TASMINE BY FATEM is a Canadian interior designer of Moroccan origin who began her career in modelling before moving into interior design after training as a designer in Canada and learning how to use design software in Dubai. She creates apartments and villas in France, Dubai and London. Over the years, TASMINE BY FATEM has specialized in high-end materials and now integrates new technologies for home automation, the Internet of Things, and innovative materials such as electroluminescent windows, in her work.
Interview by Farouk CHEKOUFI
Who are you / How did you get into interior decoration?
I began my professional career in modelling at the start of the 90s and I have to say, I have always been drawn to haute couture, jewellery…in short, beautiful materials – and I wanted to develop in luxurious interiors decorated with taste, without being ostentatious, places that I had visited often as a model.
The first apartment that I did up to my own taste is the first that I bought. It gave me the opportunity to express my personality and I think it marks the start of my career as an interior designer.
I was actually surprised to notice that my friends and family, as well as models I had worked with at the time, liked my interior design and the vibe I was trying to create. My relatives started to ask my opinion or to see to their interior design – I liked being asked but it was just casual work.
Once settled in Canada, I decided to go back to school, to university, and learn my trade as an interior designer. I enriched my knowledge of colouring, materials, design architecture … and from my first lessons I knew that I was in my element.
University allowed me to discover the history of interior design over time and so to better understand how styles developed. I was also lucky to be able to immerse myself in cultures which were different to mine, which you can see later in my work.
There is still an element that cannot be learned in class and which I think is the key to success of a designer: creation.
What job do you want to do when you are older?
I would love to see my creations recognized by the general public for their style and simplicity. I would also like to be able to demonstrate my talents in more public establishments such as hotels, luxury stores: jewellery, great fashion designers. And finally, I’m interested in a partnership with an internationally-recognized furniture designer.
Which project are you most proud of?
I am proud of all my projects just as they are, and if I had to choose one, it would be working on a 500m2 villa in Morocco. This project gave me the opportunity to express the full range of my talents, both in terms of interior and exterior design, with a hands-off approach from the owners. I was also able to have fun with my choice of lights, one in particular was more than 7 metres in height, made entirely of crystal.
The feeling of pride usually comes the moment the owners see the place after more than nine months of work, and when words are not enough to express their delight when taking possession of their new living space.
How do you get an overview?
Before accepting a project, I first take the time to listen to customers talk about their memories regarding ambience, their expectations, their styles, if they can define their way of life. I also try to better understand their origin to get a better idea of their culture. Finally, I ask them to trust me in my choice of materials, furniture and their position. Once this confidence contract is established and accepted, I begin a long period of research, working particularly with experts in Zen culture and Fengshui … who help me check the harmony of colours, their effects and also the best position for the furniture.
Once I am satisfied, I move on to the sketch phase for each room. Of course, I use 3DMAX and AutoCAD but only at the end of the process, as it makes it easier to work with companies who are going to carry out the work which I will supervise.
With the appearance and popularisation of 3D printers, I now also make models, which allows customers to better understand the different spaces, the arrangement of the furniture, the volume, the flow … The final choice of materials is given the green light “IN VIVO” in the future place of residence in the client’s presence, for preliminary approval.
In order to leave each of the parties to integrate the work that will be carried out and allow time to make corrections, I actually begin work that 3-4 weeks after the client gives their preliminary approval.
What is most like me in the apartment?
My apartments all reflect my personality and style at the time I complete them. For example, in the Paris apartment, my favourite room is the master bathroom, in which I had a Turkish bath built covered in tiles made entirely of crystal, complemented by soft lighting which gives a gorgeous effect with the steam from the bath. The room itself was tiled with plates of glass embedded with silver and gold leaves. The furniture is very pared down with white stone elements alongside black furniture. The aura from this room makes you want to spend time there resting and relaxing.
What is your favorite décor item?
I love looking for rare pieces to complete my designs, and one of my favourites is the collection of French artist, Fred Allard. His latest creation, ‘Bag’, is to die for; my favourite piece is the Chanel bag with red roses, this piece is part of a limited series of fifty pieces.
Furniture that you have bargain-hunted for yourself?
My leitmotif is to make your interior unique and, to do that, I spend a lot of time searching for original furniture and more often made as a single copy. The latest one which comes to mind is a manuscript copy of the Koran dating from the 18th century, discovered at an antique shop in Tunis. For this Koran, I made a distressed mount from gold leaf, topped with a bespoke glass cube, highlighting and protecting it at the same time.
Has the decoration of your apartment changed a lot?
Obviously, the more years that pass, the more my taste evolves, and over the last ten years I have moved country many times, and so have had the opportunity to move to different apartments, from the classic Parisian Haussmanian apartment, to a London loft. Clearly, my interior design has adapted to fit the location and has developed over time: it is more stripped back, more Spartan incorporating more artworks such as paintings, sculptures …In terms of materials, I now tend to consider more noble materials like oak and teak as well as white marble. In the last few years, I have also added some wallpapers from designers such as Christian Lacroix, Versace …
Is it the furniture that inspires you or the materials from which they are made?
The essential thing, as far as I see it, is the coherence of the design in a given place. Therefore, thinking about materials and furniture is a two-way process until you find the perfect balance.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I am mainly inspired by my travels and staying in hotels. I also take the time to visit factories producing printed fabrics just in case an idea comes to me later. Contemporary furniture, as well as the furniture I see in some antique shops, also plays a part in my creations. And finally, mainly listening to my customers and observing an object that is particularly important to them and which can become the centrepiece of a design.
