Q & A with decorative artist, Emmanuel Bossuet


Emmanuel Bossuet in his stunning appartment. Image courtesy of The Socialite Family

Emmanuel Bossuet in his stunning appartment in Paris. Image courtesy of The Socialite Family

We were thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with the charming and erudite decorative artist, Emmanuel Bossuet, artistic director of Maison Charles, recently in Paris. Enjoy our Q & A with him.

You describe yourself as a Decorative Artist. What is your philosophy in your design work? The term ‘decorative artist’ is a broad one and can suggest many things. I don’t dedicate myself to being a mere ‘surface designer’ or solely an ‘ornamantist’ but rather I commit more widely to a graphic oriented approach whatever the subject, be it pattern or a piece of furniture. In practical terms it means, I guess, that I somehow prioritize the visual rendition and optical aspect of a piece, and how it will behave in a given environment – within of course a much broader array of criteria….

My commitment definitely has something to do with being an ‘auteur’, whatever the medium may be. And for me discipline is not a theme in itself (which would mean remaining bound to an academic definition of any given medium…). Rather I believe that the theme of any work, any place and perhaps any time is what I can actually bring to it.

Dandelion screen by Emmanuel Bossuet for Armel Soyer. PAD Paris 2016.

Gold and black ‘Dandelion’ screen by Emmanuel Bossuet, PAD Paris 2016, on Armel Soyer’s stand.  Image courtesy of Emmanuel Bossuet

Dandelion wallpaper with embossed paper on Velin d'Arche 300grs, by Emmanuel Bossuet. Edited by Armel Soyer Gallery

‘Dandelion’ wallpaper with embossed paper on Velin d’Arche 300grs, by Emmanuel Bossuet. Edited by Armel Soyer Gallery

Have you always been interested in the decorative arts? And how did you become involved in that metier? What drew you to it? As a child I always regarded the decorative arts with a suspicious eye to say the least…mainly perhaps because I had long found myself surrounded by lesser quality artefacts which were impoverished copies of the grand styles. Most of them Louis XV style… These copies were speaking a very mysterious language to me : totally irrelevant, full of inner and irresolute contradictions.

Years later, my interest in fiction and story telling brought me to a serious study of the graphic arts, drawing and photography which then led me, after a few curvy creative detours to work as as industrial product designer. Incidentally I also got involved at the same period in the field of fashion where I personally focused on pattern making for prints or embroideries. Up to now, most of my close friends are people working in the fashion industry. However, it became clear to me that on the one hand, the aim of the electronic industry (as an industrial product designer) was not to conceive the best products possible and this was a total denial of my commitment as a designer. And on the other hand, the fashion pace seemed far too frustrating in its essence : Why renew your proposals every season, quite often artifically, when you actually seek to invent instant classics rather then obsolescent novelties ? Where is the Grail in all this ?

My attitude towards this analysis was then to look for a more perennial playground, involving lifestyle and artistry alike : and that is why I declared myself a ‘decorative artist’, quite wittily at the time because the word ‘decorative’ was seen as a pejorative, if not provocative term then. Only ten years ago, the term was regarded as a declaration of war on intelligence. Especially in the art field. In the art market, if ‘decorative’ could be added somewhere in the boiler, it was considered the best thing to appeal to a clients actual criteria. It became a widespread essential feature.

Appolonius lustre by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. Seen here at AD Collections Quai d'Orsay 2015

Appolonius lustre by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. Seen here at AD Collections Quai d’Orsay 2015

From where do you draw inspiration? What inspires you? Strangely enough mostly from reading : memoirs in the first place, then essays and technical or scientific literature. I don’t really look much at other people’s work, except when I want to look more closely at why a certain type of project failed or, in my opinion, simply didn’t manage to reach its underlying goal (its always more pleasant to learn from others’ misconceptions than from yours, right ?…)

But what inspires me the most on an everyday basis is the creative process in itself and the many notions you should beckon or dismiss in the creation. And the rhythm thus involved. Let me draw you a picture : after a finely-tuned study I often end up saying that I foresee ‘one solution and a half’ regarding a specific project : which basically means not exactly two…

Plates by Emmanuel Bossuet.

Plates designed by Emmanuel Bossuet

Ceramic bathroom tiles by Emmanuel Bossuet.

Ceramic tiles in a bathroom by Emmanuel Bossuet. Just love the dynamism of the spectacular design! Image courtesy of Emmanuel Bossuet

How do you see the design market in France now? There is basically strictly no product design now in France. We don’t have Ikea here, and the car industry is much more about styling. What we call ‘design’ here is more a matter of dedicated galleries, interior design studios and luxury brands looking to express themselves in a certain environment. This is a strongly flourishing milieu, mostly because creation is still tightly linked to a centuries old tradition here in France of exceptional savoir-faire. Whatever the technique involved you’ll always find here the best craftsmen or companies to realise a project. This is what makes France stand apart in this field from other countries in Europe.

And we can’t deny that Paris in itself attracts the attention of so many people which means that endeavours and creations here are projected onto the international stage and always looked at under a particular spotlight. This is definitely the place for creation.

Desert Rose light by Emmanuel Bossuet or Maison Charles. AD Collections 2016.

Desert Rose light by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. AD Collections 2016. Image courtesy of Emmanuel Bossuet

You became Artistic Director of Maison Charles in 2014. Can you tell us about your role there? Charles is a particularly splendid signature mark and a genuine reference for anyone interested in interior design, be it bronzesmithing or simply lighting. The name ‘Maison Charles’ itself has always been a reference point to describe high-end 60’s and 70’s fixtures. Which is true even now perhaps.

