Ross Lovegrove, Jephson Robb and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance have been commissioned by Bernhardt Furniture Company – America’s oldest furniture company – to create a collection to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Drawing on Bernhardt’s heritage in woodworking and upholstery, the designs take inspiration from traditional furniture archetypes and recreate them for the present day.
US-based Bernhardt Furniture Company is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and has commissioned products to mark the occasion.
Lovegrove’s Anne chair, named after the brand’s founder, took the American courthouse chair as its inspiration.
Combining master carvers’ craftsmanship and seven axis CNC technology, the chair has a smooth organic form made from walnut with a leather seat.
“I wanted the seat to be very fluid, almost as if it were poured into the frame, as opposed to being a distinctly separate element,” said Lovegrove. “This casual draping effect speaks of prior use and provides a visual cue regarding comfort.
“[Wood] is a truly organic material and full of surprises. Just like a slab of marble, you don’t know what you are getting when you make your first cut. As in all my work, the Anne chair is about sculpting a material, creating something that has a human dimension and looks interesting from any view.”
French designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance chose to make a rocking chair, seeing it as representative of the French vision of America, used while sitting on an open porch.
“In my mind, the rocking chair was invented in America, although I’m sure that is not true in fact. For me, designing a new rocking chair is the ideal way to celebrate [Bernhardt’s] heritage.
Early inspiration came from the Adirondack chair, although Duchaufour-Lawrance’s focus switched to the Windsor rocking chair, whose complexity and refinement he found remarkable.
“The Windsor chair is essentially a kit of parts that are joined together in a very defined way – glides, spindles, arms, and backrest,” he said. “The chair is constructed almost like a tiered cake, with one piece stacked on the previous one. I rearranged these sections and connected them differently to develop one continuous loop.
“All the elements are integrated in a more aerodynamic way, which is appropriate for a chair that is about motion. The goal was to create harmony between the various elements, to form an unbroken line.”
The outer structure, made from cherry wood, forms a cocoon around the seat and maple-wood back, which appear to be floating.
“I wanted to bring warmth and texture to the cocoon, rather than use the typical wood seat found in a Windsor chair… I looked at leather saddles as a point of reference, [which] brings a level of tailoring and quality to the chair.”
Sculptor Jephson Robb, who studied at the RCA under Ron Arad, chose to concentrate on Bernhardt’s history in upholstery, taking the Chesterfield sofa for inspiration.
“When I was growing up, the first piece of furniture that actually made an impression on me was a Chesterfield sofa,” said Robb. “I was about 13 when, on a sunny Glasgow afternoon, the deliverymen arrived with a very large and very long grey Chesterfield sofa.
“At the time I described it as ‘a battleship’. I was fascinated by all the buttons, and amazed that my head and feet didn’t touch the arms when lying down. It seemed larger than life to me.”
Robb wanted to simplify the opulent features of the sofa, such as its fat rolled arms, buttons and tufting, without losing the feeling of quality and comfort. He replaced the multiple buttons with three single buttons banded together by a leather strip. However, the legs, which are ordinarily one of the most understated features, have been carved from solid walnut that is bisected by a delicate ring of bronze, which he often uses in his public sculptures.
“In my memory, these sofas are about scale and charisma. I wanted to reinforce this idea, so the Alex sofa is 104″ and has a significant presence,” Robb said. “Gone, however, are the rolled padded arms, replaced by very straight clean lines.”
All three designs are now commercially available.