What is the key word in designing a villa or hotel?
The exception …
Nowadays, does new technology play a part in your design?
Of course, new technologies are an integral part of the components I suggest: home automation, the Internet of Things, innovative materials such as electroluminescent windows … This depends mainly on the client, their budget, and their desire for such innovations. For my part, I see these components as facilitating daily life, and I tend to include them systematically in my projects. However, before proposing them, I test them myself to ensure they are quality products which are easy to use.
What is your design advice?
My advice, very simply, would be to first design the entire project on paper by testing different configurations of materials before launching into any work.
How do you work with colour?
When choosing colours, I focus firstly on the location of the property and I take the time to observe how light changes throughout the day and part of the night. Once I have an idea of the daily shades and tones, I pre-select the different materials which could match the ambience desired by the customer and, for several days and nights, I observe how light reflects on these materials. Once I am sure, I ask the client if they would like to come and observe before making the final choice. The choice of colours is also a key matter in the evening and for that I work in close collaboration with Parisian and Italian luminarists.
Any tips for young designers starting out?
My main advice is to never copy a layout or design.
Has your interior design style evolved over time?
Clearly, my style in interior design has changed over time and for several reasons: maturity, choice of materials and also the nature of my clients. This maturity has become evident through a more stripped back, harmonious style and with a strong signature in terms of ambience, and the ability to combine uniqueness with mixed cultures.
Materials which are simpler to work with, are more accessible, and which enable new techniques to be incorporated for full customer satisfaction. As time goes on, I work only with noble materials such as marble, glass, semi-precious stones …
And finally, my clients, whose tastes, expectations and awareness of their interior have also evolved. In conclusion, this job constantly forces us to renew ourselves and that’s what makes it fun on a daily basis.
Tell us about your iconic creations?
During one of my visits to London, I had the opportunity to meet, at a dinner, a French businesswoman who works in the City – a predominantly male environment. We got on well, one thing led to another and I told her about my projects. She was very interested and asked me to create pieces for her which highlighted her femininity. On visiting her apartment, I discovered that, like me, she loved designer shoes and bags.
After thinking it over, I proposed showcasing her objects as if they were works of art, exhibits, so I created glass tables and cubes to display her shoes and bags. These pieces were designed and shaped with glassblowers and, for me, remain an iconic creation, an ode to feminine beauty.
How would you define the Parisian way of life?
Paris, city of light
Paris, city of elegance
Paris, city of savoir-vivre
Nothing could be truer. This city, which I live in for part of the year, remains for me a haven of peace and rest where time is relative.
Whilst facing the future by creating new spaces like Batignolles, the Great Paris is also proudly anchored in its past, notably with its Haussmanian boulevards, its bridges, such as Pont Neuf, the Pont des Arts and Pont Alexandre III, and its great hotels, especially The Peninsula, Le Royal Monceau and George V.I will also add Parisian gourmet cuisine as being synonymous with creation or even a work of art.
In conclusion, you will have understood that, for me, Paris is a very important city that openly inspires me.
In what way is your work bespoke?
Each project is an opportunity to start with a blank page. I never show photos of my past projects to new clients, to avoid any temptation to copy them, even partially. I’m always trying to update my creations whilst at the same time keeping my signature, namely the eclectism, the periods and the ambiance. I don’t hesitate to break down walls, build partitions, in short, rethink living spaces, all of which is part of creating something unique.
Aside from living spaces, I also design and make bespoke furniture which means there is little interest in replicas to put in other apartments. In any case, the day I start copying my own creations it will be time to stop working!
How can we highlight one of your creations?
My creations are naturally showcased by my clients when they take possession of the premises. The magic starts with the breath of life it gives to my creation, and the whole thing is set in motion, like an orchestra playing its score.
What will the trends in interior design and furniture be in 2018?
Curry yellow is gaining ground in interior design – this shade of yellow has a quality that suggests a cocooning ambiance. Soft armchairs with high corners will be on trend again in 2018. The screen is making its comeback, performing a remarkable return, and continues to pose in the bedroom or lounge, dividing up the room or simply embellishing it.
Velvet, which has always been fashionable, continues to make us happy, as a chair or sofa covering amongst other things. I’ve always thought that velvet brings abundant style and comfort to an interior.
How would you define your work and your signature?
My signature is synonymous with simplicity and excellence! I am a perfectionist and I don’t hesitate to go start again at my own expense if necessary, until the work matches the initial desire, down to the smallest detail. Added to this is also a touch, that we find in all my creations, namely dressing sections of wall with designer wallpaper.
Do you consider yourself as an artist, decorator or designer?
I consider myself as all three at the same time, however I continue to learn.
Your colour, your fabric, your Stone, your metal, your ultimate star, your book, your dish, your city, your fashion designer, your perfume?
Star: Monica Belluci
Book: The Secret
Designer: Olivier Rousteing for Balmain
Perfum: By Kilian
Are you inspired by these trends?
I am inspired by these trends
Have you noticed a change in the world of design and furniture since you started out?
Of course, I have seen a change. Before we didn’t dare to mix styles in the same room, we didn’t dare use colour, we overloaded spaces and we didn’t give enough importance to lighting.
Today, customers are more open to a mixture of styles, are more demanding in terms of colour schemes and ambient lighting, and also more open to new ideas.