When I started as artistic director of Maison Charles, I had to seriously immerse myself at once in its history and know-how, and as is the case for any venerable house, there is always an intricate mix of these elements with the bare realities of production and market focus. As in everything, there are always many exceptions !

My role there is now mainly to focus on special projects and editions which will lead towards defining Charles in terms of aesthetic innovations for the future. I tend to play the role of forerunner in a way – from quicksand to thin ice, the objective being at my level to help the brand play an ever more prominent yet singular role in the decorative arts field, but on our new grounds. In practical terms, this can take the form of exhibitions, collaborations and special orders. For example, we recently exhibited the first models of the ‘Desert Rose’ range, which I designed, at the event held by AD magazine in Paris – a chandelier, table and tableware. And we are now setting up an exclusive collaboration revising an all-time Charles classic with a top-end department store for the end of the year in Paris.

Art direction is of course not similar to PR work on an every day basis, but if you consider the goals through the scope of creative opportunities for a brand, it should all really be viewed in the same way.

Close-up of Desert Rose low table by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. AD Collections 2016.

‘Desert Rose’ low table by Emmanuel Bossuet for Maison Charles. AD Collections 2016.

Can you tell us about one of the favorite pieces you’ve designed and why it is important to you.  As they all belong to the same string it may be difficult for me to pick up any from the flow ! In some ways I always have a special regard for the ones that escaped from me by reaching a kind of autonomous life by themselves.

Among the most particular projects I would perhaps mention the work we did with Stockman, the famous French bustform manufacturer for couture, a few years ago. These intensely graphic pieces were first created for a one-shot exhibition organized by friends in a commercial showroom. But soon afterwards they were shown at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, then at Centre Georges Pompidou and finally landed at Musée Grevin where ten of them are exhibited as stand-alone pieces. I guess that is what I consider “escape”…

Stockman busts by Emmanuel Bossuet in the Musée Grevin.

Stockman busts by Emmanuel Bossuet in the Musée Grevin.

Stockman busts by Emmanuel Bossuet. Musée Grevin, Paris

Emmanuel Bossuet


Wishing you all a good weekend.

Dimore at the Delacroix for Paris DDays 2016


Entrance to Musée Eugene Delacroix

 Dimore Studio’s latest installation for DesignDays2106, which took place this past week in Paris, is particularly provocative in the context of the current trend of curators to create shows based on ‘Big Art History’.  Big Art History, part of the Big History Project, is an idea invented by David Christian and supported by Bill Gates – which promotes exhibitions and learning opportunities that span large periods of time and often include numerous media categories for example art, design and fashion all in one show that spans 500 years – in an effort to aggregate history. It’s the big data approach that is influencing these ambitious projects.


progetto NON FINITO – Pouf 042 (above and below)

As you can see from these photos, the exhibition entitled Conversations entre Couleurs, explores the correlation between the paintings of one of France’s most celebrated romantic painters, Eugène Delacroix  and the contemporary work of Emiliano Salci e Britt Moran of Dimore Studio.

While small in scale, and a conversation between just two parties the dialogue that ensues across 200 years between paintings and furniture gives the viewer visual access to the past in a way that is fresh and exciting. It’s perhaps opening up the idea of drawing macro conclusions about the success of certain color patterns. The idea of culling this type of information (conclusions?) from of our material culture past is quite fascinating.


progetto NON FINITO – Pouf 042 (detail)

Here are a number of images from the exhibition that explore similar colors used in these two different mediums.


progetto PALMADOR – Deconstruction Table


progetto PALMADOR – Big One Table


progetto PALMADOR – Penta table (above and below)



progetto PALMADOR – Totem screen

 Drawing connections over time is a beautiful and rich exercise that seems to create the possibility of bringing history alive and  into focus in a way that is very relevant to our lives today.


Some other photos of Dimore Studio’s work the illuminate their masterful and carefully edited use of color and texture:







This is what the Seine looked like this morning … no boats passing through Paris at this point.

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Here’s hoping for a little sunshine! Bon weekend!



First Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou of the work of Pierre Paulin


Pierre Paulin Retrospective at Pompidou Centre. Image courtesy of Wallpaper magazine

Pierre Paulin Retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Image courtesy of Wallpaper magazine

Pierre Paulin (1927-2009) was a true innovator in the world of design. Always interested in the dialogue between comfort and the body, he created a new art de vivre where comfort, glamour and style co-existed in perfect harmony. In his exploration of forms, techniques and new materials, he opened up groundbreaking possibilities, working with polyester foam and stretch jersey, and creating pieces with joyful flowing lines and uninhibited bright colors. He said “my work is at the junction of technique and a bit of poetry”.

300paulin-6bc2aSome of Paulin’s iconic chairs, (Tongue chair, Mushroom chair, Tulip chair), Centre Pompidou


Sieges 577 (Also called La Langue)

Tongue chairs, stacked


Bureau de Dame, C193, Edition Thonet. 1959. Galerie Pascal Cusinier

Bureau de Dame, C193, Edition Thonet. 1959. Image courtesy of Galerie Pascal Cuisinier

He graduated in 1950 from the Centre d’art et de Techniques (the institution which eventually became Ecole Camondo). His first designs for Thonet-France were financed by his father in 1954 and he went on to work with la maison de’édition de meubles Artifort in the 1960s where he developed his groundbreaking series of chairs with wooden structures, Pirelli foam and stretch polymer jersey material. Paulin originally gave his work identity numbers and found the names later added “perfectly ridiculous”!

