Design insiders provide worldly insight into treasures crafted by makers around the globe.
THE PIECE: Smile Seats
THE DESIGNER: Giancarlo Valle
FIND IT: giancarlovalle.com
THE INSPIRATION: Growing up in North, Central and South America gave Giancarlo Valle a well-rounded outlook on design. Valle always considers the context of the pieces he creates–giving them a presence that won’t overpower the spaces they inhabit. The Smile Seats exhibit those qualities: They have their own posture and style, emanating modernity without sterility. At once armchairs and benches that can seat two apiece, they transcend typical furniture archetypes.
Interior and Product Designer
First impression: It’s a conversation piece that makes me want to learn more about the designer, inspiration and construction.
I can relate to… Giancarlo Valle. I’m Puerto Rican but spent 30 years working in various cities, like New York and Miami. Heritage has many layers of traditions, cultures and monuments that influence your perspective and approach to design.
There is a slight resemblance to… Mayan style from the soft curves throughout the base and seat, yet the colors are very cosmopolitan. The vertical lines give a strong sense of modernism.
On material: There are so many great layers: The shearling, linen and Italian mohair are the perfect luxurious blend. I already see them in… a monochromatic, eclectic home with a blend of vintage and modern pieces in shades of cream or a living room with a soft palette and navy accents.
Global design is… the present and the future. The projects I enjoy the most are spaces that celebrate global heritage and blend cultures and ways of living in one space.
THE PIECE: Dasher Bench with Pierre Frey Fabric
THE DESIGNER: Kate McIntyre and Brad Huntzinger
FIND IT: ironies.com
THE INSPIRATION: Designers Kate McIntyre and Brad Huntzinger have made organic references and natural motifs a signature in their contemporary furniture designs. The cast brass base of the Dasher Bench has an antiqued bronze finish, giving the curvature of the legs a masculine gravitas. Upholstered with a toile fabric titled Plateau/Pampa by French textile house Pierre Frey, this iteration of the design juxtaposes traditional and contemporary elements.
The Dasher Bench… reminds me of the landscape that I used to experience as a child in some parts of Mexico. It’s very organic.
Thinking globally: The frame is by an American company and the fabric is French, depicting an Argentinian countryside. I would call this a perfect marriage of international design.
Heritage is… very important when designing for an international audience.
Design journey: I am originally from Mexico, and after graduating from college, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio. In 1998, I opened my design firm. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work on both residential and commercial projects throughout the United States. In 2009, with the intention of reconnecting to my Latin American roots, I moved to Miami.
I stay true to… my core design philosophy. However, I like to introduce materials and finishes associated with the local culture and the client’s heritage.
I imagine… this piece living in a space that I designed in a Colorado modern home, sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, at the foot of a bed or in an entry hall.
THE PIECE: Jardiniere
THE DESIGNER: Armand Jonckers
FIND IT: maisongerard.com
THE INSPIRATION: Born to a French mother and a Belgian father in 1939, Armand Jonckers has spent much of his life traveling the world as an antiquarian, sculptor, engraver, decorator and mineralogist. His modular coffee table represents his multi-hyphenate identity in its dynamic construction, etchings reminiscent of ancient script and use of solid brass. The two pieces of Jardiniere can shift together or apart, revealing a vessel in the center for a plant.
Architect and Designer
I am captivated by… the geometric shapes and swirling etchings on Jonckers’ Jardiniére.
I imagine… this being a conversation piece, placed between two beautiful sofas in front of a fireplace, with an orchid in the center, creating that intimate setting.
Taking risks… like Jonckers’ use of geometric shapes in the design of this table, should be thoughtful and intentional. If done correctly, risks can really pay off like they did here.
Being Belgian: Much of my design inspiration stems from the Belgian design influence I was exposed to in my earlier years. And even to this day with architects and designers like Vincent Van Duysen and Axel Vervoordt, it’s hard to deny their global impact on the design community.
Family ties: My father owned a small glass and mirror business and my mother was involved in the arts, so I’ve been exposed to the art and design world from an early age.
After graduating… from Sint-Lukas in Brussels, I moved to New York to pursue my design career and gain experience within the international design community.
