The CEO of Liaigre on Interior Design in the Time of Covid-19

After months in quarantine, citizens around the globe value home as a sanctuary more than ever. Christophe Caillaud understands that and was already positioning his company to capture the zeitgeist. He spent nine years at Jean Paul Gaultier—six as managing director and three as president—before, in 2009, joining interior-design studio Liaigre as its CEO, a post in which he assumed even more responsibility when founder Christian Liaigre stepped away in 2016. Liaigre left his firm—a practice that has garnered 35 years of international acclaim for its simple, elegant aesthetic and use of sumptuous, natural materials—in apt hands. Since Liaigre’s departure, Caillaud has opened showrooms in Shanghai and Seoul in an effort to deepen the brand’s presence in Asia; he has unveiled an airy Manhattan location in NoMad and celebrated a spectacular new four-story flagship in Paris. “My vision is to have something a little bit softer, a little bit more casual, without changing the brand’s spirit,” he says. “Bringing a little bit more warmth can be a very good match to the time we are living in.”

What is one thing you do to stay sane?

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Exercise. I do stretches every morning for 10 to 30 minutes. I also run three times a week.

What is your biggest annoyance at work?

I hate to wait when something is scheduled. There is a well-known quote from Louis XVIII: “Punctuality is the politeness of kings.” I try to be on time, every time.

What do you look for in an employee?

Courage to do the best that you can without fear of failure or judgment. I don’t like people who are afraid to do something wrong. You should always dare, even if it’s not perfect or if it’s not a success.

How long should a meeting last?

It’s not so much the length, it’s more the efficiency. But I definitely prefer short meetings.

Do you prefer e-mail, phone, text or Slack?

I like e-mail. You can take your time writing.

What’s one adjustment everyone can make in their lives to be more successful?

It’s very personal, but having the capacity to disconnect from work helps.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Make sure you’re asking a good question before you try to find the answer. People are very often rushing to find the answer without being sure the problem is well understood.

What would you tell your younger self?

Don’t forget to be passionate. Don’t wait to be passionate. Do things by passion, and you will succeed. Whatever it is.

What’s one thing you want to improve in your work life?

To be more patient. It’s getting better with age, but I’m always trying to go very fast, and I don’t like to wait.

What was your first job, and did you learn anything from it that influenced your career?

I started in the finance department of a chemical firm in the US. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to work abroad, but I didn’t have any particular interest in the chemical industry. I realized it was important for me to have an interest in the product and service that I’m working for.

What’s your daily driver?

A BMW K 1600 GT motorcycle, which is probably far too big to drive in Paris, but I love it. It’s the only way for me to be on time to my meetings.

How have you seen priorities shift in interior design as a result of the pandemic?

Years ago, we had a lot of clients who placed emphasis on how they would host their friends at home—they would do big dinners, parties. Now more and more people want to focus on their own way of living and their families.

What’s one takeaway from working remotely?

Months ago, I was not in favor of remote work. I realize now it can actually be very efficient, and it’s helpful for people to avoid the stress of traveling to work and to instead be in their own environment.

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