The new furniture lines insiders can’t stop talking about
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Foundations, Ransom & Dunn
When London-based, US-born friends Julia Ransom, 41, and Johanna Dunn, 37, got together over lunch six years ago, they realised both were ready for a career change. Their debut Foundations collection launches this month: consisting of 29 made-to-order furniture and accessory pieces, it is influenced by a passion for European cities, the geometry and grandeur of neoclassical architecture, and the simplicity of form in midcentury design.
“I’ve always had a great love of fashion and interiors, and collect design and art,” explains Ransom, who worked in finance before retraining as an interior designer. “I’ve always had a knack for styling and design, but it wasn’t until I moved to London that I decided to pursue it.”
Dunn – an art history graduate who went on to work for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York and Mytheresa in Munich before working with Fabrizio Viti’s footwear brand in London – was also drawn to the potential of homeware. “I was looking at the way Julia was shooting her life and her world on Instagram and thinking, ‘She’s my perfect partner.’ She’s a natural-born art director and I’m very much an editor and marketer.”
Travel was the catalyst for the collection – and a holiday on Cyclades and Dodecanese beaches offered up ideas for colour, texture and form. “We both love Rome and Greece and ancient history, so a lot of this collection comes from that,” Ransom says. “The column and the arch were on our mood board from the start.” Exploring those principles alongside the shapes and proportions of midcentury French design, modernist sculpture and ’70s glamour lends the collection a sense of modernity. “The pieces we’re presenting feel bold, strong and modernist,” Ransom continues. “I don’t want us to be known as a wobbly organic brand. I think our work feels more sculptural – but sculpture you can live with.”
This first collection is what the pair refer to as “the cornerstones of the home”, and include a curvaceous sofa and armchair, a free-standing storage unit, floor lighting, arched mirrors, plinths and a capsule of ceramic planters and vases. Each piece is named after neoclassicism and Greco-Roman mythology: the Sparta sofa (£8,400), the Palladio floor mirror (£3,895), the Roman column (£2,895) or the Venus floor lamp (£3,795) and so on.
The materials feel monumental – and international: marble, travertine and onyx sourced from Turkey form occasional tables and plinths. An upholstered bucket stool is crafted in burl ash wood from the same country, while the handmade ceramic vases have soft draped ribbing reminiscent of the fabric folds in Roman sculpture. The lighting is an eco-resin from Portugal, and the upholstered pieces were made in Derbyshire in the UK, and finished in textured velvet mohair, cotton velvet, wool alpaca or bouclé in a simple, earthy palette.
“We don’t think neutrals are ever boring. This is a new kind of glamour,” Ransom proclaims. In the future, the pair aim to engage with collectable, liveable design sold at seasonal pop-ups, home salons and physical activations. “These pieces are never going to be basics,” Dunn concludes. “But in our world they’re coveted necessities.” ransomanddunn.com
Apacheta, Loro Piana
Argentinian artist and designer Cristián Mohaded’s new Apacheta capsule of furniture is a story of his homeland of Catamarca in the northwest of Argentina. It is a place where travellers, making their way through the mountains and plains of the Andes, would ritually pile rocks to form totems marking a path for fellow adventurers. Over the centuries, these towers (apachetas) also became offerings to Pachamama – or Mother Earth.
The six-piece, made-to-order collection launches during this month’s Milan Design Week at the Italian textile house’s Brera headquarters. It will be showcased on a backdrop depicting a mountainous scene dotted with several-metre-high totems made from recycled Loro Piana fabrics. The furniture will include a sofa and armchair in round, stone-like silhouettes, and a simple bench and stool in a beeswax-finished, hand-carved Italian oak with alpaca and wool upholstery.
Each piece is unique and handmade. “I like to work this way, without repetition,” says 43-year-old Mohaded of the designs. The mix of textural timbers with the fabrics is reminiscent of rocks protruding across a mountainside in his homeland, and the subtle fragrance of natural beeswax adds to the sensorial experience. “In my province some of the landscape looks like it’s of another planet – there are incredible layers of colours when you are in front of the mountains: there’s the glacier with its blue light connected to the green of the pine trees and stones – it’s all so beautiful. I wanted to capture that.”
