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The top designer’s most inspirational places

Most of us have a favorite place or building that opens our eyes in a particular way. But where do the professionals get their inspiration from? Here, three top designers let us into their world.

Fondazione Prada, designed by Rem Koolhaas, is housed in an old distillery.

Fondazione Prada, Milan

Mikal Harrsen

In 2012, Danish designer Mikal Harrsen founded MAU Studio in Copenhagen. Among his furniture pieces is the standout R.I.G. modular shelving system that can be used to create a bookcase or wardrobe in the bath or kitchen. 

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“What makes the Prada museum so impressive design-wise, is how a diversity of materials is brought together by Rem Koolhaas. The foundation is a collection of new and existing buildings set on a site that was once home to a gin distillery. The Dutch architect works with materials such as concrete, travertine, particleboard, walnut panels, mirrors and onyx stone painted pink. There is an old tower that was clad in 24-karat gold leaf, while the new, 60m-tall tower is painted milky white. The project is eclectic but with careful attention spent on textures and colors. The complex creates different ambiences with its modern architecture and renovated industrial spaces. Plus, there’s the panoramic views of the Milanese cityscape seen from the new tower which hosts a stylish restaurant. The art on the premises is short on subtlety – there are installations by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst – while the architecture provides an extraordinary experience that is simultaneously raw, yet elegant.”  


Piknic is a multiuse venue where you can eat, shop and visit exhibitions.

Piknic, Seoul 

Petter Neby

Norwegian Petter Neby is the founder of Punkt, a Swiss consumer electronics maker that develops timeless designs that emphasize simplicity and ease-of-use. The brand’s flagship product is its Jasper Morrison-designed MP02 mobile phone.

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“What fascinates me about Piknic is that Seoul doesn’t have a strong culture of urban preservation – people prefer to tear down and build something shiny and new here. The Piknic owners have done a great job with this 1970s office building, which is crammed into a tight space next to a collection of older homes. They maintained its beautiful façade and reconverted it into a multiuse venue that’s home to a design store selling products from Korean creatives, a café, bar, restaurant and exhibit space. One of its entrances is via a narrow back alley and it feels like entering a hidden gem. It’s next to Namsan Park and is a great spot to unwind in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s an outdoor garden and rooftop terrace to admire the city’s modern skyline. It feels very fluid, very natural. You can unwind with a croissant and espresso or enjoy natural wines and elegant French cuisine at Zero Complex, a Michelin-star restaurant on the third floor that uses fresh herbs from the property’s greenhouse.” 


Cat Street with its quirky shops. Below: the ceramics store Utsuwa Kenshin.

Cat Street in Shibuya, Tokyo

Stéphane Parmentier

Paris-based interior architect and designer Stéphane Parmentier began his career working for Karl Lagerfeld. Today, he designs furnishings and homes for international clientele and serves as creative director of -Italian leather homeware brand GioBagnara.

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“The place I love in terms of design is the neighborhood around the famous Cat Street in Shibuya, a pedestrian thoroughfare full of interesting shops and places to hang out. In this area you have the Trunk Hotel, which is a mixture of styles, something between New York and Tokyo. It’s very charming, with rooms that are light in mood and with balconies arrayed with plants. You sleep on a wooden pedestal bed frame. The lobby has a laidback atmosphere, with old-fashioned light bulbs on the ceiling and sofas everywhere. The hotel shop is full of great products (try the tin boxes with marvelous teas). Another great find is Utsuwa Kenshin, a tiny shop selling wonderful ceramics made by young artisans. You have an interesting mix of traditional Japanese pieces and super contemporary works. I buy for myself and for my interior decoration projects. For a meal, I head to Eatrip which is a small cabana set at the end of a tiny road (very difficult to find). It feels like eating at a friend’s house, with windows facing a small garden and beautiful table displays with flowers and candles everywhere.” 

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