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Private Preview 2004: Furnishings: Form Follows Fashion

Most furniture collections, like runway fashions, are unveiled in the spring and fall. This year, the two genres share more than seasonal schedules. Furniture is following haute couture—it is made to order, comes in seamless fabrics that drape perfectly, and has silhouettes as sharp as a Brioni suit. After all, your closet should not be the only thing having fun this fall.

Pour On the Resin

Like the classic navy suit, the new Tilt chair from em [collaborative studio] is meant to be versatile. “The idea was to use one single design that could be dressed up or down by varying the selection of materials,” says creative director Emmanuel Cobbet.

The Tilt lounge chair is supported by three steel legs and is available in a monochromatic fiberglass ($980) or in a multicolor resin ($2,500). “The resin is the dressier piece,” Cobbet says. “It’s more delicate and meant for inside the home, while the fiberglass is more everyday utilitarian and can be used outside or commercially.” 

With backgrounds in fashion, architecture, and product design, the Los Angeles–based em design trio of Cobbet, Marc Yeber, and Tim Malley is taking underutilized materials and incorporating them into practical design for the home. “We wanted to look at the lounge chair in a new way,” says Cobbet. “It’s comfort with a twist.”

Meant to serve as a signature piece, like a work of art, the hand-poured resin version of Tilt is part of a limited edition that will be numbered and catalogued. And, as with every great piece of clothing, cut and proportion are key to its eye-catching curves and tubular legs. “We wanted the chair to fit inside a wide range of residential and commercial settings, such as restaurants, bars, and hotel lobbies,” says Malley, who is based in Paris. “But we also wanted to make a fashion statement. It was essential that the ‘seated’ ultimately looked cool in Tilt.” And isn’t looking cool what great design is ultimately all about?

em [collaborative studio], 323.650.2079

All About Eve

The greatest compliment you can pay Sally Sirkin Lewis is to caress her new Eve sofa. Crafted from the finest butter-soft leather, Eve ($11,300 for the 84-inch length) is an updated version of the classic Adam sofa she introduced more than 20 years ago, only with smaller-spaced tufts (10 inches as opposed to Adam’s 15 inches) and a slimmer, more refined feminine shape.

“I originally got the idea for Eve after not being able to take my eyes off a Manolo Blahnik boot heel a friend was wearing. It was simply gorgeous,” Lewis says. “I immediately started sketching it and thought how lovely it would look as the base of a sofa.”

Fashion has always played a big role in Lewis’ design. “I absolutely hate heavy upholstery,” she says. “I use couture mills to get my textiles.” Lewis typically designs furniture with clothing in mind and has an acute appreciation for the way fabrics drape and move with wear. Not a big fan of adornment, Lewis describes her style as “somewhat minimal without being empty.”

Available in more than 15 shades of kid leather as well as cowhide (“supersoft cowhide,” she assures), the Eve sofa can be customized to match the desires of the most finicky of clients. “It’s my materials,” Lewis says. “I don’t believe in anything being too delicate.”

J. Robert Scott, 310.680.4200, www.jrobertscott.com

Another Getty Masterpiece

When Ann Getty set out to design furniture based on her own antiques, she narrowed her favorites down to 50 pieces and then chose five for reproduction. It was a difficult decision, and in the end she simply chose the ones she liked best. “I mainly like English designs with good clean lines that aren’t too delicate,” she says. “But when it came down to it, I picked these pieces because I love them.”

The bureau bookcase ($48,000), with its gold detailing and rich red–painted surface, is based on the one in the library of the Pacific Heights mansion she shares with her husband, Gordon Getty. “It’s originally from England and is one of eight,” she explains. “The goal of our collection was to make rare pieces like these more accessible to the public, for everyone to use.” 

Primarily an interior designer, Ann Getty is hoping to branch out and introduce a much wider range of pieces, including full dining room sets and sofas, releasing new pieces at least twice a year. “I initially got into the business of designing furniture to help decorate my clients’ homes better,” she says. “Since our manufacturers have the originals right in front of them, our versions are firsthand and nearly identical.”

Ann Getty & Associates, Design Studio, 866.343.3890, www.anngetty.com

H to the Power of X

According to Holly Hunt, her new Studio H Collection is all about “a modern mix of style and materials, moving with ease across cultures and time.” True to her signature style, the lines of her new collection are clean and refined with neutral tones and textures that blend into any environment. “The collection is meant to provide the background for living well,” Hunt says.

Hunt is not a fan of unnecessary decoration, but she still feels the need for something to stand out. “Every space needs an infusion of texture, wear and tear, a juxtaposition of disparate style and object, a little sex appeal, so as not to be boring,” she says. The 40-odd pieces in the new collection, including the long and sturdy X Base console ($7,425), combine sophistication with everyday practicality.

Hunt originally aspired to be a fashion designer. Now she finds herself influenced by all kinds of artists. “I love the grand gesture of artists like Robert Motherwell and Richard Serra,” she notes. “They have an inspirational use of space and scale, but with great precision and discipline.”

Holly Hunt, 312.661.1900, 212.891.2500, www.hollyhunt.com

Product Branding

When Eric Brand is not designing furniture for Las Vegas casinos, or developing special projects for his alma mater, the University of Houston’s College of Architecture, he is working on his own line of furniture. The new Super X Series table ($3,500), available at Thomas Lavin’s Los Angeles showroom, is a contemporary translation of an Art Deco classic by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, with a steel base and open-grain wood top.

Originally an architect, Brand started his own furniture company 12 years ago. “My projects are usually guided by the materials,” he says. “I love luxurious details and materials along with simple, organic shapes and lines. I also like to add a lot of luscious elements, like rich leathers and veneers, to keep things simple, yet alluring.”

As an architect, Brand worked on several retail design projects for such top fashion houses as Chanel, Coach, and Donna Karan. While he may have switched careers, he has not lost his sense of style. “Today, furniture is just as important to people as fashion accessories like shoes or bags,” he says. “People want to make a fashion statement, not just with what they wear, but with how they live and the things that surround them.”

Thomas Lavin, 310.278.2456, www.thomaslavin.com

The Recline of Civilization

“My wife wants two of them,” says Cassina USA President Tom DiNapoli, referring to the new Thor chaise longue designed by Hannes Wettstein. “Not only is it really great looking, but everyone who sits in it can’t get over how comfortable it is.” Based on Le Corbusier’s LC4 model from the late 1920s, this modern update can go from upright to outstretched by way of a mechanism near the footrest, and DiNapoli is even convinced that the seat can be used as a work surface if you sit astride it. That may prove easier to do on the fabric and leather upholstery rather than the pony hair version. The chair is priced from $2,405 to $5,150, not including the headrest. Every inch is upholstered, leaving no sign of its tubular steel construction, and the down-filled leather pillow is removable. Extravagant yet casual—maybe commissioning two is not such a bad idea. 

Cassina USA, 212.245.2121, www.cassinausa.com

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