He continues: “I want people to not just connect with a sofa but with this landscape.” He highlights details such as the reflective ceramic top of a wooden table, which recalls the mirror-like surface of Catamarca’s lagoons. “One of the pieces has a little wood in the middle like an island – it’s all very spontaneous.” The textures and colour palette are also very earthy. Mohaded had access to the full Loro Piana collection, and selected textiles including alpaca wool, cashmere and silk velvet, Cashmere Raw and Vicuña, sourced from breeders in Argentina.
Francesco Pergamo, director of Loro Piana Interiors, chose to collaborate with the artist in part due to his practice of partnering with local craftspeople. “He’s constantly searching for the last artisans who are working in wood in a particular way – the last guy using wicker or amazing plants to weave baskets,” he says. “We have much in common – we have always been about protecting artisanal skills in Italy and working closely with breeders to protect animals.”
The brand has slowly expanded into collaborative furniture collections. This one is a showcase: “I see Cristián as a modern designer, but maybe more as an artist because his production is never industrial,” says Pergamo. “The expectation for Loro Piana is not to sell a lot of furniture, but more about showing what the brand can do.” The collection is available to view in Milan and order from mid-April. loropiana.com
Omet collection, Omet
For architect Lorena Vieyra, 48, founder of architectural and interior design studio Vieyra Estudio, Omet has been an obvious extension of her practice. The new contemporary design collective showcases collectable Mexican design. “Over the past 20 years I’ve been doing the architecture, the interior design and designing the furniture, which has meant contact with many designers and makers. This has been about bringing all those great people together to collaborate,” she explains from her studio in Mexico City.
Omet, named after Ōmeteōtl, the Aztec god of creation, who has both male and female counterparts, is an expression of Vieyra’s mission to formalise the network of creative talent working across Latin America. “There are people who have historically come to Mexico and done great things, like New Yorker Michael van Beuren or Clara Porset, who was from Cuba,” Vieyra says. “We’re a Mexican gallery, talking about our heritage and wanted a name to give that feeling that we’re saying something about our culture and our heritage.”
Keen to avoid the cliché of tourist-style Mexican culture, Vieyra has gathered a diverse group of contributors. “There is something happening with design here,” she says. “Much like what has happened with Mexican cuisine over the past decade, the world is seeing that [the food culture is] not just tacos but very sophisticated and refined flavours and ingredients. I draw the parallel with design. We’re focusing on the super-high end and elegant.”
The first offering, which launches online on 1 May and will be followed by a bricks-and-mortar gallery in Austin, Texas, in September (there will also be a New York pop-up in May), includes around 30 new works from 11 designers connected by a sensibility and language rather than aesthetic continuity. “These pieces come together as a family. They don’t look alike, but when I’m curating it, it feels bold, everything has common ground when it comes together,” she says.
Materiality, says Vieyra, is important – there is locally sourced walnut, rosa morada, oak, travertine, marble and onyx within the collection, alongside fused glass and lacquered volcanic stone. The designers discussed emotion, colours and “things that make us as Mexican people – and say something through our work”. Vieyra herself has also designed pieces, including an undulating and partially upholstered chaise longue and a dining table crafted in walnut and rosa morada wood with an onyx slab surface (£10,569).
While Vieyra’s brief for each designer was purposely fluid, it persuaded each collaborator to venture from their comfort zones. The pieces tell a story of Mexican traditions and skill employing fine techniques. Raúl de la Cerda’s jigsaw-like modular tables (£15,971) are inspired by Mayan estelae, used to document significant events in stone. Pedro Reyes, the multidisciplinary artist and architect, offers sculptural tripod chairs in volcanic stone which draw their form and texture from Mexican “metate” tools used to make tortillas. Complementing this are five iterations of a sculptural tower shelving unit crafted in steel and woven with palm (from £2,445).
Textile artist José María Balmaceda, meanwhile, takes the butterfly (symbolising fire in Mexican culture) and the serpent (representing the earth) as graphic references in hand-loomed rugs (from £116 per sq ft). Rock formations with clay sourced from Mexico inform ceramicist Lili Cortina’s stoneware vases (from £492); and hand-carved wooden stools by Juan José Nemer and Mauricio Álvarez take their cues from the molinillo, a traditional, everyday wooden whisk used for making hot chocolate. “Every piece has an intention, beyond being beautiful,” says Vieyra. “My wish is that each piece should have a permanence.” omet.co