Design star Harry Nuriev on his ‘inappropriate’ style
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
My personal style signifier is to wear the same thing at home, at a studio meeting and then going out to dinner. I just dress in the morning so that I feel comfortable. It can sometimes be a little inappropriate, but I don’t care. Can I say “inappropriate” as a style? The more I play with my style, the less I care about brands.
The last thing I bought and loved was an Evian water fountain. I have it in my kitchen, and I’m saving up all the plastic bottles it uses. I have a huge pile. When you drink the water, the bottle collapses, squeezes in; I’m going to use them to create a chandelier for an interior design project that I’m working on in Tuscany right now. So I drink water and stay hydrated, but I also create something upcycled. Evian (re)new (designed by Virgil Abloh)
The place that means a lot to me is Versailles – not the palace, but the surrounding area. I really feel different when I’m there. It’s very close to where I live in Paris now, but even when it wasn’t I still always tried to find time to go there. There is something special in this place. You might think that it’s very touristy, but you can find areas where there are no people at all. It can be very peaceful.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is anything free, from the first time I went travelling in my early 20s. When I was a kid, growing up in Russia, I didn’t really have much. I still collect museum maps, subway tickets; I have a huge box of things. I’m thinking about doing something with it one day. When you think about these sorts of leaflets, there are so many people involved in designing them.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is the Rem Koolhaas book about New York, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan. Mostly, I read very boring professional books on urban design and architecture. The design book I just did with Rizzoli represents a chapter of my life. It’s an important experience to look back before moving on to something else. How to Land in the Metaverse: From Interior Design to the Future of Design is published by Rizzoli on 25 April at $75
The last music I downloaded was 2000s Hits Essentials. I had this hit of nostalgia, I guess. I also like to listen to Chopin.
My style icon is the basketball player Dennis Rodman. I like his confidence. And the way he combined things you’re not supposed to wear as a basketball player – the coloured hair, painted nails and feminine details – and did it so well. It was so innovative in the ’90s. It really caught my attention.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a trip to Morocco, which I gave to my partner, Tyler [Billinger], for his birthday. It’s such a different environment, but just a few hours from Paris. We were in Marrakech, staying at Amanjena. I loved walking around the local markets and finding hidden streets to get lost in. And we spent a night in the desert – a couple of hours outside the city. We stayed in a tent and had the most amazing food cooked by a local chef. aman.com/resorts/amanjena
And the best gift I’ve received was also a trip – a historical tour of Rome and Florence, from Tyler. We had private visits to every single museum. This has been a dream of mine since studying architecture at university. It was very beautiful. There was one church in Rome – the Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano – with mosaic tiles that had been upcycled from other churches, and the main entrance had a moulding that was asymmetric, because they used things that were already available. This was hundreds of years ago and they were already thinking about upcycling. Imagine a building today where you have windows and doors and roofs from different buildings all brought together; it would be such an amazing project.
I have a collection of miniature furniture – versions of pieces that I’ve designed in full size for my projects. They’re 3D-printed. I really like to see them on a different scale, to understand how small we are, actually. They’re everywhere in my studio right now. I’ve always loved miniatures but I never took them seriously. I thought I was just being childish. But then I figured that it’s a big business; there is a huge fair in Chicago dedicated to them. It’s a full-on industry. I think it’s where adults can secretly return to childhood.
My favourite thing is my fridge A while ago, when I was thinking about what style of design I belong to and how none of them really described me, I decided to create my own style: Transformism. It’s when you transform things that are already around you. And my refrigerator is an example of this. It’s a huge American, side-by-side fridge – the shape is so industrial – which I’ve turned into a credenza. It’s been custom-painted inside and out with flowers and stuff, and it holds books, documents and many other things. It’s always open. I do have another small fridge for food, too – just the very basic essentials – but this one is quite something. It’s a fantasy of a refrigerator. In my apartment there are so many repurposed things; I’ve used computer keyboards as a frame for my mirror, for example
An indulgence I would never forgo is vanilla ice cream. Growing up, I think we had only two flavours available, chocolate and vanilla, and I liked vanilla.
The work of art I would buy if I could is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. The famous urinal. One hundred per cent. Again, it’s about repurposing things, at a time when everyone was trying their best to create something new.
The grooming staples I’m never without are Dr Barbara Sturm for my skin, and a dry brush. But I don’t have two hours in the morning to use a roller on my face. Mostly these things just sit there quietly in my bathroom, and when I’m in the mood I use them. If I brush my teeth, then I’m so happy.
There are so many things I could never part with. I’m an extremely sentimental person. This could be a whole other interview – or a museum retrospective.
My favourite room in my apartment is the dining room. When I was growing up, we didn’t have a table, and I would use the windowsill to do my homework and stuff. So now I have a huge-ass table that fills the whole room; it’s hard to walk around it. I don’t even need that much surface, but I really like it. It’s covered in denim, and it’s a prototype from my new soft furniture collection for Carpenters Workshop Gallery. I use it for meetings, workshops, craft activities… you could have a G8 summit around it.
My favourite app is Procreate – a digital drawing app that I use a lot for my work.
Something I’ve recently discovered is craft and DIY. For example, I recently cut my clothes that I no longer need into hundreds of 20cm x 20cm squares and sewed them into a patchwork pattern. It’s full of memories. I then used it to reupholster my sofa. Living in Paris inspired me to do this. I was living in New York previously; Paris somehow brings you back to basics. It’s more about tactile things; less about everything being on computers.
My favourite building has actually been destroyed. It’s the Chatêau du Louvre, a medieval castle that stood on the site of what is now the Louvre. All that is left are remains of the foundations underground. I love this building because it was a very particular example of gothic French architecture. Right now I’m working on a virtual reconstruction, with a twist of my own design inside.
In another life, I would have been a dentist. I don’t know why, but ever since I was little I’ve thought about being a dentist. Maybe because it’s similar to being a sculptor.
The work of art that changed everything for me was Christian Boltanski’s Personnes – his 50-tonne pile of clothes that was shown at the Grand Palais museum in Paris in 2010. I didn’t get the chance to see it in real life, but I still think this work is very touching. But before that, and more accessible to me when I was younger, was the work of the filmmaker Lars von Trier, who I consider an artist. I was both shocked and moved by his films, especially Breaking the Waves.
I don’t listen to podcasts. Information is so available right now. There’s so much to take in.
The best bit of advice I ever received was that when you master something, you have to run away and do something else. I also like something that I think David Lynch said: if an idea’s new to you, then it’s new. As artists, we are creating our own world, our way.
When I need to feel inspired, I do two things. First, I need to clear my mind. So I like to be in nature, especially around mountains – far away from anyone. And then for inspiration I like to go to weird places like professional kitchen-supply stores. I think the point is that everything has to be super-random; if you go there the next day, you won’t find the same thing. I don’t go to museums when I need inspiration.