Design Talks with Marieux van den Broek, an interview by Hello Monaco

A home is more than just a collection of furniture and objects. A home tells a story as personal and unique as you are. Some interiors have truly pushed the envelope and seem to have been conjured from the depths of the most creative hearts and minds.

But how do you get a living space plucked straight out of your imagination? How do you get a home complete with tailor-made furniture built to your own measurements or a custom chandelier fit for a fairy tale? By talking to someone like Marieux van den Broek, an interior architect who creates high-end living spaces from start to finish for people all around the world. Marieux van den Broek, originally from the Netherlands, now calls Monaco his home. Using innovative techniques, a keen eye for detail and a large team of international experts, this architect has a knack for manifesting the interior of one’s dreams.

HelloMonaco: You’re a successful designer. You’ve created quite the career for yourself. We imagine you’ve developed your own philosophy as a designer?

Marieux van den Broek: A successful interior architect is something different from a designer. Many architects repeat their own tricks again and again and again. It’s different with me. For me, it is important to do bespoke projects. Bespoke means that I meet clients who can fulfill their dreams with me. It’s not my dream, it’s their dream. For that reason, it is so important that I read the client, that I know not only the standard questions from ‘how many children you have, how old are they, do you like blue or white or red,’ these are basic questions. But the soul of an interior is something which you can only attain when you really reach the soul of the client. When you can translate what the soul of the client is into an interior, then you succeed. The chemistry between us has to include trust. If you don’t have trust, if you don’t feel it, there’s no reason to start this journey, because it takes a long time.

НМ: Have you had a situation when a client comes to you but does not have a clear vision?

Marieux van den Broek: Of course, it’s a journey. You present several projects which you have done in the past. You present colour combinations and materials. Very quickly, you see it in their eyes and in the reaction of people when you are going in the right or wrong direction. I don’t think that, these days, there are clients who go for completely rococo, or completely baroque or any of those styles. My clientele are people of the world, people who travel — like you. You go to Dubai, Singapore, New York. You see all those flavours, you absorb them and that’s the same with me. Another thing that is very important is to have the latest materials to show my clients. We have two people in my company who are solely looking for the newest materials in the market and are going to all the most important exhibitions in the world. So, we have a constant library of all the newest materials. This way we stay ahead and are able to provide our clients with the best and latest materials. Being ahead is extremely important for me. 

НМ: In fashion and interior design, there are trends. Do you always follow the trends? Are you a trendy designer?

Marieux van den Broek: I believe I am, but I do it instinctively without really knowing it. You are a designer, you see something, you absorb it without knowing. You are passing by a shop, or you see someone walking and you say, ‘Wow, that is nice.’ So you absorb all these influences and they are in your head.

But if you look very, very carefully, you can see a connecting line, you can see something recognizable which comes back in my work. You can recognize me because of my detailed quality and my materials. I love Art Deco and there is always a touch of Art Deco in the design. But that’s it. I’m not an interior designer who does ‘copy, paste’.

HM: Can you name three main things in design that are important to you? 

Marieux van den Broek: Harmony in design is important. How do you create harmony? With colour, measurements and materials. People are buying a sofa, a table and a carpet because they think they are nice. Then everything arrives at home and they say, ‘Oh my god, this is too small. I need another table there.’ Or ‘What do I do with this wall?’ Or, ‘My carpet is too short, it’s a beautiful carpet, but I should not have done this.’ Those kinds of problems arise when you do your own decoration without an interior designer.

We do a layout plan, I will show you that the distance between this table and that sofa has to be a minimum of 45 centimeters, so you can, for example, reach a cup of coffee. The height of the table has to be measured exactly to your sofa. It cannot be lower or higher. All these things are important. When you buy a sofa, how tall are you? What is the distance from your knee to the floor? This way you combine beauty with comfort. 

HM: You create almost everything, from furniture, carpets and chandeliers, all from scratch. Does it get very expensive?

Marieux van den Broek: Many people think so. But, if you go to a shop, the shop is making its margin: 100–120 %. With me, you have the factory price plus my margin. Meaning, you can have a made-to-measure sofa for the same amount of money. And it is an exclusive sofa, it really fits in your room. That is an enormous advantage.

HM: Some people don’t understand the difference between a designer and a decorator.

