Marieux van den Broek, an interior architect who fabricates sophisticated living spaces from start to finish for people across the globe, has a special talent for carefully constructing the interior of one’s dreams. He is originally from the Netherlands and now calls Monaco his home. In this latest and most candid interview with the successful artist and businessman, we rapidly penetrate beyond superficialities and get into a deep conversation about hopes for the future, family, his offbeat road to success, how he sold painted mirrors on his bicycle as a teenager, his weakness for vintage cars and his incredible determination to work through challenges and “create the impossible”.
HelloMonaco: What does being a Dutchman mean to you?
Marieux van den Broek: I believe that if you speak generally about people from Holland, there’s always a curiosity about what is going on in the world. We are a small country, only 16 or 17 million people, but you find the Dutch everywhere, and there are a lot in business. They are experts in finding niches which others are not looking for. I believe in general, it’s very easy to do business with Dutch people. I do not wish to be a chauvinist, but that’s what I hear. We adapt very easily to different circumstances and we all speak English. That’s where the world is now, we are not living in a country anymore, we are living globally without country-borders. The world today is so close, so reachable, communication happens so quickly. I’m happy to be Dutch.
HM: What is the most powerful gift that you received from your parents?
Marieux van den Broek: The most powerful gift from my parents is that they always stimulated me, they gave me a youth which was unbelievable. There was always a challenge with my father and mother. There was never a direct ‘no’ if I did something wrong. There was always a ‘why?’. They brought me up in a way where you were thinking about your mistakes instead of being punished. If you would come home upset about something, my father and mother always said, ‘Calm down, there’s always a grey tone, it’s never black or white, there’s always grey.’ And I have passed that knowledge to my children.
HM: Did you have a turning point or a challenge that you needed to get through in your business or private life?
Marieux van den Broek: It was very early. In 1976–77, I was travelling and trying to discover the world. As an inexperienced young man at that time I went to, for example, the Middle East. I was in Saudi Arabia 1978–1979. In 82–83, I had my first showroom in Jeddah and found myself dealing with big shots who were much more mature. If you meet the wrong people, and as a young man, you have so much belief in these people, then you are bound to have many disappointments. But the disappointments are necessary to grow, anyone would say that, but it really is true. You need your disappointments. And there’s not one book that you can learn from. It’s only from experience. When you have your driver’s license, that doesn’t mean you can drive. You can only drive by experience, and that’s life. I’ve had many ups and downs.
HM: What does being yourself mean for you, how would you define your personality? Who are you?
Marieux van den Broek: I’m a curious man who enjoys life every second. I’m positive and I adore beauty in the widest sense of the word. I’m a man that is into ‘quality’ in a big way, someone who is never happy with anything less than 100%. Sometimes, you start a design, you start a project and you’re not 100% happy, but 99%. But sometimes, the 100% does happen when you say, ‘This cannot be better!’ that’s a wonderful moment.
HM: Do you believe that 99% happiness exists?
Marieux van den Broek: I believe that 100% happiness exists, but only for moments. Everyone believes that the grass is greener on the neighbour’s side, but sometimes, there are moments when you’re driving in your car and you think about your children and you think about your life, your business, and ‘Everything is fine, everything is good. Wow!’ And you have that 100% happiness feeling. It doesn’t come very often, but it arrives sometimes and that’s wonderful.
HM: What makes you happy?
Marieux van den Broek: Balance. Balance is not money, balance is not only success, balance in life means that you understand what life is about. That is what makes me happy. And of course you need your partner with you, you need everyone who you love with you, but I believe that balance in life is extremely important.
HM: Do you think that everyone can choose to be successful?
Marieux van den Broek: No, I don’t believe that. It’s more than that. It’s not just choosing to be successful. It is very hard work to be successful. To understand ‘how’ is important. For example, if you want to be a salesman but you don’t know how sales works. If you cannot draw, how can you be an artist, how can you be a designer? If you don’t know mathematics, how can you be an architect? You need your skills, everything has to come together. But the most important, I believe, is endurance. If you endure and you learn from your mistakes then when you fall down, you work twice as hard when you stand up, to reach it again. And when you fall again, maybe you have to work ten times harder than before. But if you do that and you learn from it, and not point fingers at anyone, saying, ‘it’s his or her fault I can’t’. Point your finger at yourself, always point it towards yourself. That’s my philosophy.
HM: Your hobby is collecting amazing American vintage cars, that look brand new inside and out, but are actually from the 1950s. How did this hobby start?
Marieux van den Broek: America in the 50’s, my god, what a time! Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and these guys were driving these cars. For me, it’s a time of nostalgia. Today, you see an Audi, a Mercedes, a BMW on the road and you ask yourself, ‘Is that a Mercedes or an Audi? No, it’s a VW,’ it’s all the same. In the 50’s each car had character, people had character, there was respect. If you look at these cars, they bring me the memory of that time. I believe that’s where it comes from. And of course, I love cars. I’m completely crazy about cars. In front of the Hôtel de Paris, you see twenty Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris, but when I show up with my Ford Thunderbird from 1950 everyone has a smile. Why is that? Because it brings so much happiness and good memories to people.
