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Three Venerated Design Companies Look Back to Move Forward

By Nancy Hass

Clockwise from bottom left: Meyer’s 2017 Hestia lounge chair; a dramatic staircase she created for a client in Munich; an interior design project in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture; the Nagoya desk, in leather and oak, designed by Meyer.
 
Nicolas Héron & Mark Seelen
Clockwise from bottom left: Meyer’s 2017 Hestia lounge chair; a dramatic staircase she created for a client in Munich; an interior design project in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture; the Nagoya desk, in leather and oak, designed by Meyer.

Liaigre

When the furniture designer and interior architect Christian Liaigre opened his Paris studio in the late 1980s, he renounced the opulent embellishment that distinguished that era’s interiors in favour of a polished, angular minimalism that still resonates today. His apartments and houses for Calvin Klein, Karl Lagerfeld and Larry Gagosian introduced a new visual vocabulary to interior design: Jacquard valances and chintz were replaced by squared-off white armchairs and low, dark wenge tables.

Now 73, he has finally left the company, naming his longtime protégée, 45-year-old Frauke Meyer, the company’s creative director. (His wife, Déborah Comte-Liaigre, remains as artistic director of the company’s interior design service.) Meyer worked with Liaigre for 18 years and is committed to maintaining his streamlined aesthetic while lending a “different eye.” The furniture and lighting may become “a little more feminine and related to fashion,” she says, “maybe a bit more playful.” This approach will announce itself first in her design for the company’s new international flagship in Paris’s Eighth Arrondissement: She intends to make the commercial space in the store more homelike, contextualising the lush yet understated furniture with flea-market finds such as feather sculptures and contemporary art. As she says, “I want people to realise that Liaigre can also be poetic in its simplicity.”

Joshua ScottFrom left: Carskiey, Helme’s Scottish estate, is decorated using Fermoie fabric and lampshades; two new textiles.
From left: Carskiey, Helme’s Scottish estate, is decorated using Fermoie fabric and lampshades; two new textiles.

Fermoie

For the 15 years that Tom Helme and his business partner Martin Ephson owned Farrow & Ball, the British paint manufacturer known for its moody shades — and names — including Savage Ground (a stonewashed yellow) and Smoked Trout (a red-tinged taupe), Helme constantly worked in the one-dimensional paradigm of wall colour. “I was ready for a new challenge,” he says now, more than a decade after selling that company in 2006.

The pair’s latest venture, a fabric line called Fermoie, has allowed him to establish a more well-rounded Weltanschauung. Rich not merely in colour, but in pattern and texture, the collection’s Anglophilic brio is instantly recognisable; it feels witty but never twee. Unlike other textile makers who saturate cotton and linen with pigment, Fermoie dyes only the surface of the twill — “just kissing the top,” says 62-year-old Helme, who was once a decorating adviser to the United Kingdom’s National Trust — lending it a subtle depth. The seven-year-old company’s newest fabrics, which are also sold as cushions and lampshades, come in jewel shades of amethyst and tourmaline, with small ikat patterns or vivid splatters.

Helme found inspiration in the extensive renovation of his home, Carskiey Estate, a 13-bedroom 1908 Scottish manor house on 7,500 acres — complete with a rambling herd of Aberdeen Angus — on the Kintyre peninsula’s southeastern tip. He splits his time between the new Fermoie showroom on Pimlico Road in London, the company’s manufacturing plant in Wiltshire and this wild backdrop, where he often researches and sketches in a capacious library with views of the moors. “Carskiey is an amazing place to work,” he says. “Your mind is so free.”

Scholten & BaijingsClockwise from top left: an antique darning sampler that inspired their designs for Maharam’s upcoming fabric range; a mug from Maharam’s first foray into housewares; dishware from the collection.
Clockwise from top left: an antique darning sampler that inspired their designs for Maharam’s upcoming fabric range; a mug from Maharam’s first foray into housewares; dishware from the collection.

Maharam

The textile giant Maharam, born from a Lower East Side pushcart at the turn of the 20th century, has long pursued collaborations with contemporary industrial designers, including Berlin-based Hella Jongerius and Munich’s Konstantin Grcic. But perhaps its most fertile relationship in recent years has been with the Dutch husband-and-wife team of Stefan Scholten and Carole Baijings, both in their mid-40s, whose eponymous Amsterdam studio has designed fabrics for Maharam that speak to their love of soft yet bright colours, such as azure blue and cotton-candy pink, as well as grid-based patterns.

Now, the couple and Maharam are uniting to introduce a line of housewares and accessories created in collaboration with several Japanese craftsmen. There is a stackable wooden stool manufactured by Karimoku New Standard, its seat upholstered in a variety of Maharam fabrics (three of them by Scholten & Baijings) and a five-piece collection of colorful, geometric porcelain dishware produced by the Japanese ceramics company 1616 / Arita Japan. “Connecting Maharam with the level of work you find in Japan was incredibly satisfying,” Scholten says.

Yet even as Maharam makes its first foray into housewares, the brand isn’t neglecting its roots. Mary Murphy, the company’s top design executive, recently introduced Scholten & Baijings to a bygone craft from Holland that was unfamiliar to them: composition paper-size patchwork darning samplers made by young girls in the 18th and 19th centuries, each featuring a dozen or so colourful, complicated stitch patterns originally intended to mend clothes. Scholten & Baijings, always ready to embrace a new idea (however old), reinterpreted these embroidered motifs for Maharam’s latest textile range, to be released in July, elevating the homespun look with Mondrian-like flair.