Marieux van den Broek: So, a decorator is someone who has taste — who can give you colour advice, can do your decoration in a certain style and feeling, propose the sofas and chairs and tables and make a beautiful picture. But an architect is starting with the architecture. The difference with us is that we’re not only doing design, we’re doing manufacturing. We do the technical design of each piece of furniture. We are inventing. A table can look very simple, but it has to be designed. How do you make a structure that’s balanced? All of this is very important to consider before you produce. Then the technical design goes to the factory, the factory looks at it and says, ‘Ok, we’ll go this way.’ When we do a sofa, for instance, we do pre-seating which we give to the client and ask if they feel comfortable with it. Because maybe they need eight or ten of those sofas in their house, so it’s very important.

HM: In this case you must have trusted suppliers and contractors who work with you. Am I right?

Marieux van den Broek: We are working in five or six different countries. This company is only for upholstery, that company is only for metal works, that company is only for lighting, that company is only for glassworks. All these companies have been working with me for a long time. We are the managing director for the full work, we are constantly travelling to check the full process and we do the technical design before it goes into production.

HM: Does the complexity of the project depend on the budget? 

Marieux van den Broek: No, I can do the same design for two prices. Or even three different prices. I can show you, for example, doors with mother-of-pearl inlay in beautifully 3D sculpted wood. But the same design, I can do in high-gloss lacquer and the wood is not sculpted, it’s in two or three different colours. You have the same door, same design, but different prices. If you have many doors, you have an enormous difference in price. So that is what you play with. The design is the first and most important thing. We do the design first; if the design is not right, not to their liking, we do it again and again. A client can change the details of our design three times without cost. ‘No, I don’t like that bar,’ ‘Ok, how about the shape or the colour?’ ‘I want to have more space.’ ‘Ok’.

Up to three times. When that’s done, we show them our material choices, what we think it should be and then the clients say yes or no. Then we do the pricing.

HM: What about timing?

Marieux van den Broek: Our projects mostly finish on time. I can only make money when I fulfill my projects within the time schedule I promised. Otherwise, I lose. The factories we work with finish at a certain moment and then we have to start our installation at a specific time. If I am not ready to make it happen, then I will lose money. Of course, there are some hiccups during the whole process. But if you are just a designer and you have to find the suppliers, the contractor, the electrician, the plumber and the wallpapering and this and that, you step onto a battlefield of stress. We are extremely tough and everyone who is working with us has to sign and commit. Because doing international projects is extremely difficult, we have to do a lot of planning upfront and have an enormous amount of know-how. Without it, you would never succeed. I’ve never experienced a big delay. Maybe a week or two weeks. But never something major that was caused by our company.

HM: What was your most challenging project and why?

Marieux van den Broek: My next one! Now I have my full orchestra of professional staff, I am able to rise to any challenge. 

HM: So, you like challenges.

Marieux van den Broek: Yes, I like them. Without a challenge, it doesn’t work.

HM: Which project are you the most proud of?

Marieux van den Broek: The project I’m currently working on. It’s an enormous, beautiful project in Qatar, on an island. We’ll do the full interior of the villa. It’s a very modern villa and it’s completely round. It’s very interesting to do an interior like that because I like waves, I think the feminine part of design is nice, the shapes, the curves.

HM: If you had an unlimited budget, what would you do? What would be the project of your dreams?

Marieux van den Broek: A resort in Paradise. A resort for me is a relaxing place. Meaning: a hotel, villas where everything reminds you to relax in one harmonious and fantastic atmosphere. Constant surprises and gardens, pools, water features, walkways, nature. And then of course, the buildings, when you come in, you feel, ‘Wow’. To create is such a joy for me, it gives me wings. If you can combine this into a living resort, that would be my dream. Maybe one day.

HM: Is there a city, object or artist that has really inspired you?

Marieux van den Broek: When you are a designer, you have to embrace things. Each city has a flavour, has a taste, a smell. I cannot tell you which is my favourite. Perhaps, Barcelona, Gaudi. He was a master of art. What he did is amazing. And so it it is inspiring to walk through those streets and feel that atmosphere. Because beauty is evolution. Evolution is not about copying, evolution is about learning. And that learning process is a journey within your life. All the experiences you’ve had in your life go into your work and you say, ‘This is my creation.’ But it’s not just your creation, it’s the creation of your experiences.

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