Exclusive interview with Daniela Boutsen, Founder of “Boutsen Design”
“A discreet woman who wins…”
In the prestigious Monaco Yacht Show, all eyes were on the exhibits of the Boutsen Design showroom, designed by Daniela Boutsen. It comes as no surprise that this business, created by the wife of racing champion Thierry Boutsen, is considered one of the most exclusive high-end interior design companies not only in the Principality, but across the globe. In less than five years, Boutsen Design has managed to position itself as the market leader of custom designed interior decorating. Daniela Boutsen impresses VIP customers with its splendid achievements and professionalism. Specializing originally in the interior decoration of private jets, Boutsen Design has quickly turned to decorating mega-yachts and private residences. Today, its list of international VIP customers is impressive. Boutsen Design has become a reference in the market of high-end interior decoration, and is synonymous with the art of living, good taste, and discreet elegance.
“Discreet” is an adjective befitting this strong-willed woman of taste, who has achieved exemplary success and manages her company with dynamism, passion and rigour, all of which she no doubt inherited from her German lineage.
Daniela Boutsen has a dream – that private jets and business aviation have their own big exhibition in Monaco. A “Monte-Carlo Jet Show”—why not? Daniela Boutsen, President of Boutsen Design, granted us an exclusive interview to share her experiences and secrets to success with our readers.
A. C: Daniela Boutsen, could you introduce us to the business you created, Boutsen Design?
Daniela Boutsen: It all started 15 years ago, when I worked alongside my husband, Thierry Boutsen, automobile racing champion and former F1 driver, in the business aviation company, Boutsen Aviation where I was in charge of everything related to administration. The “design” idea went hand in hand with business aviation. I seized the opportunity when a customer asked me to decorate his Airbus Corporate Jet. This customer couldn’t find anyone specialized in decorating those kinds of aircraft and, from experience, I knew these were very specific, with their technical constraints, the requirement of on board service, etc. I accepted the challenge and custom decorated this Airbus A319 to their satisfaction and it was at that moment that I realized that interior design was a way for me to live my passion, especially tableware. When I was younger, I wanted to study fine arts; shapes and colour harmony were already my passion. So, naturally, I decided to combine the knowledge I had gained from years of experience in business aviation with my passion for decorating and tableware. Decorating business aircraft is very different from doing the same with conventional aircraft. We have to respect all regulations, manage weight problems and fire safety, take into account the opinion of the engineers with whom we work very closely, as with the major jet manufacturers such as Airbus Corporate Jet, Boeing Business Jet, and Gulfstream.
You recently created a department dedicated to yachts within Boutsen Design, hence your presence at the Monaco Yacht Show, the most prestigious show in the yachting world.
That’s right, we’ve recently created a new division dedicated to yachting. Maxime Castellini-Ninio is the head of this new line of business, who is passionate about interior design. She previously worked at the Yacht Club de Monaco and therefore has extensive experience in the field. The first yacht we decorated from A to Z is M/Y ELIXIR, a 64-metre AMELS yacht, which is currently in the port of Monaco. To do this, we worked closely with the designers and the boat owner, but also with the crew. It was important for us to understand what the on board service does and to adapt to their “tailored” requirements. Even today, the business jet is still a tool; it’s a means of transportation and is therefore decorated a little more discreetly. With yachts, however, we have more freedom to express our art.
Since customers are satisfied, they also ask us to decorate their homes. We’ve actually already decorated several spaces in Monaco, Belgium—everywhere, really!
Creative work that also requires a perfectionist side…
I’m German, born in Berlin and that’s probably where I acquired my rigour in my work. It’s true that I’m a perfectionist and I ask a lot of my team because everything has to be perfect in this line of work. That probably accounts for the early success of my company. When I set off on this adventure, there wasn’t really anyone that understood both decorating and the technical constraints of an aircraft.
Does Boutsen Design have any Russian clients?
We do have some Russian clients. We work with big, beautiful brands, a huge expertise, and a great team—in short, it’s a top-notch collaboration! My team has 13 people and is very international; we can serve our future customers in every language. We have colleagues that are Monegasque, Bulgarian, Lebanese, Russian, another is Croatian, another comes from South Africa, Italy and of course, France. I’m German and my husband is Belgian; we’re already very international!
You now have a boutique in the terminal reserved for private aviation in Nice airport—what can you tell us about it a year after opening?
