Maurice MentjensDesigner of the imagination
A unicorn, fluorescent lighting scattering like starlight, a Belgian chip shop, shoes fluttering like butterflies and a quote from Shakespeare. Symbols, associations and references. What interior designer Maurice Mentjens loves best is telling stories, packaged in numerous layers referring back to a place or a use. For him, it’s all about the context. The final design thus becomes an anthology of stories, to be read like an essay. With a philosophical slant, full of meanings, often originating in the worlds of mythology, history, literature or the visual arts. It is through this intellectual use of semiotics that his projects transcend the boundaries of interior design and enter into the wondrous world of autonomous design. This is the renowned signature style of Maurice Mentjens.
This conceptual language of imagery is given full play in the project design: shops, restaurants, bars, offices and exhibition concepts. These are all by nature anonymous locations looking for an identity. He made his name with the design for the interior of the Sirius “Smart Shop” (a shop selling herbal energisers) in Maastricht. The shop was laid out as an alchemist’s workshop, flooded with hallucinatory lighting. The technological laboratory as a source of artificial ecstasy. This turned out to be the overture to his constant search for confronting contrasts within everyday settings; contrasts that can take on the sharpness of a black and white photograph and often mercilessly hit their psychological target. Part of his inspiration can be traced back to more ideological matters such as religion and spirituality: domains in which the metaphors of good and evil are perfectly incorporated, hidden amongst a haze of worldly art.
Maurice Mentjens delivers multi-layered, nested interiors. For those who wish to see it, there is always a new message concealed underneath the beautifully polished surface, often immersed in a surreal undertone with which the dualism between reality and illusion is portrayed.
The pièce de résistance is one or more monumental interior objects, intended as an icon marking the starting point for the underlying story. For example, take the restaurant at the Nieuwe Vorst theatre in Tilburg, with its sophisticated allusions to the false reality behind the scenes. By no means will everyone unravel all the layers of symbolism here, but they will certainly subconsciously sense the meeting of contrasts. A little mystical spark that could contribute to one becoming more aware of the space around oneself.
He likes to seek starting points in the symbolic value of a building, the intended use and particularly also in the history of the city or the surrounding area: the genius locii.
Functionality is in this respect not a primary but rather an indirect goal. Only with respect for the “spirit of a place” can a design truly be connected with the location. The relationship with the client also plays an important role in this. A successful commission begins with a good interaction with an open and flexible client. What emerges from that mutual empathy is more than a functional and technical correct design; it also secures the emotional involvement. This gives the project a subjective timelessness, liberated from external opinions.
His interiors therefore never follow the latest fads. Despite their status of autonomous installations, they are never “trendy”, ”hip” or “experimental” in the popular sense. Maurice Mentjens has banished these words from his vocabulary. All more artistic components are put into perspective within their setting by their polar opposite, whether in terms of role, colour or material. The actual choice of materials is focused on sustainable quality. The same applies to the often ingenious hidden technology. Almost all interior elements are custom-made, and as much attention is devoted to the details as to the grand gesture. This sensitivity gives the interiors a human character and a cherishing, recognisable feeling. Partly thanks to the self-restrained aesthetics, within which it appears possible to transverse styles and style periods effortlessly – from old to new, from bourgeois to baroque.
It is no coincidence that the portfolio includes a relatively large number of shop interiors. As spectacular as they may look at first glance, ultimately nothing distracts from the most important thing: the products, which are treated as if they were jewels. Using light, colour, coves and mirrors, the space is transformed into a stage. Counters and presentation systems that rise far above the appellations of “cupboard”, “shelves” or ”table” reinforce this impression. Within this three-dimensional setting, the objects are often literally put on a pedestal. In this regard, Maurice Mentjens remains faithful to his early training as an autonomous designer in the field of jewellery and product design. It’s just that he no longer designs the ornament or product but the packaging instead, magnified to a scale that offers free dimensions to the poetry of space and time. - Cécile Dornseiffen