Guillaume Foliot Leprince, an ex-UN Official, talks to The Peak about transitioning into the art of woodworking to bring back French “forgotten object”, “Le Cave à Liquers”.
by Tan Su Yan /
April 13, 2021
Classy, practical and stylish, Le Designer Clandestin’s Houses of Spirits are a modern iteration of Le Cave a Liquers, a popular piece of furniture among the French bourgeoisie about 150 years ago. Thanks to the bespoke services of the Swedish furniture company, these minibars are fully customisable, with the option to add custom-blown glasses and bottles, engraved designs, and even secret caches.
“It responds to our simple childhood pleasures: hiding precious things we like, keeping little secrets.” Says Guillaume Foliot Leprince – founder and owner of the company – about their products which he describes as “smart furniture”.
Secret compartments or lock mechanisms are a signature part of their designs, hence their name – Le Designer Clandestin, which translates to The Clandestine Designer. The name also refers to the fact that the collaboration between client and company is a large part of the process. A client might even find the designer in themselves.
According to Leprince, “True Luxury is about an experience and values, not a logo that anybody with a bit of money can buy.” It is his belief that mass product production and big European brands are “killing luxury”. Therefore, at Le Designer Clandestine the relationship with the customer leading to the conception of a perfectly unique object reflects the true magic of the luxury trade.
Having been an ex-UN Official for 25 years, Leprince’s interactions with ambassadors, ministers and war-time leaders from around the world has given him a global perspective. He understands that even as the world is globalizing, and ideas are becoming more universal, culture and locality are still a large part of peoples’ identities.
As such, other than the houses of spirits line for actual spirits, Le Designer Clandestine also has an option that caters to those who do not indulge in boozy activity – such as their Middle Eastern clients. Instead, the houses of spirits alternative line caters to those who would prefer a box for their watches, jewelry, perfumes or other precious items they want to keep in a special place.
Part of the Family
This diverse clientele has led to some of Leprince’s favorite pieces, like an “executive box” that was ordered by the French Government as well as a Cave à Liquers collaboration with an Asian man. This Asian client in particular had the piece designed such that he could pass it down to his son.
It certainly calls to the profoundness of how thoughtful objects can link people and families in such meaningful ways. Whether it’s a “conviviality object” that encourages a drink with friends, or a box of spirits that links you to your family tradition of woodworking – Leprince’s ancestor, Nicolas Foliot was an official furniture maker at the Royal Court in Versailles pre-Revolution.
Wood certainly last – look at Stradivarius or Guarneri violins – furniture made from the medium are objects for the generations. Not to mention the sustainability. With Sweden’s stringent environmental restrictions, all one has to worry about is the carbon footprint from shipping, but even that, thoughtful as they are, is taken into account by the team at Le Designer Clandestin.