THE PIECE: Alexandria Lamp
THE DESIGNER: Syrette Lew
FIND IT: mvngmtns.com
THE INSPIRATION: Moving Mountains, the studio of American designer Syrette Lew, pays tribute to the ever-changing archipelago of her native Hawaii, and her Alexandria Lamp is an ode to the palm lamps of the 1960s and 1970s with a modern twist. Lew’s furniture, accessories and jewelry explore unique amorphous shapes and playful color and material choices. Her history of designing for a mass-market furniture brand inspires an approach that is holistic and thoughtful. Though many of her designs are statement pieces, Lew is concerned with creating durable work that will last for generations.
Interior and Product Designer
The Alexandria Lamp… is a silent showstopper. You have to stop for a little flirt with this piece. It’s begging to be noticed.
I can imagine it… on a bar cart in a dining or living room, in a private movie screening room or at an entry as a focal piece on a commode.
It is so well-designed… that it could integrate in many different interiors.
It’s not loud… but it’s definitely prominent.
On discovering worldly finds: Looking for treasures while traveling is my favorite way to find pieces. But, more than not, I find myself turning to 1stdibs where you can find great pieces from all corners of the world and easily communicate with vendors.
Taking risks… is very important, if not essential, to growing as a designer. In doing so, you avoid becoming a cut and paste designer.
Growing up… around a lot of history in Europe gave me a deep appreciation for vintage pieces and buildings, which inspires me to design with longevity in mind.
THE PIECE: Reine Lamps
THE DESIGNER: Aurelie Chapelle and David Machado, Chape & Mache
FIND IT: rochebobois.com
THE INSPIRATION: French brands Roche Bobois and Chape & Mache collaborated on the design of these graphic light fixtures. “Reine” translates from French to “queen,” which is why these whimsical lamps have a distinctly royal feel. Inspired by the gadroon pleating of ruffled collars from Renaissance fashion, the three-dimensional fabric, folded and pleated, creates a cascading light that illuminates interiors. Utilizing a fashion statement of the past, Chape & Mache “dresses” the light by channeling its waves through modern materials.
First impression: Their purpose isn’t immediately obvious; they could evoke blooming flowers, bursting fireworks or even period costume. The scale and ambiguity of this design really catches my eye.
The French… offer a very unique point of view with their design. The term avant-garde sums up that sensibility perfectly!
One of my favorite things to do… is hit the vintage and flea markets in France. I am in Paris quite a lot and I never pass up the opportunity to visit the markets or trawl through some of the vintage galleries.
On his origins: My parents emigrated to Australia from Italy in the 1950s so the European aesthetic is something that really resonates with me.
These pieces are… definitely statement or almost art pieces. I love that they can help finish a room by adding balance to an area that might feel empty. Great design… always causes some sort of reaction.
THE PIECE: Flamengo Screen
THE DESIGNER: Antonio da Motta Leal and Alexander Lamont
FIND IT: alexanderlamont.com
THE INSPIRATION: Bangkok-based Alexander Lamont is equally inspired by the East and West, developing collections that pay tribute to meticulous craftsmanship and fine materials found in nature. Lamont worked with Brazilian designer Antonio da Motta Leal to design this towering screen, which is over 6 feet tall and features silvered straw marquetry and Koto veneer. The Flamengo Screen was inspired by urban art at Copacabana Beach created by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, whose curling pavement mosaics are iconic to Rio de Janeiro.
Deja vu: I’m reminded of the flowing, organic Henry Moore Sculpture Two Large Forms. Much like Moore’s work, this screen is inherently sculptural with a gentle undulation, combined with the peachy patina of the starburst straw marquetry, creating a feminine softness to the large interlocking pieces.
This work aptly reflects… fearless, exuberant Brazilian design, which is unafraid of striking shapes and embraces playful detail and highly stylized midcentury form. The finish denotes Alexander Lamont’s elegant pieces.
There is nothing as exciting… as finding rare and unique objets d’art in far-flung locations. I recently found new suppliers of incredible semi-precious stones and marbles in Amsterdam; crystal in the Czech Republic; and the best leather in northern Italy.
I’d place this piece… in a client’s majestic villa in Kuwait among their unique collection of Far East antiques and relics, which has inspired me, but I’m also adding midcentury and bespoke pieces for a little contemporary elegance and to make space for the heavier antiques to breathe.