Italy, an airline lounge in Santiago de Chile. I am also designing a new furniture collection for a presentation in Hong Kong, in May. I like to suit different kinds of people from teenagers to the classic bourgeois couple.
What do you like designing most of all?
I like to explore every part of a home but the bathroom is always a fulfilling challenge. I consider the bathroom as a place of rest. Keeping and extra place for your body and mind is a positive sign. We need more and more moments to be quiet and the bathroom is the only place you can lock yourself away in! Nice details are very important. I will soon be showing a new range of taps and accessories for THG. I also like to explore modularity, the way you can hide – or not – a room or a function. For example, I am not fond of an open kitchen but when it disappears behind a sliding door for a formal dinner or opened for a family and friends gathering, there is nothing nicer and warmer.
You favour no-colour atmospheres. Why is that so?
The main reason is that I like colour to come from personal items, like art pieces, books and flowers. My idea is to provide a very calm atmosphere that welcomes touches of colour.
What object/piece of furniture would you like to design above all?
I would love to imagine something that would accompany people in everyday life and bring joy whenever you use it.