One glance at Apparel Architecture’s designs and you’d be forgiven for mistaking their work as Northern European. The Nordic sensibility emanating from the Montreal firm’s work reflects the history and craft of founder Kim Pariseau, and her constant quest to simplify design.
Trained by the Danes during a university semester abroad, Kim is concerned with quality, and the notion that anything good takes time. Nothing about Apparel Architecture’s work points to imitation, because their Nordic aesthetic comes deep down from the process. Resonating with the Scandinavian approach and climate, Kim ensures the architects are involved from A to Z in a project; influencing the work of those around her.
Founding the firm off the back of an architectural competition in Montreal, Kim is proudest of the team she has created under the name Appareil Architecture. And if you’re not familiar with their refined work, your Instagram feed may well be. The firm entered 2018 aboard the Grand Pic Chalet, proving their handle on a Nordic sensibility is quite like no other. Speaking with Kim, the words ‘timelessness’ and ‘functionality’ are raised time and time again, fitting to Kim’s no nonsense design path. Fundamentally, it’s the conceptual unity through use that makes the work of Kim and her team so relevant to both international design landscape. We’ve long admired Appareil Architecture’s work from across the sea, so we of course jumped at the opportunity to sit down with Kim and learn where she looks locally to be informed and inspired – be ready to take note.
You entered the industry with a double degree in interior design and architecture. How has majoring in both shaped your approach to design?
Kim Pariseau: My degree in interior design shaped the way I think of space. I mainly think of a space from the inside out, because I believe that people will use the interior space and that it has to be functional. Inspired by movements like the Bauhaus, we value the notion of “timeless design”. We’re not interested in trends, just timeless and authentic design. We try to carry the viewer further toward an understanding of a conceptual unity of functionality through use. Every detail is conceived of as usable and we try to work toward elegance in design. We think long and hard about the human experience. Having a double degree has helped shaped me in that approach.
As part of your studies, you spent a semester abroad in Copenhagen. What was your biggest take away from this experience?
Kim Pariseau: I enjoyed it very much! I noticed the Danes’ careful attention to detail and their constant quest to simplify design. I learned to rethink and redraw my plans, making sure everything was useful, and to focus on the essence. Our teachers allowed us plenty of time to carefully consider every aspect of our design, and taught us that good things take time. The final result will only be better for it; more rational, more durable, and more beautiful.
What did you find differed most in design between Canada and Denmark?
Kim Pariseau: Back then in Canada, having an architect design the interior and even the furniture for a space was uncommon. I enjoyed how architects in Scandinavia are often involved in a project from A to Z. To me, these things are intrinsically linked. Thankfully, more and more clients see the added value of having an architect on board all the way through to the finished product.
You founded your practice Appareil Architecture in 2010. What is the meaning behind the name and what are you proudest of since founding your firm?
Kim Pariseau: In English, Appareil can be translated to ‘apparatus’. To me, an appareil is an amalgam of things that contribute to its whole, to its functioning. That’s how I see my projects. Many different people are involved, like ingredients in a recipe. Each artisan and creator I work with lends their own personal touch, their own added value. The result is always interesting and unique.
What I’m most proud of is the team behind the company, which has been created throughout the years. They understand the firm’s signature and bring it to the next level. For us, the next project is always the most interesting one. On every project, we try to improve ourselves and to reach new heights.
Appareil Architecture was founded in 2010, somewhat quickly and unexpectedly, after winning a contest organised by the city of Montreal that was looking for ideas on how to revamp the lot in front of its town hall. In order to claim our prize we had to have a registered business name, and that’s how the company was born – simple as that!
Can you please tell us about your interest in Nordic style?
Kim Pariseau: The basis of Nordic style, for me, is to inspire ourselves from the context that surrounds us. In Quebec, we have a Nordic climate, which is why we are so linked to Scandinavian design. We have to deal with -40 degrees in the winter and +40 degrees in the summer, lots of different climates in the same year! Our architecture has to adapt to it. I believe architecture should take advantage of this particularity to create better design.
More broadly, how do you think the history of Scandinavian influence has informed Canadian design?
Kim Pariseau: Nordic designers make good design that lasts. They have a history of great architects, interior designers, and product designers that have created attractive products and collections. Fabrication is also a great part of their design success to which we don’t easily have access to in Canada. I believe designers are starting to try to design and build their own products, so it’s a new market that will evolve in years to come.
Currently, what is the design landscape like in Montreal and what exciting projects are on the horizon?
Kim Pariseau: Lots of great designers are proposing exciting projects that will change the face of the city in the coming years. We are currently working on chalets, houses, and a new brand of home furniture that will be released in the next month.
What do you think encompasses good design?
Kim Pariseau: To me, good design is timeless, functional and beautiful. I always ask myself: “Will it last? Will it be convenient, practical and useful?” Everything should be well thought through. No nonsense. Simplify, simplify, simplify. And the beauty comes from this functionality. We will never add something to a space just because it is pretty or trendy. Quality is also a rule of thumb, and all my projects involve craftsmanship. That’s what truly gives them a unique touch.
I designed each project as if it was my own house, restaurant, or office, so I love them all. I put a bit of my soul into each design. But the next one is what I’m most excited about!
Finally, your quick designer’s insider guide:
Favourite local designers and studios in Montreal?
We work with lots of good designers in Montreal. We love the minimal approach of Kastella, who works with local wood to make beautiful furniture.
Favourite designer stores?
For inspiration and shopping we often send our clients to the website Nordic Design. We also just discovered The Fjord Store, a well-designed shop with carefully curated furniture, lighting and home accessories from Scandinavia and Japan. Their assortment includes selected goods from brands not easily found in North America, such as Ditte Fischer, Hagedornhagen, Nomess Copenhagen, Skagerak, and more. There is something for everyone’s taste.
Favourite galleries or spaces?
A few years ago, I visited Fogo Island Inn, in Newfoundland, and it was a turning point for me. The architecture is somewhat formal and anchored in traditions, but well designed and contemporary, and in harmony with the surrounding landscape. I found the contrasts amazing, and I thought: “This is what I want to do.”
Where do you go to look at great design?
Travelling is always a good way to expand our tastes and to find inspiration. It’s not always visiting great architects’ buildings, but sometimes, handmade architecture is much more inspiring!