Ribbon chair (Fauteuil F852), 1966. Steel tube, latex mousse and jersey polyamide cover.Ribbon chair (Fauteuil F852), 1966. Steel tube, latex mousse and stretch jersey cover


Chauffeuse F598, named 'Groovy', 1972. Metal, polyster mousse, stretch jersey

Chauffeuse F598, named ‘Groovy’, 1972. Metal, polyster mousse, stretch jersey


Banquette 'dod à dos', 1967. White metal, polyester mousse, red jersey

Banquette ‘back to back’, 1967. White metal, polyester mousse, red stretch jersey

Some major high-profile commissions confirmed his prodigious talent. In 1961 he designed the entrance foyer of the Maison de la Radio in Paris, the Denon wing of the Louvre in the 1970s (working with the Mobilier National), the private apartments of Georges and Claude Pompidou in the Elysée Palace in 1971, and François Mitterand’s office in 1984.

Drawing of Foyer of the Maison de la Radio, Paris, Pierre Paulin, 1961.

Drawing of Foyer of the Maison de la Radio, Paris, Pierre Paulin, 1961. Paulin Archives


Elysées Palace, Pierre Paulin. Image courtesy of New York Times magazine

‘Fumoir’ designed by Paulin, Elysées Palace, 1970-71

'Fumoir', Elysées Palace, Pierre Paulin.‘Fumoir’ in the Elysées Palace, 1970-71. Look at the beautiful ‘Rosace’ low table in smoked glass


Rosace low table in smoked glass


Fauteuil from the Elysées Palace 'Salon des Tableaux', 1971-72. Steel tubing, mousse and leather. Edited by Mobilier National.

Fauteuil from the Elysées Palace ‘Salon des Tableaux’, 1971-72. Steel tubing, mousse and leather. Edited by Mobilier National.


Dining room in private appartments of George and Claude Pompidou.Dining room for George and Claude Pompidou, Elysées Palace, 1971


Presient Mitterand's office at the Elysées Palace, designed by Pierre Paulin.President Mitterand’s office in the Elysées Palace, designed by Pierre Paulin. 1984

The exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, the first retrospective there of Paulin’s work, is an absolute must-see. With over 70 pieces of furniture and around 50 drawings, it covers 40 years of his work. The Paulin family generously donated furniture, archives, documents and drawings to the Pompidou last year. In the spirit of Paulin’s pre-occupation with the human body and comfort, several re-editions of his chairs on which you can sit are placed in front of a screening of the great master discussing his work. And the chairs are very comfortable, cocooning the body while looking sensational.

Arranged chronologically,  his iconic pieces are on view – the Mushroom chair (1960), Tongue Chair (1967) and the Ribbon Chair (1966) – along with lesser known pieces from the Fifties and various prototypes.  Also exhibited are projects which Paulin produced himself and which never went into large-scale production (the Tapis-siège carpet seat, the Déclive recliner and the Tente).

Tapis siége, 1970. Pierre Paulin.

Tapis-siége, 1970. Image courtesy of Paulin, Paulin, Paulin


Déclive lounger. Structure of aluminium slat, covered with polyester foam and removable covers in wool. 1966-1968. Edited by Autoédition. Image courtesy of T magazine, NY Times.Déclive lounger. Structure of aluminium slat, covered with polyester foam and removable covers in wool. 1966-1968. Edited by Autoédition. Image courtesy of T magazine, NY Times


Tent, 1969-70. Model created for Artifort in material and metal.

Tent, 1969-70. Model created for Artifort in material and metal


Pierre Paulin, Centre Pompidou. Exhibition runs through to 22 August 2016

Wishing you a great weekend.

The May Design Sales are on view in Paris!

The Design Sales at Christie’s (25 May) and Sotheby’s (24 May) went on view yesterday.

The sales are similar in many ways reflecting the strongest trends of buyers these days.  The houses took opposite approaches in their catalogues and views. The Sotheby’s catalogue shows each item individually while in the showroom they are presented in inspiring vignettes and Christie’s does almost the opposite by presenting lovely vignettes in the catalogue and a sparser-feeling exhibition.

Here are just a few highlights and comparisons we thought you might enjoy:

If you are interested in the work of Jean Michel Frank there are three different categories to be aware of: The work by Jean Michel Frank – the most coveted and therefor most expensive, the work of Jean Michel Frank for Maison Comte in Argentina, and pieces that are inspired by Jean Michel Frank and produced by Maison Comte. Christie’s offers a range of Maison Comte furniture and lighting including this mumble de rangement for example this is wood inlay whereas Frank used straw marquetry. Frank’s straw marquetry has inspired many designers (as a quick google search will prove )

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Christie’s auctioned this cabinet by Jean Michel Frank, ca. 1925 that came from the collection of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Bergé.


At Sotheby’s this striking mueble below, caught our eye and we thought of Fornasetti but it turns out to be by Osvaldo Borsani, another very important mid-20th century Italian designer. The four front panels are covered in fabric. The pulls are by Lucio Fontana.

borsani cabinet

detail of pulls borsani


Sotheby’s has a large display of works by Alberto and Diego Giacometti. It’s really worth a visit to see this work in person. Christie’s shows the work of Philippe Anthonoiz is a living designer who worked in the atelier of Diego Giacometti. His work is coming up more and more at auction. There are tables by each designer in the upcoming sales:

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Above and below:  Diego Giacometti Table Base, 1960s at Sotheby’s Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.20.39 AM

Pair of side tables below by Philippe Anthonoiz, 1989,  in Chrisite’s sale

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Each house is selling the same Diego Giacometti rug – with the same estimate of 10,000-15,000 euros.

