A morning in the company of Guillaume Ménard is to start the day with an IV spike of creativity, and the desire to rethink our day-to-day choices, and environments. We’re hit with a boost of energy, and we’re armed with a megaphone, by the time we leave; excited to share exciting new, and confirmed ideas to improve Montréal!
Guillaume Ménard needs very little introduction at this point, but in case you have been missing out, here a few of the key points:
He is a proud Montréaler.
He opened his first studio in St-Henri at a time when the neighbourhood was uncut, and unpolished. Rough.
He has been an activeresident of Pointe-Saint-Charles for over seven years now.
Guillaume is first, an artisan: a cabinetmaker, a welder, a furniture maker, an industrial designer; and foremost, a self-taught creative: a designer, a space designer, furniture designer, and an interior architect designer.
Guillaume founded ATELIER MAINOR Design, which is now known under the banner: MÉNARD DWORKIND Architecture & Design, (MRDK for the in-crowd), since his recent association with the equally talented David Dworkind.
Guillaume is: Le BOUCAN, KAMEHAMEHA, RED TIGER, Le BLOSSOM, RYU Westmount (which was awarded the 2000 SQ FT or less Restaurant Award at the 2019 Grands prix du design!).
His signatures are all over Montréal. Finally: Guillaume Ménard is the one you call for the WOOWWW!!!!-factor (with four exclamation points), and a well though-out design space; commercial, or residential.
We begin to dig into the details in discussion with him:
“My father was a journeyman; a cabinetmaker. I grew up in a house full of books; many of them focused on architecture, which I gravitated toward.I have always been fascinated by spaces, and objects, and their interactions. I wanted to understand how they were made, and I was driven to make them.That’s what pushed me to cabinet making, a period during which I conceived, and realized, furniture; completely inspired by my imagination and the character of the local surroundings. The manual skill, which was the focus of my education, meant I could spend my excited energy on theory, but I could execute these designs before the years of thought became stale, separated from action. My design process often comes out of considering, and handling materials. Wood, for example, is a warming material; and, I enjoy incorporating more rational materials, like steel. The clash between the two is something I continue to find interesting.
I like the act of interacting with the materials; feeling them, handling them. By interacting with the materiel for a project, their function becomes more obvious. I make objects which I introduce people to, and then I observe the interaction, and interplay, in turn. An example of that is the cantilevered chair; or, more specifically, the cantilevered bar stool. Certain people are instinctively hesitant at first approach. There is an implicit trust, or even faith, in stepping on a floor, or standing under a ceiling, which I love to play with. The relationship between a designer, and someone who is benefitting from a design, is usually just under the conscious surface. With certain designs I’ve been fortunate to place in public spaces, I get to raise that faith up to the surface, and make the designer/designee relationship real, and conscious, for a second. The old saying goes: “Good design is invisible.” I agree only to a point. When good design is being homogenized, constantly, and at scale, sometimes designers should consider making it obvious that some of the most helpful, and fun design, cannot be mass-produced, and should not disappear in to the static of the environment. I get to play with great clients who want to make memorable statements.
I often receive two types of mandates. There’s commercial, for which the client expects me to deliver unique touches, to compliment their idea, or their service or product. Then, there’s residential, for which my clients expect me to offer them a space in which they can settle completely, sprawl, and be rooted.
In both cases, my goal is to exceed their expectations, and offer them an experience of their new environment that they could not have predicted. One is a stimulating flow of space and objects; and, the other needs to be a calming place where the necessary functions of life are unobtrusive, and integrated. For me, meeting these complex, and nuanced goals, is the intangible only the designer is equipped to deliver. There is no off-the-shelf design that has ever delivered a space without flat notes in the end result.
The restaurants I have had the pleasure to design and set up, gave me the freedom to be, I would say, wilder!
We have brought in custom fabricated sculpture from overseas, of considerable size. We have had the opportunity to experiment with more theatrical concepts.
I have had the pleasure of working with various craftsmen, and artists, who knew how to execute, and enhance, my more ambitious ideas. This is another great source of daily pleasure in my work: I continue to learn. I discover! I collaborate with other artisans, who are as much on the lookout for the latest advancements in their respective industries. I have found a loose collection of people with the common goal of serving the project, the client, and his future clients. Those clients will experience the space, after the tools have left the building. They will feel the excitement that designed space brings; and, the hope is, there will be more and more demand that Montréal fill with innovative, interesting pieces and places. Together, my clients, and I, create convivial spaces, to be fully enjoyed; for people to meet, flirt, and experience each other. Why live in a city, if not for this?
In regards to homes, I have learnt to, above all, empathize. Understand the client’s lifestyle, pace, and daily needs. Whether they spend, on average, more or less time each day at home, the residence must function as a refuge, and provide comfort, and respite, for its inhabitants.
It must be planned, malleable (in the case of family expansion, for example), and adapt to the changes of seasonal particularities (light, temperature, nature, etcetera).
The elements that make up a space are neither cold-blooded investments, nor disposable products. The goals of an intimate home, and an investment property, are not mutually exclusive. Questions that only a designer can answer; such as window orientation, materials choices and pairings, furnishings; the answers to these make for a home with value for life, and for investment.“