With thirteen best-selling novels under his belt, novelist and Wallpaper* contributor Douglas Coupland has now turned his hand to furniture, launching his first collection during the Interior Design Show in Toronto last week. Entitled 'Douglas Coupland for Switzcultcreative', his range comprises five key pieces: an escritoire that emulates the proportions of a Japanese bento box, a writer's chair, a bookshelf, a table lamp and a standing lamp, designed in ode to his own workspace where all his literary magic happens.
Given his impressive literary pedigree, you can be excused for forgetting that Coupland actually trained as a designer. The Generation X author graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, with a focus in sculpture, before going on to study at the Hokkaido College of Art and Design in Sapporo, Japan in the 1980s. 'My writing can be split into fiction and non-fiction, and the same can be said about my visual work,' he says. 'Design is simply the non-fiction version of art.'
His stint at Hokkaido College explains the Asian aesthetic to his work. 'Of all the design approaches to materials, I genuinely think the Japanese have the most engaging,' says Coupland. 'Staring at the escritoire alone, with its combination of colours, puts my brain in a really happy place.'
Coupland's range was conceived after he broke a leg two years ago and was forced to reduce his working footprint to a minimum. The escritoire was the starting point for the collection. 'Escritoires are elegant: with one flip of a lid I can conceal mountains of crap inside while everyone looking on thinks I'm this really together stylish person,' he says. 'It's a very handy piece, but it belongs in one of those extinct categories of furniture, which you can't find around anymore.'
Coupland's escritoire has a hole in the back for cables and wires. 'All Louis XIV would need to join the 21st century is a small Black & Decker power drill,' he declares.
To realize his design vision to the highest standard, the author teamed up with fellow Canadians, Switzercultcreative, a Vancouver-based firm. Brother and sister co-founders Allan and Renee Switzer, who left their family's furniture business to start the new entity in August 2011, have strict design principles, only making their furniture with locally derived, sustainable products. 'In the same way that we care about the food we eat, we place a great importance on knowing where our products come from,' says Allan Switzer.
To wit, Coupland's designs incorporate materials such as locally derived maple plywood ('British Columbia is the home of wood, and we never do anything with it,' exclaims Coupland), locally sourced cowhide leather for the seats and linings and luscious finishing details, such as glossy black lacquer and 24 karat gold leaf, which are all formaldehyde and CFC-free.