July 1, 2007
Petra Blaisse answers a few questions on interior design, inspiration, and process—using her thumbs.
Job description: Interior and landscape designer, and I’m the founder of Inside Outside.
Current projects: Between fifteen and twenty. City-planning projects in Riga, Latvia, and Rak, north of Dubai; two gardens in the main city of Qatar; gardens in Amsterdam; enormous curtains for the Haus der Kunst, in Munich; a few new curtains for the Casa da Música in spaces other than the concert halls. We’re working with an Irish architect on new curtains for a building at Bocconi University, in Milan. We’re restoring the Museumpark, in Rotterdam. We’re working on the landscape for a stock-exchange building in Shenzhen, China, and we’re trying to get back into the project of CCTV and TVCC, in Beijing.
First step on a project: If it’s a city, the first step is to do our own research about national and local history and politics, the economy, uses, religion—everything that we think would be interesting to inform us on the context.
Last step on a project: You put the last hand on it when it hangs or when it is planted or installed. Because we work in so many fields, there are many verbs for the last step.
How do you break a creative block? It sometimes happens that the entire team is in a kind of…short moment of paralysis. Sometimes it’s very good to take a distance from the project for a couple of days or go back to its beginnings to find the strength of the intention.
Why do you do what you do? I’ve always been fascinated with the influence on space with the use of light, materials, sound, color.
Education: Art school. When I was twenty or twenty-one, I quit and went to work with photographers and fashion and book illustration.
Mentor: I had a very good mentor at the Stedelijk Museum, an architect who was leading the applied-arts department.
World-saving mission: I often wonder if as a designer you can do something with a mission, except an egocentric mission of making things.
First act as “design czar”: My God! I hope not. I think I would have a crisis and not do anything.
Dream team: There are so many that would be fascinating to work with. It could be a musician, a scientist, an artist, or a writer.
Office chair: I have an Arne Jacobsen chair covered in a very ugly-colored green fake leather.
Office sound track: We have a gramophone and my old record collection here, from Frank Zappa to Tracy Chapman, Missy Elliott to Brahms, and Handel to West Side Story.
Favorite tchotchke: Except my daughter, you mean?
Most useful tool: You always need something to write with.
Best place to think: Walking, whether it’s in the mountains or in a city, is a very good rhythm to think.
Current read: I just got a book from my brother. It’s called The Big Oyster, a history of New York through the oyster. Not very philosophical.
Something new: The natural conditions of the Gulf region—to work in the desert.
Guilty pleasure: I’m not going to share that with you.
Underrated: There are so many underrated things that it’s very moralistic to say that people are not aware of the importance of things.
Overrated: Market economy and income and money are certainly overrated.
Learned the hard way: If you are inventing a combination of professions, and inventing a way to go about it without a specialized study, then it’s always really hard work.
Command-Z (undo): Nothing undo.
Dream job: I think I have it.