Belgian product designer Bertrand Lejoly starts own design studio

Belgian product designer Bertrand Lejoly is leaving the renowned architect Vincent Van Duysen to start his own studio. VILLAS Decoration spoke with Lejoly about his time at VVDA, his vision on design and his latest product launches.

© Britt Guns

How did your career start off? What attracted you to the design profession?

“My oldest brother studied architecture at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc in Liège. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I followed him. Architecture had always seemed slightly too technical for me, but I thought product design was an interesting alternative. It also appeals to me that you can see the end result a lot faster than with architecture projects.”

What were the highlights of your career so far?

“I lived in Milan for several years while working for the architecture and design firm Matteo Thun, who has a large product design department, and had a really great time there. Milan is not only the capital of the design world, but it is also a wonderful city to live in. My time with Vincent van Duysen is also very dear to me.”

How did you come to work for Vincent Van Duysen?

“Vincent’s architecture and interior projects had been a great source of inspiration for me. So when I met his right-hand man in a Milan bar, I told him that I would love to work for him. But VVDA did not have a product design department yet at that time. A little while later, they did need someone to lead their project design team, so I started working there, and it ended up to be a great match. I worked for Vincent for eight years as head of the product design department. It was a highly interesting and pleasant time, I have learned quite a lot during my job at VVDA.”

VILLAS Decoration Bertrand Lejoly

Britt Guns

Are there any projects that have stayed with you?

“At Matteo Thun I was responsible for Zwilling, a well-known German company that specializes in kitchenware. While working at VDDA we collaborated with top Italian brands such as B&B Italia, Poliform and Molteni&C., partnerships of which I am quite proud.”

Why did you ultimately choose to start your own design studio?

“Starting my own business was a very difficult choice, because VVDA was a very good fit for me. But last year I turned forty, and I asked myself if I always wanted to keep working for someone else or maybe it was time to start my own business. I wouldn’t have had the energy for it anymore at fifty, but now I still have the stamina to take the plunge. During the last couple of years I was also working on some projects for Duravit and Serax in parallel with my work for VVDA. Last March the big launch of the Duravit collection took place and at that moment I decided to end my career at Vincent’s company. You could say that 2021 turned out to be the turning point of my career.”

What is your vision on design? What do you think makes a good design?

“I prefer designs that are uncomplicated, but not minimalistic. I believe that design should have a certain warmth, and should evoke memories. My ambition has always been to develop a product that is timeless, that stands the test of time. If I succeed in doing that, I have achieved my goal.”

What influences have shaped your style?

“As I have always worked for architecture firms, I not only imagine a product on a white background, but I also try to envision it in the context of a house or an interior. That certainly plays an important role in my work. But I get my inspiration from numerous subjects, ranging from architecture to interior and art. As a designer it is important to have a curious mind-set and to keep your eyes open.”

VILLAS Decoration Bertrand Lejoly

Britt Guns

What does your creative process look like?

“The way of working that appeals to me the most is when a client has a clearly defined problem. Carte blanche doesn’t suit me, I prefer to start with someone who has a specific need and is looking for a solution. Of course, it also depends on the companies you work with and which direction they prefer to go. But the moment that you succeed in creating something out of nothing is always a very interesting event for me.”

Which designers do you admire?

“I appreciate designers who succeed in creating timeless designs, such as British product designer Jasper Morrison. Many Italian architects from the 1970s are also a great source of inspiration.”

Can you tell us more about your most recent product launches?

“Serax’s Cose collection was launched this year. The line consists of bathroom accessories, but you can also use the little plates to serve appetizers. Last March, Duravit’s Neo-D bathroom collection came out, featuring a washbasin and a freestanding bath. And very recently at Maison et Objet, Vincent Sheppard’s garden furniture collection was presented, comprising of various chairs, sofa’s and tables in teak and cord.”

What’s on the agenda for the near future?

“A collaboration with Bodart & Gonay will be released at the end of the year, comprising of three different barbecues, and I am also currently working with Noël & Marquet, a firm that produces interior elements such as wall panels and wainscoting. There are also a few projects with German and Italian brands that I’m working on, but for now I have to keep them under wraps.”