We do indeed also have a shop in Nice airport located in the General Aviation Terminal, which is exclusively for private aviation. This is our first shop; it opened a year ago and is already a great success. It’s a little gem; not huge since the Nice terminal doesn’t allow anything bigger, but it’s located at a strategic point between the arrivals and departures of private aircraft. When a customer arrives with their private jet at the Nice airport, the first shop they see is Boutsen. We offer rare pieces of tableware including those from Baccarat, Christofle, Lalique, Fendi Casa, Ralph Lauren Home, and Loro Piana Interiors. I have very good relationships with the CEOs of these beautiful brands, so I’m lucky to always have quite exceptional pieces for our clients. We had quite the rare gem for an Emirati client that was seeking a high-end gold hawk. He was amazed and surprised to find such a beautiful masterpiece in a store.
We’ve also equipped the lounge of a “Signature” handling agent and have a partnership with Luxury Living, a group completely dedicated to brands such as Bentley, Trussardi, and Fendi Casa. This way, VIP clients find themselves in a special place upon their arrival.
What are your most current news?
For the Monaco Yacht Show, nine boats were decorated by Boutsen Design. The latest news is our partnership (10th boat) here in Monaco, where we had the honour of exclusively representing and accessing Loro Piana Interiors fabrics and their last emblematic collection “capsule PLUS” on the Oceana yacht.
We also hosted our prestigious clientele in the “secret garden” that we designed within the prestigious Yacht Club de Monaco. This is an exceptional room that we’ve completely transformed to show our creativity and ability to think “outside the box”.
We opened the doors of our showroom every morning to welcome our customers in an idyllic setting (small garden in the middle of a vibrant city) to present the latest collection of accessories by Alberto Pinto produced by Foglizzo leather. We were able to receive Linda Pinto as a guest of honour. Guests were also surprised to find in my small garden a 3-metre model of an Airbus A350, never seen in Monaco! The show was done by CEO Mr. Benoit Defforge himself.
Where does your passion for design and everything related to the “art of living” come from?
From a young age I wanted to become an artist. I grew up in West Berlin, but with a wall around myself in an environment where it was very difficult to travel and move around. I wanted to study fine arts and there was nowhere to do so; I didn’t know what to do. So, I applied for training in a commercial craft for a period of three years in the company Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur Berlin. That’s how I fell in love with tableware; this training period shaped my entire life. When I met my husband 22 years ago, we moved to Monaco; he was a racing driver then. Seven years later, we created Boutsen Aviation, the company in which our roles were very complementary—Thierry, the sportsman who was the pilot and presented the aircraft, and I, the “business woman”. It was a beautiful use of our know-how applied to Boutsen Aviation!
In contemporary art, I think you have a fascination with Kandinsky?
When I was 16–17 years old, I was fascinated by the study of Kandinsky. A white sheet for this artist is not white, there is a clearer point, another that’s darker, and working with that are all the colours and lines—the proportions are always in balance. Everything I’ve created today is based on Kandinsky’s theory.
A few words about your clients and their expectations?
We’re located in Monaco, a privileged world between France and Italy which has some of the most beautiful things to offer when it comes to creativity. I had the great honour and pleasure to serve some heads of state and some large families. Some designers try to impose their tastes on their clients whereas I do the opposite. I try to understand the client; I don’t create the universe for myself, I create it for them. In my opinion, the most important thing is to understand your clients to meet their needs. Everyone is so different since we work with a few hundred suppliers. I pull all the stops and find what the client is looking for. It’s the client who has to live with the decoration every day so they must be happy, and feel good in their world.
What are the current trends?
That’s a question I’m often asked and I will say that in fact, there is not a trend, but an individualization; each client is different and has their own trend that is unique to them and their world. I work a lot with Middle Eastern clients and I’m getting closer to Asian clients. Our Russian clients make up yet another world—it’s always something different. When decorating a plane for a one of Asian Heads of State, their world is the complete opposite of that of a Western client’s. I don’t think of trends; I just try to be attentive to my clients to provide them with tailored solutions to their specific needs.
What are your business development objectives?
I’ve travelled a lot these past four years. One of my goals is to work more often with our customers here in Monaco, because I think my husband would like to see me a little more! We’re currently establishing ourselves in major airports—Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Paris, Ibiza, Mallorca, Barcelona and Faro thanks to a great partnership with Sky Valet. This expansion is driven by our desire to provide our clients with excellent service that perfectly fulfils their expectations and requirements.
By Antoinette Champclos