Here it is pictured at Sotheby’s.



Christie’s is offering this pair of chairs by Diego Giacometti, from Coco Chanel’s residence in Lausanne Switzerland.


Both houses are presenting collection of ceramics by Georges Jouve. Below is a photo of some of the works offered by Christie’s.

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These chairs have it all –


View at Sotheby’s with a Campana Brothers chair. I was never a fan of this one until I heard Murray Moss put it into context in this one minute long video – worth your time …

Bon weekend!




Q & A with Sam Pratt of Fumi Gallery

'Blaze' cabinet in brass and tulip wood, 2015 by Alex Hull

‘Blaze’ cabinet in brass and tulip wood, 2015 by Alex Hull. Edition of 8 + 2P

Gallery Fumi is one of the most exciting of the London galleries specializing in contemporary design. Their booth is always one of our first stops at PAD Paris!  This year was no exception and we loved the Blaze cabinet in brass and tulip wood by Alex Hull and the ‘Mise en Place’ table in bronze by Glithero. Sam Pratt, co-director of the gallery, was kind enough to answer some questions, despite his very busy schedule preparing for the gallery’s summer opening  in Sardinia next week.

'Mise en place' tbale in patinated bronze, 2016 by Glithero

‘Mise en Place’ table in patinated bronze, 2016 by Glithero. Unique piece

Detail of 'Mis en Place' table in patinated bronze by Glithero

Detail of ‘Mise en Place’ table, by Glithero

What is your philosophy? Gallery Fumi promotes a unique vision: a distinctive aesthetic based on a curiosity about materials and what they can do, and it fosters attitudes to object-making which are gestural and playful. It combines the beautiful with the teasingly provocative and recognizes the sheer power of objects to communicate ideas. We are unafraid of the unconventional, embracing change and the new, while promoting the value of craftsmanship.

'Liquid' standing light in blown glass, brass and LED 2013.Jeremy Wintrebert

‘Liquid’ lamp in blown glass, brass and LED, 2013, by Jeremy Wintrebert. Edition of 11 + 1AP.

Close-up of 'Liquid light by Jeremy Wintrebert

Detail of ‘Liquid’ lamp by Jeremy Wintrebert

What trends do you see in contemporary design in England at the moment? There are so many! Trend could equal a fad and like fashion could last one season and its gone. My recent observation is that stone and other natural materials are being used more. I do see more ecological and technology related work either in the making or in the piece itself. The one trend I tend to focus nnd appreciate more is the increasing focus on craftsmanship which of course we at Fumi champion. When all fails, I think good craftsmanship will be the one to stand the test of time….and trend!

Book-S:Screen.inla:FR.10 in brass, stainless steel and ash by Thomas Lemut

Book shelf/screen, 2010, in ash, stainless steel and brass by Thomas Lemut. Edition of 3 + 1AP.

'Newcair' armchair in stainless steel, brass and leather, 2015 by Thomas Lemut

‘Newcair’ armchair, 2015 in stainless steel, leather and brass by Thomas Lemut. Edition of 8 + 2AP +1P.

You exhibit at PAD Paris as well as several other international fairs. What do you see as the role of the design fair in today’s market? Is its role continually evolving?  I believe fair organisers and galleries are constantly trying to evolve and improve, they owe it to the visitors and clients ! The fair situation is a highly demanding and competitive one and there is a constant need to improve and be better. Galleries spend a fortune these days on stand set up at these fairs in an effort to be different and thereby impress and attract clients.

The design fair has gained in importance over the last few years as people look to other avenues apart from art to express the need to surround themselves with beauty and make their lives more meaningful. The fact that the art market has been somewhat dull in the past few years might have helped fuel that attraction to design.

'Singularity' hanging light in brass and acrylic, 2015 by Bob Lorimer

‘Singularity’ light in brass and acrylic, 2015, by Bob Lorimer. Edition of 3.

What do you look for in the artists you work with?  Of course talent and promise but also almost as important for us at FUMI is that we like the artist as a person. We never work with anyone we do not like. We strongly believe this is the only way to have a good long lasting relationship.

'Engineering Temporality' console, 2015, in steel by Tuomas Markunpoika

‘Engineering Temporality’ console, 2015, in steel by Tuomas Markunpoika. See our previous post on the work of this talented designer.

What inspires you? I could be somewhat fickle and say beauty which does, but there are all sorts of things…travel, music, conversation.

'Sguardo Cubetti 1, 2016 by Sam Orlando Miller

‘Sguardo Cubetti 1’ cabinet, 2016, amber mirror and paint on panel, by Sam Orlando Miller. Unique piece

Could you tell us about the present exhibition showing the work of Sam Orlando Miller in your London gallery with its very intriguing title. ‘Tra l’occhio e l’ombra’ is the first solo show at our gallery by artist Sam Orlando Miller. Its a very different body of work from him and a change in direction. For many years Sam from his studio in Italy has worked with glass largely making beautiful sculptural wall mirrors, patinated and otherwise.  The title translates into “Between the eye and the shade”. He describes the choice of the title as, “When light is low or fading, when the quantity of visual information is reduced and a point of uncertainty is reached, like when you are standing in a field and can no longer make out the leaves of a tree, a fleeting moment can occur when you suddenly understand the entire landscape and yourself standing there with time stretching out around you in all directions”.

