It was during a trip to Morocco about 12 years ago that the life of Pierre Emmanuel Martin, left, changed forever. After studying law in Lyon, the French city where he grew up, he had been working in a sales role for a pharmaceutical company, but was dissatisfied. During his holiday, he met Stéphane Garotin, who ran a company in Marrakech designing collections of homewares and fashion accessories. Soon afterwards they decided to travel the world together for a year and start a business. Initially they created linens with embroidery from Vietnam, partly because they enjoyed travelling there. As their business grew, they opened a shop in Lyon and started to represent brands such as Caravane. After moving to a larger space in 2005, the range of brands they represented grew, and it wasn’t long before they turned their hand to designing their own range of sofas and homewares. Maison Hand became known for reinventing its store twice a year. This lead to a lot of interior design work. After moving once again, four years ago, they not only represent brands such as Living Divani but also have a thriving design business. The homes they have created have been featured in magazines all over the world.
Which five words best describe you? Every minute, every second of our life - we are having fun.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I studied law, then graduated from business school. I grew up in Lyon and went to university in Lyon. About 12 years ago I met Stéphane Garotin in Marrakech. I had just left my job and he wanted to leave Morocco and come back to France. We took one year off and travelled all around the world. After having seen so many beautiful places, we decided to do something together, inspired by all these souvenirs.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? With every project the best moment is when you arrive with the customer and they sit down and they just feel at home. This is what I like the best. Everything you have thought about with the customer has become reality.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Being in magazines worldwide is something we are very proud of. It was a question of opportunities. It was nice meeting photographer Felix Forest [who photographs the couple’s work and helps to showcase it to a global audience. Interview here.]. Everything is global now so compared with 10 or 15 years ago it was much more difficult. I am happy to see that we can share experiences and what we like very far away.
What’s been your best decision? Giving up everything. When I decided I didn’t want to be in the pharmaceutical business anymore. It was a sign to go to Morocco. I fell in love with this guy in Morocco - it was another sign. I’m very satisfied with what I have. The best decision to go to Morocco.
Who inspires you? Many people. We have a lot of contemporary artists who are friends. We go to the galleries in Chelsea, New York and get huge inspiration. I’m always inspired by the hotels that we travel to around the world. Travelling is our first inspiration. You can walk into a small hotel in Cambodia and you might see a table. Most of the time it is simple. Less is more. Also, Paola Navone - give her a space and she does amazing things. Then there is Axel Vervoordt, who is really, really good. He mixes antiques with new items with art with handicraft pieces. Most of the Belgium designers are very good. They are the closest to our spirit. They know how to work with light.
What are you passionate about? Travel, art, cooking.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Picasso.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? We would love to create a hotel and restaurant. To have our own hotel. To have people coming to your own place they can share your place and food. We used to have a little hotel in the mountains with guest houses. We will do it, I hope. And now we are launching our collection of tables, lights and sofas.
What are you reading? Magazines, a lot. I’m also reading Haruki Murakami - we are very interested in Japan. It’s a country that we like. Everything about it - even the way they serve food. It’s a culture we love a lot.