His name is on everyone’s lips. From a mythical-looking hotel to a beachside villa or a bourgeois apartment, Tristan Auer ventures into all terrains. His most recent achievement involved developing the Art Deco styling for the world’s first Orient Express Hotel in the King Power Mahanakhon skyscraper that’s set to open in Bangkok in mid-2020. 

He cannot reveal all the details, but he will say, “Be surprised by a project you’ve never seen before that’s very luxurious and with strong experimentation, in phase with Thai culture and the Orient Express DNA.” So expect mysterious interiors that evoke the legendary train’s carriages and dreams of travel to foreign lands.

The Orient Express Hotel’s rooms resemble cabins in the train. Photo: Romain Laprade


Rise to stardom

The French interior architect and designer gained attention with the success of his hotel projects – Hotel Les Bains, Paris, Cotton House on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, and La Sivoliere in Courchevel, France – and the decoration of ultra high-end private villas and apartments in London, Paris, Hollywood and New York. He is also known for his bespoke and series-produced furniture and lighting designs for brands such as Poltrona Frau, Pouenat, Contardi and Veronese. 

His most monumental and time-consuming project yet has been reimagining all the ground-floor public spaces of the majestic 18th century Hotel de Crillon in Paris. Under the direction of of architect Aline Asmar d’Amman, he worked alongside Chahan Minassian, Cyril Vergniol and Karl Lagerfeld, who designed two of the hotel’s finest suites.

The interior of the Hotel de Crillon in Paris.

True understanding of luxury

Auer’s ascent may be attributed to a precise understanding of the requirements and constraints of luxury, always within a logic of the promotion of French savoir-faire. 

For each project, he strives to surround himself with the best French artisans so all can display the excellence of their work. There are no rules, biases or predetermined notions. He conceives singular spaces rich in emotions, in the image of their occupants and far from any idea of duplication. 

Auer went the extra mile by ensuring every little detail within the hotel was attended to, including the finishing of the furniture and selection of the tableware and lighting.

What counts is being receptive to clients’ needs, paying attention to their lifestyles, and immersing himself in the spaces, volumes and light to weave a unique story. For him, harmony comes from mixing. He combines styles and eras, boldly bringing together classical references and avant-garde designs, creations by great names and more confidential pieces, as well as intense colours and softer shades. 

He describes his creative process: “The first step is to listen and understand my clients’ personality, wishes and background. I am designing for them. I need to understand what they need before anything else, to penetrate their intimacy, to know everything about them, and to spend time with them. This is a very important stage. Then I create a bespoke environment based on this analysis. I sketch quickly the project with all the details. It is always very clear in my head. I just need to translate it into sketches. I always incorporate their comments for the development. Generally, there are very few. The furniture is sourced from galleries and at auctions or are custom made.”

The double-volume ceiling within Paris’ Hotel Les Bains.

Eye for detail

Auer customises spaces to fit his clients, much like a tailor-made suit. He defines the essence of good design: “Made to measure. This is what I call luxury – the real and essential one. I am not specialised in anything. I start every project with a fresh vision, forgetting what I have done before. I am always open to every creative stimulation coming from different unpredictable ways. I like to explore and use all the tools available to carry out a project. I never limit myself and like to push boundaries. I am passionate about l’art de vivre.” 

He refuses a project if there isn’t a relationship of trust and mutual respect established from the outset. Echoing his passion for vintage cars and road trips, he has also launched a car “tailoring” business involving customising the interiors of beautiful automobiles with cashmere console storage compartments, nubuck ceilings, leather dashboards and matching travel bags, all with the aim of creating authentic emotions at every instant. Fond of embarking on new adventures, he wishes to make people’s lives better through design and decoration.

Auer launched a business offering bespoke designs for the interiors of luxury cars, such as the Ferrari Dino. Photo: Amaury Laparra

Formula for success

For Auer, whether it’s a famous hotel or an art collector’s apartment, everything is a question of framing. His approach to each project is very cinematographic, like a succession of tracking shots, and the cinema is one of his sources of inspiration. In fact, he conceives his interiors in the same way a director conceives a film: with a narrative arc that takes the audience from the opening scene through to the development and right up to the climax. His interiors are designed to create an emotion-filled atmosphere or universe and allow people to forget the outside world for a time, in the same way a great movie does. 

While his aesthetic is not immediately definable, the care given to materials and the detail of the composition constitute his signature, which reflects a tension between restraint and theatricality tinged with luxury. 

While delivering an intimate setting for the pool area in Hotel Les Bains, Auer also concentrated on creating cosy yet sophisticated interiors by including details such as the use of ambient lighting in the rooms.

Always thinking about spaces according to the stories and inhabitants that once occupied them, he more than met the expectations of French filmmaker and producer Jean-Pierre Marois in reviving the soul of the famous Les Bains club, while incorporating hotel rooms and a restaurant, and conceived the ideal villa for singer Bryan Adams on Mustique, which put him on the design map. Auer notes: “He was so kind to introduce me to his famous friends. I owe him a lot. He became somebody important for me and a good friend.” 

While delivering an intimate setting for the pool area in Hotel Les Bains, Auer also concentrated on creating cosy yet sophisticated interiors by including details such as the use of ambient lighting in the rooms.

In the family vein

Born in 1970 in Metz and raised in Aix-en-Provence, Auer graduated from the renowned Penninghen school of art direction and interior architecture in Paris. “My grandfather was a landscape designer, who lived in a beautiful 1920s mansion,” he reminisces. “Certainly that was the start of my sensitivity towards nice interiors and beautiful proportions. I was raised in Aix-en-Provence, which is a great place for inspiration, and when I had to decide what to study, I thought that working full time is better when you enjoy it.” 

Auer broke the rules of what a luxury hotel should be when he designed the interiors of
The Sinner Paris.

He earned his stripes under Christian Liaigre and then Philippe Starck for whom he worked on numerous projects worldwide – from a hotel-club for the Trigano family (co-founders of Club Med) to his first large-scale international project: The Mercer Hotel in New York City. “I learnt a lot in different aspects,” he recalls. “It was the best school ever, with two different styles and scales. Liaigre is more on a millimetric scale, with attention to detail, while Starck is more scenographic and what people describe today as the wow effect.” 

After founding his own studio in 2002, Karl Lagerfeld contacted him directly for private residential commissions, the creation of a Chanel haute couture salon in Paris and the renovation of Coco Chanel’s historic apartment on Rue Cambon. He also crafted the interiors of the flagship boutique of French couture house Nina Ricci in Paris and silverware brand Puiforcat’s showroom on Avenue Matignon. 

Auer broke the rules of what a luxury hotel should be when he designed the interiors of
The Sinner Paris.

Auer is currently working on 14 hotel projects (including the Shangri-La in Hong Kong and Bright Start Hotel in Dubai), 12 residences, two restaurants, two jets, three yachts, six vintage cars and his countryside house. 

“Being an interior designer is a very important mission,” he states, “We can change people’s lives. This is what I put my energy into. In fact, I am a tailor who designs bespoke interiors, and as my clients are different, my projects logically are different. I design not for myself, but for somebody else, and I never forget it. This is what I call ‘haute couture design’. We are only a few in the world to do it. I never know what will be my next 30 minutes, so the future is pretty abstract to me. I am pleased to follow my destiny.”