Lecture Recap :: The Considered Life

Photo by Mikkel Stromstad

Lecture Recap :: The Considered Life, Stefan Boublil
November 16, 2011
by Crandon Gustafson

Stefan Boublil began this evening's lecture with a string of words - "cartesian, recursive, paradigm . . ." - words you might hear in a design theory or continental philosophy course, concluding with "blah, blah, blah." He broke off the string. "I am not going to use any of these words tonight. They have been of no use to me. It would be borrowing someone else's words, and someone else's process."

Boublil narrates a personal journey of discarding the "words of Paris," which he didn't like, and finding "the country I wanted to live in" (Manhattan). The search for his own words took him to film school, which resulted in a cashier's position at Tower Records, a screenplay rejected by Woody Allen, and mounting pressure from his wife to become self-supporting.

At this point, Boublil rediscovered his native French sense of the gratuitously beautiful. He had collected some wonderful furniture and other "stuff" in his apartment, and was looking for the easiest way to make a living. Could he simply put a cash register by the door?

The answer, a curated life, took shape in the (real) Apartment he constructed in Soho, from which one could purchase items out of a regularly changing exhibit of well-designed objects. His work became a process of making choices, couched in consideration and conviction.

"Conviction," says Boublil, "gives you license to fail." His approach to a project requires him to make decisions; he stresses that these are not "design decisions, but personal ones." If you are getting the sense that Stefan Boublil has attitude, you are right. But he also has empathy, the kind that causes him to immerse himself in the life and work of his clients, to research; to fully understand the nature of what he is doing. He becomes, in his words, a "social detective." This is consideration. The Apartment was born of all things that Stefan cared about in his life: design, imagery, products, love, friendship, music, technology, art, and fashion, realizing that all of these have one thing in common when successful - consideration.

"We studied people," Boublil says in telling the story of YeloSpa NYC, a collaboration with a client who had an epiphany about relaxation in the heart of an overcharged New York. "How can you  change them," Boublil asks, from a feeling of "I want to kill somebody," to "I want to kiss somebody"? See the video where client and designer talk about the ideas, and the realization, of YeloSpa, here.

Asked how he maintains his singular approach in the face of a world that has ready-made expectations of designers and the design process, he admits it isn't easy, and he has to disrupt these expectations. Ultimately, he concludes, "We must be impolite."

Connect the dots, Stefan Boublil advises, in life, work, and everything else: Consider everything. Make a decision. Go get what you want.

Stefan Boublil designs works of architecture, interior design, branding, marketing, films, songs, and social media. He is the founder and partner in a creative practice entitled, The Apartment, and the Editorial Director at theaptBROADCAST. He studied philosophy, theology, photography and filmmaking at The Sorbonne, Parsons School of Design, and New York University.

The Apartment's goal is to tell a good story, with a beginning, middle and end, not necessarily in that order.  The Apartment diligently applies The Considered Life framework to all their creative endeavor. See their work online at www.theapt.com.

This was the fourth lecture in the student-sponsored Atelier lecture series of Fall 2011 entitled Creative Practices. Thank you to student representatives Anesu Dhliwayo, Mikkel Stromstad, Arlen Stawasz, Perla Muller, and student volunteers Julio Cedano, Alexandra Kontsevaia and Mika Gilmore for their help and hard work to make this possible.