The line between furniture and art has long been a blurry one. From Louis XIV’s baroque-inspired armchairs to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s iconic Barcelona chair and Salvador Dalí’s pop art Mae West sofa, history’s most enduring furnishings have borrowed from the artistic movements of their times. Now a new Manhattan-based company, Bespoke Global, is endeavoring to blur that line further by pairing its clients with renowned artists for the development of one-of-a-kind home furnishings.
Launched last May by Pippa McArdle and lighting designer Gwen Carlton, Bespoke Global represents 40 artists and furniture designers. The artists work with the company’s clients to conceive and customize original furnishings, artwork, and accessories, with McArdle and Carlton serving as liaisons from start to finish. The firm’s talent roster is impressive and varied, including such artists as Warren Muller, known for his abstract chandeliers that start at $25,000, and David Ebner, whose sculptural furniture has appeared at the Smithsonian Institute and in museums throughout the world.
"We realized a need for a more personal experience in high-end home furnishings," McArdle says. "More often than not, homeowners simply choose a piece of furniture, and six weeks later it arrives at their door. By giving our clients the ability to work directly with artists, we’re allowing them to actualize their fantasy piece."
The collaboration begins with the client’s selection of an artist, based on the desired aesthetic and medium. Bespoke Global subsequently arranges a series of meetings, which can involve the artist visiting the client’s home, the client touring the artist’s studio, or both. For completely original pieces (the company also offers limited editions crafted by its artisan partners), artists create sketches based on the client’s specifications and then make alterations as necessary. Fabrication of a piece—whether a ceramic lighting fixture, a hand-carved wooden table, a sculpture, or other one-off design—might take a week or a year depending on the project, and prices can be anywhere from about $110 to upwards of $1 million. Clients are as involved as they wish to be during the process, and they can elect at the outset to ultimately receive a video documentary of the experience, as a collector’s souvenir chronicling the creation of a unique work of art.
"The entire experience was so much more personal and passionate than working with an interior designer, which can feel very transactional and indifferent," says Shilpa Sanger, a Bespoke Global client who commissioned furniture maker Michael Coffey last July to create a hand-carved walnut console for her New York City apartment. Coffey—whose fluid, abstract carvings transform stiff wooden surfaces into curvaceous sculptural pieces (a number of which have commanded thousands of dollars at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctions)—spent roughly four months working with Sanger, customizing the console and even overseeing its installation in her home. "Every time I walk by it, I’m filled with good memories of the experience," Sanger says. "For me, it’s not a piece of furniture; it’s artwork."
Bespoke Global, 212.828.7472, www.bespokeglobal.com