In the show there are two bodies of work: Sguardo Cubetti (roughly translates to View small cubes) where all the works in the series spring from one imaginary perfect object. This standard takes the form of a cube that has had its surfaces divided by a trompe d’oeil three-dimensional grid, and in turn this illusion has partially been given actual depth in the form of a box with a door. Sam says of these works ‘Opening a box always offers the chance of the unexpected, a small thrill of anticipation irrespective of what the box might or might not contain. This work is about that moment; between the visible and invisible, inside and outside, reality and illusion’. The other body of work, the mirrors is called Nostalgia Futuro (translates to Nostalgia Future). In these works, the image of the studio interior seen in the mirror is painted onto the over-lapping, patinated plane around the mirror itself. There is a difference between the patination and the painting that is deliberately elusive.

'Nostalgia Futuro 1' mirror, 2016 by Sam Orlando Miller.

‘Nostalgia Futuro 1’ mirror, 2016, in mixed media on panel with mirror by Sam Orlando Miller. Unique piece

What advice do you have for collectors? The proverbial, buy what you like!! Never be swayed by trend. You have to live with it and you should want to live with it for a very long time!!

‘Tra l’Occhio et l’Ombra’ showing the work of Sam Orlando Miller, runs through to 30th June.

Fumi Gallery, 16 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NT.



The Ultimate Desk Chair by Pierre Jeanneret




 Office Chair, ca. 1959- 60, teak and recovered in leather

Recently we had the chance to learn about Patrick Seguin’s passion for Pierre Jeannerat, Jean Prouvé and Jean Royere at his Paris Gallery. This week we would like share the work of Pierre Jeanneret – specifically his chair designs for the Chandigarh India project in the 1950s.

 Shortly after India gained independence in the lat 1940s, the Prime Minister Nehru of Chandigarh hired Pierre Jeanneret and his cousin Le Corbusier to build the capital city, which would become the administrative capital of the province Punjab.

The Galerie documents that, “The sole instruction given by Nehru was to be « expressive, experimental and to not let themselves be hindered by tradition ». Chandigarh originated in a unique urbanistic global approach, and would be, as Nehru wished, a symbol of modernity.”


Office chair, circa 1959-60 recovered in black hide

While the two men started the project together in the early 1950s, Le Corbusier soon left to take on other projects while Jeanneret stayed for 15 years to complete the project as chief architect and urban designer.  He simultaneously created a furniture style used in the Senate and office buildings that is evidenced in the chairs in this post.

The design feels very relevant in today’s interiors. They have strong clean and efficient form that is influenced by and simultaneously breaks away from history. The use of teak, a local Indian wood acknowledged the environment for which the designs were conceived. These chairs symbolized modernity and forward thinking. They are powerful, elegant and understated.


Office chair, circa 1955-56, re-caned

The gallery has documented Pierre Jeanneret and Le Corbusier’s work on the Chandigarh project in this publication.

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Judges Chairs,  circa 1955


Advocate chair, circa 1955-56

The upholstery can be customized. All of the chairs are authenticated and in their structures are all original.

Photo courtesy of Galerie Patrick Seguin





Homage to Vladimir Kagan (1927 – 2016)

A 28 year old Kagan in his Two Position rocker and ottoman, 1955. Image by Herman van Ness, courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Design Group Photography by Hans van Ness.

28 year old Kagan in his Two Position rocker and ottoman, 1955. Image by Herman van Ness, courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Design Group 

Ondine chair in walnut, designed 1958. Image courtesy of Vladimir Kagan.

Ondine chair in walnut, designed 1958. Image courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Design Group.

“I am evolutionary, not revolutionary. I’ve always designed to fill a void in the lifestyle of the modern home”. Vladimir Kagan

The design world lost the inimitable Vladimir Kagan last month. His highly individual biomorphic forms and powerfully sculptural pieces were his signature marks. His designs are in the permanent collections of the V & A Museum and Vitra Design Museum, among others and he was inducted into the Interior Designers Hall of Fame in 2009.

Serpentine Sofa.

Serpentine sofa, designed 1949. Image courtesy of Vladmir Kagan Design Group.

A custom Serpentine sofa, 2007, in a New York town house by Julie Hillman Design. Photography by Bärbel Miebach.

A custom Serpentine sofa, 2007, in a New York town house by Julie Hillman Design. Photography by Bärbel Miebach. Image courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Designs.

A proponent of the adage ‘form follows function’, Kagan put the comfort and functionality of his pieces in the forefront when designing furniture. Talking about his revolutionary Serpentine sofa in an interview in April 2015 Kagan said, “A curved shape makes more sense so that you’re not sitting like birds on a wire, lined up. People like to sit out in the open, away from the wall. A sofa should float in space, like interior landscaping”. His work is infused with a deep sensuality and a sense of the joy of life, avoiding the austerity that was the hallmark of much Modernist furniture. Fluid and seductive, the inventive sensuous shapes and undulating lines of his work speak of his sheer delight in the beauty of form.

The German-born son of a cabinetmaker, Kagan studied architecture at Columbia University before joining his father in the family business, and opening his own shop in New York in 1949. His breakthrough commission was for the Delegates Cocktail Lounges in the UN Headquartes in Lake Success in 1947-48. He infused his sleek and inventive designs with the pragmatism of the craftsman, calling his work “vessels for the body”.

Ralph Pucci International have produced licensed re-editions of some of his designs and Kagan was working at the time of his death on new designs with them. You will find the authorized international showrooms where KAGAN CLASSIC collections are available, made to the exacting specifications of original Kagan Designs, at www.vladimirkagan. You can also find his beautiful recently revised book ‘A Lifetime of Avant Garde Design’ on the site.

