Furnishings: Rethink the Antique
First at herman miller and then at Hickory Business Furniture, Christian Plasman discovered the rewards of commissioning artists, architects, and interior designers—none of whom had designed furniture—and giving them carte blanche to turn their ideas into pieces for the home. He brought that same philosophy and many of the same designers over to Baker Furniture when he became president of the influential Kohler, Wisc., company in 1993.
It is therefore not surprising that the 30-year industry veteran used the same business formula for his recently launched furniture brand, Bolier & Co., christened after the maiden name of Plasman’s paternal grandmother. “I would describe it as a continuation of what I was doing at Baker, but taken to the next level of design,” says Plasman. His goal with Bolier & Co. is to explore classic design from a modernist’s perspective. “There is more mid-17th- to mid-19th-century furniture available with more flavors and hooks than anyone could ever want to own,” he says. “But I didn’t see anyone doing a modern interpretation of those designs. We have cleaned up some of these forms so that you don’t feel overburdened by a lot of the extraneous stuff.”
In Rosenau, the firm’s debut collection, Plasman removed contrasting veneers, gold leafing, and ormolu from classic Biedermeier pieces and added polished-nickel hardware for a more contemporary appearance. He enlisted the services of British designer Peter Hunter to explore new interpretations of 18th- and 19th-century English and Swedish designs in the Bolier Classics and Arlanda collections, respectively. “Arlanda is based on Gustavian court furniture from Sweden, and we just took away some of the carvings,” says Plasman.
Graphic designer Michael Vanderbyl, who worked with Plasman at both HBF and Baker, has created a collection called Domicile that is an American interpretation of contemporary European designs. “European furniture is lower and sleeker and sometimes too cold for American homes, so we took the opportunity to create larger forms and warm them up with macassar ebony veneers,” says Plasman.
Kata, the most recent furniture launch, takes an American approach to Japanese antiques. Plasman enlisted the talents of former Baker vice president of design John Black to smooth out uneven finishes using Santo Domingan rosewood and to rescale many of the original designs.
Gauging the audience for these modern manipulations of familiar designs has been intriguing to Plasman. “For the most part, the customers know what they don’t want: They don’t want antiques; they don’t want reproductions; and they don’t want pieces that speak specifically from a certain design style or period,” he says. “They simply want the opportunity to enjoy beautiful furniture forms without all the unnecessary adornments.”
Bolier & Co.