For Swedish company Bolon, vinyl flooring is not just something that you stand on, it’s something that should stand out. “We see ourselves not as a flooring company but as a design company that produces flooring,” says Chief Creative Officer Annica Eklund. “Our flooring is very strong and durable, but it also has a unique textile look. Unlike other vinyl flooring, ours can give a three-dimensional appearance when the light hits it.”

“We want to make a cocoon for clients,” says Artur Miranda, co-founder of Oporto-based architecture and interiors practice Oitoemponto (which means “eight o’clock precisely” in his native Portuguese). What constitutes this cocoon will vary, of course. “For some people it means having parties for hundreds of people every day,” says Artur. “Others just want to be alone in a beautiful room.” Oitoemponto’s practice merges the ideals of haute couture with the world of design and architecture. Artur himself started out as a fashion designer while his French co-founder Jacques Bec trained in graphic design in Paris.

“We reinterpret people’s lives,” says Artur. And in order to achieve this his team needs to acquire a detailed understanding of how a client likes to live. “We are like a personal lawyer, or doctor, perhaps even a psychologist,” says Jacques.

“We have to know how people live,” says Artur. “We are not being intrusive. You can’t do tailor-made if you don’t know the person. Once trust is established, clients consult us about clothes, houses, yachts. Even the flower arrangement for a dinner party.”

Beauty is not something that can simply be imported, either. “We have to tell a story with a property,” says Artur. “Being beautiful is not enough. There has to be a concept behind it. Without that, the most beautiful hotel in the world will close its doors in two weeks.”

“We love art,” says Jacques. “Good art is the first thing I encourage clients to put in their house. We love introducing artists to clients.” Unusually for designers, Oitoemponto has a warehouse of specially selected and curated furniture and fittings they can draw from when one of their projects calls for an extra something special.

The key to the Oitoemponto approach is not sticking to one signature look. “A lot of designers do a lot of the same work because they have a style,” he says. “We don’t have a style, we have a grammar. We have a particular palette of colours, but apart from that it is always different. Haute couture is always individual.”

Originally specializing in interior design, the company now has a creative team of 22 of whom 14 are architects. “We will start with a farmer’s field and end with the table set for dinner,” says Artur. “Even if we are working on an interior, architecture is always involved.”

When they started out in the early 1990s, Artur and Jacques’ projects mostly consisted of shop interiors. When the shop owners invited them to redesign their houses they found the work better suited their ideal of lasting beauty. “Shop interiors evolve very quickly,” says Jacques. “But houses are built to last a much longer time.”

A sense of timelessness is one of the most distinctive qualities in the company’s designs. “Great places are always created over a period of time,” says Jacques, “and in our work we try to show how time has passed, that a house has grown over time. The Maison du Caviar (a recent project in Paris) was in fact all new inside, but now it has the feeling of a 1930s steamliner.”

Jacques drives a midnight-blue 1971 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. “Rolls-Royce are great tailors,” he says. “We can only aspire to achieving the same level of dedication to lasting beauty, elegance and comfort.”