Vladimir Kagan book

Tri-symmetric 412 glass coffee table. Designed 1950. Image courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Designs.

Tri-symmetric 412 glass coffee table. Designed 1950. Image courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Designs.

175E Contour Lounge Side Chair. Designed c 1958.

175E Contour Lounge Side Chair. Designed c 1958. Image courtesy of Vladimir Kagan Designs

Vladimir Kagan armchair, c1953. Brooklyn Museum.

Vladimir Kagan armchair, c1953. Image courtesy of Brooklyn Museum.

Vladimir Kagan Stool, c 1960, Brooklyn Museum

Vladimir Kagan Stool, c 1960. Image courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

The Lotus chir, c 1970 Back in production. Available at Vladimir kagan Designs

The Lotus chair, c 1970 Back in production. Image courtesy of  Vladimir Kagan Designs

Unicorn sofas in a private London home by Vladimir Kagan. Image courtesy of AD.Unicorn sofas in a private London home by Vladimir Kagan. Designed 1960s. Image courtesy of AD.

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Vladimir Kagan (1927 – 2016)

France’s unique and thrilling Hôtel Drouot

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Drouot has always held an allure for collectors, amateurs and tourists alike and we also know it can also feel rather daunting. This week we explain what exactly ‘Hôtel’ Drouot is and how this operation works. Next time you’ll be ready!

First thing to know is that The Hôtel Drouot itself isn’t an auction house. It’s a building that looks and feels like an American mall with florescent lighting and a central escalator connecting several floors, which opened in 1852 and today hosts about 75 small, private Paris-based auction houses, each with its own auctioneer.

There are 16 salerooms and outside of each one is a screen telling you which auction house is offering what sale is inside. It also list all of the specialists that worked on the sale. There are over 200 independent specialists that assist the auction houses to identify and authenticate every single object offered for sale.

About 1,300 sales take place in the Hôtel per year and on average about 500 objects sold per day – 6 days a week. Hotel Drouot is open Monday – Saturday.


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Marc Chagall (1887-1985) Lithograph

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Flowers low table,  with colored silkscreen on paper after Andy Warhol, Edition SundayB Morning.

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Pair of Jacques-Emil Ruhlmann (1879-1933) ash wood bergères, model ‘Bas Ducharme’, circa 1927.


Who can go? Just like all auction houses Drouot is open to the public and anyone can attend and participate in an auction.

What is for sale? Everything. From box lots that can contain vases, incomplete sets of Limoges dishware, fur coats, silvered trinkets, pin boxes, etc … with estimates of 10-20 euros to the most important/valued furniture and art in the world. France, having been the wealthiest country in the world during the reign of Louis XIV until the 19th century accumulated a lot of riches and cultural objects that are still uncovered in homes to this day. The quantity and quality of objects is unique to France and consequently the treasure hunt is alive and doing very well here at Drouot!

You can certainly feel the energy of the hunt! We were recently there before opening hours for a private view and the moment the doors opened to the public at 11am the escalators were packed. And people were on a mission! Don’t get in their way. Everyone seemed to have done previous research and knew what they were there to see. Some people pulled suitcases behind them anticipating leaving with treasures. Others carried flashlights to use when they pull out drawers to examine construction, and still others examined silver stamps. One thing for sure – the objects for sale are sold as is – authenticity is a matter of wording, which can be tricky for the unseasoned browser. We noticed that many people were saying good morning to each other tipping us off that they are regulars and mainly dealers.


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French black lacquered wood and silvered cast iron standing cabinet.


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Art Deco Glass and Silvered Metal Tray


How it works:

  • There are about 7/8 sales in Drouot every day.
  • Each sale comes and goes over two days. The first day is an exhibition of all the sale lots from 11am-6pm. The second day the smaller items are available to touch and examine from 11am to 12noon. During this time the larger items are moved to the edges of the room and an auction stand is placed in the room, chairs are slowly set up for the public who will bid on the items.
  • All auctions start at 2pm.
  • All sales are finished by 6pm and the next sale begins it’s set up at 7pm/8pm until about 10pm.

Whew! It’s very impressive! The energy is palpable. Drouot says that almost 5,000 people come through each day.


Unlike Christie’s and Sotheby’s there are no set bidding increments so you need to really pay attention!

  • Just like all the other auction houses there are buyer premiums to pay … 25% at the moment. There is often an expert fee to add on and there is always a 5% state fee to pay. It’s always important to keep in mind these fees when considering your top bid. You’ll need to add about 30% to the hammer price.
  • For property under 1000 Euros you can pay cash – just like in the shops.
  • The winning bidder pays on the spot and walks out with the smaller items purchased. (Hence the people pulling suitcases!)
  • If an item is too big to carry out there is a desk on the ground floor where you can arrange shipping. There is next day shipping in Paris and shipping is available worldwide.


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Set of four Tulip Chairs by Aero Saarinen (1910 – 1961) Edited by Knoll International


Some extra info:

  • Drouot produces a weekly magazine listing all of their sales plus many other sales around France including Christie’s/Sotheby’s to small regional auctions. It comes out every Friday.
  • There is a free monthly magazine as well (in French, Chinese and English) that highlights the important sale highlights and results as well as interviews, museum highlights and trend reports.
  • DrouotLive is for the online sales. All wine sales are on line and many other sales as well. You need to check on the website.
  • Catalogues are produced for the important sales. Sales without catalogues
  • Each first Saturday of the month a decorator is invited to create rooms using objects on view. It’s a project that takes place during opening hours. The idea is inspire people by putting the objects in context as a way to help highlight their value.