HM: Do you have any other hobbies?
Marieux van den Broek: I’m a family man at heart. I don’t see my children often, that’s a big bother. I have five children. I’m extremely proud of all of them. For me, I dream of possessing a beautiful historical house in Tuscany, or in Italy somewhere. I dream of having olive trees or a vineyard and a huge table with the whole family. If I could achieve that, that would be a dream for me. And I must say, I was always driven by success and passion for my work. At the time, you don’t realize that your children need their father during their difficulties while they are growing up. You’re just part of it, you don’t really realize the importance of it. That’s why grandfathers and grandmothers have more fun with their grandchildren and I hope that I will have the same.
HM: Your current profession was not your first choice. Tell me how that happened, how did you change your mind?
Marieux van den Broek: I was very sportive, sports was everything for me. I did competition swimming, basketball, many sports. That was my passion and I wanted to be a sports teacher. But I had a hobby, decorating glass. I remember very well, I was at school, and in Holland, there are more bicycles than cars. So, Friday night after school, from 5–7pm we would bicycle five or six kilometers to the nearest pub. We were about ten or twelve people, always fun, fun, fun. We sat on the terrace, the weather was very nice. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had to go to the restroom in this bar and I suddenly saw these mirrors on the wall. ‘Coca-Cola, Schweppes,’ very kitsch, but it was new at that time in 1974–75. I had a thought, ‘Wow, you should personalize these mirrors with the name and logo of the bar’. Then I started to create these mirrors. I learned how to sandblast and how to make them from my friends in the glass industry. I sold my first mirrors, carrying them under my arm and bicycling through the city, to all the pubs and restaurants. Everyone said, ‘Oh, wow this is nice!’ and I started my business. Then glass became a passion for me. Glass is a fantastic material, glass can be transparent, it can say nothing, but it can also say everything. It’s the way you use it in an interior. So, it started slowly. Then, Holland became too small for me, and I had to find countries where people really appreciate how far you can go with your creativity. And that’s what I do until today.
HM: Which was the first country?
Marieux van den Broek: The first country was the Emirates. I had the opportunity to work with the very best interior architects and designers who challenged me, who gave me the opportunity to grow. I was a young man and the fact that I wanted to be a sports teacher was forgotten, was gone. I saw my passion, my creativity, my design skills. And then, you have to learn, you have to go to school, and I did. But I did it at the same time, in parallel. It was not difficult. My father always said, ‘If you find your passion, you do not have to work one day in your life.’ That’s absolutely true.
HM: What do you bring to Monaco as an interior architect?
Marieux van den Broek: I am realizing dreams for people. We tackle the full story, we take away the headache for that person. It’s not only design. As you know, we design, manufacture, install, do the project management and the procurement. People can give me the key and come back in September and their apartment is done. The fridge is full, flowers will be on the table. I will take care of 100% of that, if they wish. We are skilled, experienced and professional. For my whole life, I’ve done international business, I understand people, I understand nationalities because I want to understand.
HM: Globally speaking, we live in a turbulent world. If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Marieux van den Broek: Wow, what a difficult question. What would I change? There is too much greediness, there is too much machoism, there is too much hunger for power. That’s the issue, where the problems all start, I believe.
HM: Do you believe in God?
Marieux van den Broek: I believe in my god. But not in God you and I know we see on the cross. I really hope that there is something after our life, because it would be a pity if there is not. I think the only thing we are is energy and the power of energy is enormous. It can be bad, and it can be positive. What we are doing now to the world is hopeless, we are killing ourselves by egoism and by power at the hands of a few, it’s sad.
HM: What was the toughest challenge in your profession and how did you overcome it?
Marieux van den Broek: The toughest challenge is always to say, ‘yes’ to something you know in your head is actually, ‘no’. So, if an architect is building a building and asks me to do a certain project which is actually impossible in my head and in my knowledge, I say, ‘yes I can do that’. You say something that is actually not possible at that moment. And then to achieve it, to create the impossible, that’s really a challenge. I’ve done that many times and that’s also my winning point in my profession. I do things when other people stop.
HM: Why do you like Monaco?
Marieux van den Broek: Here, you can live in luxury, you can experience luxury. I do not mean just the luxury of food and material-things, but also the luxury of people. You can meet the most interesting people. You can meet value, real value, you can learn so much from the people who are living here. And that everything is close, it’s very small. Furthermore, if you want to escape, just drive your car half an hour to the left or to the right and you are in Provence or in Italy. That’s what I like about Monaco, but the most interesting part is the people you can meet here. My wife is always telling me, “when you love Monaco, Monaco will love you back”…