Years after working for other companies, furniture designer Marina from Brussels decided to start her own brand called BAUTIER, selling a furniture collection that is all about quality, practicality and simplicity. We talked in her beautiful spacious and bright studio on a very sunny day.
Janis: Please tell me about your career.
Marina: For a little over ten years now I work as a designer, mainly designing furniture for other companies. Almost a year ago I've launched my own furniture label BAUTIER, where I do the product from beginning to end, to the final client.
What were your biggest influences to start BAUTIER?
There are several things that made me want to start my brand, but one first came up when I visited SWEDESE in 2009, a company I've worked with in Sweden. When I was there, they gave me the book about the founder of SWEDESE and it was totally inspiring! He was working on everything: designing the furniture, designing the logo, the catalogues, even the building of the company. So that's when the first thoughts came up, but just as an abstract idea. And then slowly – I continued working for other brands – this idea was growing and growing.
I liked the idea to work on the whole project, from conception to production. Also to create a collection, not just a single product for one brand and then a different one for another brand, but to have a complete range that reflects more the atmosphere that I like to design and to have more freedom in the way to design, having my own brand.
What was the most difficult thing to manage in the beginning?
Mostly the production: to find the right manufacturer for the products, the right place. So I ended up a bit by chance finding the people I'm working with now, which are just outside of Brussels. I wanted to be able to check on all the details – that way this is possible.
How often do you communicate?
On regular bases, when we did the prototypes. But once they started the production, they were kind of running and doing it.
Where does the wood you use for this collection come from?
Mainly from north of France, or south of Belgium. That's where the oak that you get here usually comes from.
Do the producers supply the wood, or do you choose it?
They work with their suppliers, but I choose it with them.
How would you say you benefit from producing locally and fairly?
Cost-wise it's obviously more expensive, than it would be, being made in Eastern Europe for example. But then, with my structure - I work by myself - it actually wouldn't be cheaper to produce further away. The trip to go over there and check the production would actually increase the cost for a small scale production.
Are you careful with what you shop yourself?
Yes, mostly I am. I'd say it's not so strongly an ethical question, or maybe sometimes it is, but it is also that I like nice things and they tend to be more locally made.
Do you have a working schedule to strictly separate personal and working life?
Oh yes – I work Monday to Friday from around nine to five more or less.
And could you say: this amount of time you spend working for BAUTIER and this amount working for other projects?
This really depends on times. For the past year I've almost only worked for BAUTIER. Now I'm developing a new project for IDÉE, so I will be busy for the coming months mainly working for them. I try to focus on my brand now that I started - that's where I want to put in most of my time and energy.
What do you wish to have more time for?
At the moment I feel I need more time for creative work. In the future I probably have someone that takes care of the sales and the managing part.
How does it pay off having a local shop besides your online shop?
When I started thinking about my own label I had the idea of an online shop, because I had no other possibilities really. But then I moved studios and found this place, that allows me to have a shop – which is more a showroom than a shop, because I'm not in a commercial area at all. So people that come here are people who know my products. But I'm really glad I have that place! People get to see the furniture in real. My online shop is more an online catalogue at the moment, but still I do get requests through it – I couldn't really say if I have more sales online, or in the shop. But for me it's really important to have the physical shop.
So most of your customers are from Brussels or around Brussels?
From Belgium I'd say, but then well – no, online there are customers that actually haven't even seen the products in real. I probably have the same amount of sales in Belgium than to the rest of the world.
How would you describe your typical customer?
I'd say they are definitely people who care about the product they buy. They take time to decide. Many orders that I've had, are from people that actually emailed first six months before they then order the piece.
What would you say is unique about your products?
Probably the simplicity. In a way I'm not looking for making unique pieces - that they would be special or stand out in your place. What I like is that they blend into your interior and that they can fit with any other type of furniture. I care for the quality of the product: to last, to dismantle and reassemble if needed as many times you want, without the product getting damaged.
It's the bed. Probably because it's not something you find anywhere else.
Two last questions: What are your favourite places close by?
BAR DU MATIN is where I often go and BUFFET DE L'HOTEL DE VILLE is also close by, where I have lunch sometimes. It's a small place where the owner cooks organic food only.
And what's on your agenda for the rest of the day?
I've got to get a lot of little things out of my mind to get ready to start the next big project (smiling).
Thank you Marina Bautier for the interview! To find out more about her work visit her website here.
photography, interview & text: Janis Manini Claudia Kanga