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Rosewood commode by Kurt Ostervig (1912-1986) Edited by KP Mobler

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Four gilt cast iron chairs by Rene Prou (1889- 1947)

Bon weekend!

All photos from catalogues for upcoming sales at Drouot.

Our Q & A with exciting young designer, Ben Storms


In Vein table - total view.
InVein table. Image courtesy of Filip Dujardin.
 In Vein table in use and against the wall
In Vein table by Ben Storms, 2013. Image courtesy of Luca Beel.
Inspired by trestle tables in the Middle Ages which were often painted with Biblical scenes on the underside for reflection when the table was not in use and placed up against the wall, Ben perpetuated the idea of a mobile table. Under the 3mm slab tabletop of grey Ardennes marble is the ‘belly’ of polished stainless steel formed into a convex shape by a technique called hydrofoaming (water pressure gives it its organic shape) which can be used as a reflective mirror when stood up against the wall. When in use it is placed on two steel legs connected by beautiful leather straps.
A marble top trestle table. A low table made of a massive slab of marble snugly resting on an inflated metal pillow. A table made of glass panels with no structural support. These are challenges to test the most experienced of designers – both logistically and aesthetically – and yet young emerging Belgian designer, Ben Storms has magnificently created and mastered all three. His approach is all about matter, and respecting and exploring materials, pushing the boundaries, and incorporating new techniques with such ancient materials as marble and glass.
We caught up with Ben at PAD Paris last week where his In Vein table won the prize for Best Contemporary Design. If you missed it at PAD you can see it in the movie ‘Criminal’, a CIA thriller due for release this year! Despite his tight schedule (he has been completing his prototype InStock glass table for ‘Belgium is Design’, Fuorisalone in Milan this week, 12 – 17 April), he graciously found time for a Q & A with us. Enjoy learning about this exciting new talent.
All images courtesy of Ben Storms unless otherwise stated.
Ben Storms with the InVein table.Ben and the In Vein table. Image courtesy of LRS photography.
What inspires you? I like to experiment with a lot of different techniques and materials. I have a need to explore, to push the limits as you can see in my piece In Vein. I love to start with a given material and look for the boundaries, limits and characteristics of a specific material. When I have that information I can start working and experimenting, and after this process I end up with a certain shape, aesthetic or design (in the best case scenario!)  

On the other hand, nowadays, I notice that I can just have a sudden image in my head having been inspired by something that I see. This is different and much quicker.  I don’t find myself running to the library anymore to dig into a certain problem/technique/material like I did when I was a student. Furthermore I am tending more towards sculptural work, as you can see in my work InHale low table and I am working on a new collection called InStock which was inspired by glass and the pallets with reclaimed building materials which I grew up with.  I realize more and more that my designs are very personal, my background has got a huge and positive influence on my work.

The plastic arts are super inspiring to me in many ways: aesthetically, dramatically, in the exploration of materials, shapes, aesthetics and feelings. There are no boundaries, as in function for design.  Materials, their boundaries and their possibilities also inspire me profoundly as well as techniques and technical challenges. Old crafts and new innovation and playing around on the boundaries of these techniques fascinate me. I use old techniques on other more contemporary materials. And the other way around too –  today we have CNC techniques and machines that we can use with those old materials giving us more possibilities than ever. To me those 3D and CNC techniques are the contemporary crafts.


In Vein table, reflective mirror

The In Vein table up against the wall. Image above courtesy of Filip Dujardin

In Vein table detail

Detail of leather strap on the In Vein table. Image above courtesy of Luca Beel.

You won the Prize for Contemporary Design for your brilliant ‘In Vein’ table at PAD Paris this year. Could you take us through your thinking behind the design of it?  This table took me about a year to develop (2013). The starting point was marble, a material that is very familiar to me and I wanted to use it for my end project on the VOMO course in Design at Thomas More in Mechelen. I literally summed up all characteristics that come to mind when thinking of marble : ‘Heavy, expensive, cold, kitsch, breaks, hard, old, thick, …’ After a while I decided to make a lightweight marble table supported by trestles because it goes totally against all these characteristics. You can feel this on very first sight of the table. I believe this is the strength of this piece, everyone is immediately struck by the fact that this is ‘impossible’. The In Vein table is probably one of the lightest marble tables ever made: the 3m version is about 65 kg. Another important thing is that every choice in material, construction, shape was like an obligation and absolutely necessary for constructional reasons. This resulted in a well balanced material mix that works really well in terms of aesthetics. The aesthetics are a result of choices made in order to have a perfect construction:  ‘aesthetics follow construction’.  To me this work is all about design, pushing the limits of materials and techniques to realize a new kind of table.


  InHale tables in marble with metal bases inflated using the hydrofoil technique, 2014 

InHale low table..

InHale low table...

InHale low table closeup

Image above courtesy of Tom Van Remoortere

InHale table.

Image above courtesy of Filip Dujardin

InHale detail.

Image above courtesy of Filip Dujardin

Could you show us another of your pieces and tell us about it? InHale came right after In Vein and was partly inspired by it. I use the same technique of hydroforming the metal as I did for InVein.  For InHale I started with a rough block of St Anne marble from Belgium. This marble is very exclusive since the quarry closed half a century ago. My family bought the left over stock which was rediscovered 4 years ago in the quarry under a big pile of earth when they were expanding their infrastructure.

