Lionel Jadot: Design in the DNA

Interview with Lionel Jadot; designer, architect, artist and film-maker.


Fluid and freestyle are adjectives that could be used to describe Lionel Jadot’s style, although ‘style’ is probably not the correct word, as Lionel cannot be pigeon-holed into having a specific style or generic genre. Instead Lionel’s work, which somehow successfully spans the ample artistic fields of architecture, interior design, furniture and film-making, is fuelled by a sense of adventure and a love of travel that enables him to magically transform imagination into object.

Lionel is 6th generation Vanhamme, the world-famous Belgian family of furniture makers, so design, therefore, is in his DNA and creative confidence runs through his veins. He simply has ‘the eye’ for good design, a relish of the recycled and rustic, together with vision and courage to experiment and evolve. Lionel often collaborates with craftsmen and each commission is a journey that builds upon the personality of the client so that the end product is a bespoke reflection of the starting point. Here, in the following transcript of an interview, kindly written for us in English, Lionel explains in his own words what constitutes this creative journey…


Your interior design style has been described as ‘exuberant baroque, sometimes surprisingly minimalist’. How do you define your own style?

My style is very free, something which is always changing. My creativity is like a living thing, a kind of animal very greedy; I have to feed it inspiration every day to keep it satisfied. My style is very dependent on the projects I work on and I don’t like to tie myself to one particular style.



To what extent do your clients give you a free rein?

In fact a project is always an adventure, my clients trust me, but we often debate and I love that because I take them on unknown paths or the creation and imagination are law, but that is why I live, provide them with new vision but which very quickly becomes theirs!


You like to include a lot of rustic and recycled materials, particularly the use of wood, within your designs. Why is that?

The wood is a long history of love!

I was born in a chair making workshop. Since childhood I tinker, I am gathering sticks to make stools. Since I like the idea of not cutting down a tree for a project, but to use wood that has been cut there perhaps two centuries. This is both philosophical and aesthetic, because wood there was a lot more story to tell!



Increasingly, there is a blurred line between architecture, interior architecture and interior design, particularly when it comes to adaptive reuse and renovation of buildings. As an architect and interior designer, are you conscious of the distinction between the fields?

You know I am self-taught, and I do not like borders!

So the fuzzy lines of this type I practice every day, because I draw both their home interior and furniture that will live in it! It is more a form of global expression, a vision that is actually nourished by my eagerness for freedom and impatience. I always loved doing all it myself, learning things, it’s exciting and it’s an extraordinary team work.


When collecting pieces of furniture for a project, you tend not to follow trends, such as including the work of famous furniture designers. What are your criteria for buying furniture?

I will say that it is the same way that when a film director made a casting for a role, he knows at the moment or person enters the room that is the character! I work in exactly the same way when I look for things I spend in antique shops, at markets, on flea markets, on the web, and I immediately mark the desired object, often from far away.


My father taught me the search for the line, he taught me to use my eyes to recognize and track styles, chase the “correct” line. This is one of the best learning that I received, it serves me every day. Finally I say “good” line, not in the sense “pure” it is rather looking for the love the designer or the architect had in his hands when he realized the object. This is much stronger than the academicism and this is not learned. What for me makes this furniture unique.



Coming from a family with a rich heritage of furniture design, it is no surprise that you like to create your own furniture as well. Can you give us some insights into what it was like growing up around the family workshop and at what point did you realise you wanted to become a designer yourself?

Imagine having a playroom workshop of 3000 m2 filled with pieces of wood, fabrics, feathers, brass springs, nails by the thousands on the ground, jute webbing, animal hair, smells exotic, machine noise, hammers, velvet, paintings … In short whole universe or the raw material came home every week on one side and finished products of extreme quality out of each other. It was magic! As I said I had made my first stool at the age of 6. From that moment, how not to say that one can actually make everything?


In addition to furniture, you have also created a number of really individual art pieces – can you tell us about that aspect of your work?

This part is related, it’s really the rawest expression of my work. I filled notebooks of ideas and with this approach I decided to achieve all that was in my notebooks. It is an exciting job; it’s more a free expression of any constraints. But it is also a free reflection on design and art, and this fragile border that I love to cross in both directions. These pieces will be exhibited in September at GHI (Grand-Hornu Images) in Belgium. This is an amazing place, I am very proud that I have proposed this place for my first exhibition.


I know that through your design-work you like to tell a story through the use of materials, compositions and colours, but in recent years you have taken this same passion into film-making as well. Can you elaborate on your film-work and explain how your career in design has influenced your ability to move into film script-writing, production and direction?

In fact this is also part of the same energy. The same desire to tell the same energy to say it as I can. But this is actually inside me, I just go get it. The film is the desire to create a setting and to bring to life a story. I started with a first short film called “YSE” which won an award at the Los Angeles NYFVF. Afterwards I made three others, then I produced a feature film, and this year working with my friends on my first feature film as a director on a scenario of Philippe Blasband. I am extremely excited about this project, but as much as any other. In fact it is the same creative energy that flows through every single one of them.


The British have a phrase ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, implying that if you try to learn too many things, you cannot attain mastery of any of them. It’s not always true of course! With so many, varied interests, is there a danger this term could be applied to you, or rather, do you see it as a positive and does the breadth and interconnection of experience help you professionally?

I prefer the phrase that friends working in branding use: thinking right is wrong. It is my philosophy that puts many things in their place. As I explained, all my activities are linked by the creative energy they generate but also by the bridges that are created among them. Each project is managed with different teams, teams of bright, creative assistants who carry these projects with me.



My agency is based on lateral thinking; I pushed them all to eat in other universes, to be open to the most amazing and offbeat things, because everything could make an idea. During a project it must be a brainstorming as open as possible, any crazy idea is welcome. With pleasure. It is exactly this type of behaviour that allows me to realize projects like the new hotel will start in Brussels, an extraordinary project of 30,000m2 in a former church. Be different.


You have an enviable lifestyle and career, travelling the world, working on luxurious projects. What advice would you pass on to an aspiring designer looking to carve a similar career?

Be curious, open, loving craftsmen who will work for you, protect them, direct them, to thank them.

Give them specific plans.

Listen to your client but staying on course and keep your ideas.

Accept change; open the eyes of all, looks up in the streets.

Observe the details, even the ugly.

Do not be satisfied with the initial design.
Be satisfied with the initial design.

Brings more to your customer as an address book.

Bring a universe, made the dream.

Do you dream?

Have fun. Do not take you seriously.

All in the order you want.


Finally, what plans do you have for the future?

To live long and continue to dream!

Thanks to Lionel Jadot for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. All images © Lionel Jadot unless otherwise stated. Lionel can be contacted via his website:, as well as via Pinterest and Twitter.

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