I wanted to find a way to lift this heavy block and, while analysing a previous little test I did to experiment with the hydroforming (which resulted in a little metal pillow), I found my solution. The block is supported by a blown metal pillow, giving an interesting contrast in terms of heavyness/lightness, hardess/softness, polished/roughness of the marble. What is interesting in terms of design is that the metal pillow balances the marble in a way which means it becomes perfectly level, so fulfilling its function as a low table.                                                                                    


This is the prototype (below) which Ben completed this week of ‘Instock l Glass’. It is being shown now in Milan at ‘Belgium is Design’  (‘Belgian Matters’) at Fuorisalone, Palazzo Litta (12 – 17 April 2016). 

Prototype of InStock glass table

unspecified copyImage above courtesy of Julien Renault




You have just completed the prototype of your new piece from the ‘In Stock l Glass’ collection for ‘Belgium is Design’ in the Palazzo Litta in Milan, curated by Damn Magazine. The objective of the exhibition was for each designer to work with a new, unknown to them, material. You chose glass and this prototype remarkably has no structure in another material – just glass! Tell us about this piece.  The title for the collection, Instock refers to the amazing stock of materials my father has accumulated throughout his career. My parents had a business in reclaimed materials and stone masonry. I love the patina of these old materials. Objects can become more beautiful while aging, and some of the objects I’m working with have been around for centuries. The materiality of these objects will be the vantage point for every new piece in the collection. And the context they were found in is decisive too. The geometric aesthetics of  the title ‘In Stock l Glass’ refer to the way the material was piled up on the wooden pallets when my father found it. This prototype wouldn’t exist if my father hadn’t stumbled across a pallet of beautiful translucent glass tiles from a glass factory that had gone out of business in a small village in France.

To me the function of this piece isn’t really defined, it could be a low table or a bench. I prefer to see it as an object playing with light and displaying the beauty of the material and it’s properties. I refer to a certain or possible function thanks to or via the dimension. I didn’t want to use any structure to carry the material, just glass so the glass panels, which are 1,5cm thick, are stuck together very solidly with UV-glue. The glass tiles are cold-casted, the type which are normally used by architects to provide visual obscuration while still permitting light to pass through. Only these tiles did not have a vacuum inside. Just like stone and marble, glass has its own properties. Each piece has its own unique character. Glass tiles contain residual internal stresses introduced during the manufacturing process. I am trying to do something with that tension. I want to display that tension and make it work in my favor. I have been working on the prototype for 3 months and was finalizing it last week.
We have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot more of the powerful work of Ben Storms.
Wishing you all a great weekend!

AD Collections at the Hotel de la Marine, Place De Concorde



The newly renovated entrance hall of the Hôtel de la Marine

Coinciding with PAD Paris last weekend was the opening of a fast growing 10-day event called AD Collections. We have reported on various versions of this exhibition over the past few years. This year it includes 40 interior designers, craftsmen, architects and designers for large luxury houses. Each were asked to present three pieces emblematic of their philosophies.

The work is presented by Architectural Digest and Mobilier National through Sunday in the Hôtel de la Marine on the Place de Concorde.or

Newly refurbished interiors …

The Mobilier National’s primary mission is to furnish the official buildings of the Republic around the globe and promote French culture. The government agency is also charged with maintaining the French national collection of important furniture dating to the 17th century as well as the creation of new tapestries, carpets and furniture through through the national Manufacturers (Gobelins – tapestry and and cabinet makers) that the agency oversees. The ‘atelier for Recherche et de Creation’ (ARC) is responsible for producing furniture prototypes . The ARC was created in 1964 by the current Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux, and concides with the end of France’s reconstruction and modernization period beginning in the 1950s. The atelier ARC, has since enabled the Mobilier National to evolve into the 21st century. Its mission, amongst others, is to ‘promote contemporary techniques in furniture design.’ To date, the ARC has created over 500 prototypes since its inception, calling upon nearly every accomplished French designer one can think of: from Pierre Paulin and Olivier Mourgue in the 70s, to Garouste and Bonetti and Martin Szekely in the 1980s and the Bourroullec brothers Ronan and Erwan in the 1990s.

Here are some highlights incase you can’t make it this weekend!

Elliot Barnes, the American interior designer in Paris known for the Ruinart Champagne headquarters projects and many private partmentain Paris and hotels such as Ritz Carlton in Wolfsburg Germany and many private apartment, created an ‘undressing’ mirror because ones needs are different at the end of an evening … It is constructed of panel of stained glass, a hand stitched shelf for a watch of earnings and a black lacquered structure inspired by work of fashion designer Azzedine Alaia. His hand blown glass tabouret, Les Sables du temps, marks every half hour in time, and his console Zuma, is inspired by waves in California and incorporates seaweed that influences the feeling of movement.


‘Meubles Bijoux’ by Kam Tin, a designer from Hong Kong who made a very limited production of his work. His brand was purchased by Maison Rapin and today it flourishes with creations like those above covered in pyrite and turquoise. Other creations include rock crystals and amber.




This is the fauteuil ‘Cerise’ by Eric Schmitt in Black-lacquered wood, polished bronze and velvet (L82 x l82 x h78 cm). Schmitt recently opened atelier in the Marais for private clients.


Desk by Noé Duchaufour Lawrence in oak, linen and leather, Made for the Atelier de Research (ARC) by Mobilier National



Coffee table by Emmanuel Bossuet, a graphic artist and artistic director in Pars who has been involved in fashion and creates furniture collections.


A hand sculpted marble-yop table by interior designer Stephanie Coutas.





Patricia Urquiola’s Swing Chair and stool for Louis Vuitton



18th century tassels ….



Fauteuil Racket by Humberto and Fernando Campana for Carpenters Workshop Gallery



Beautiful pattern and patina!