Fifty-three designers from the worlds of furniture, architecture and fashion have created playful new versions of the ‘Belleville’ chair, a plastic and wooden dining chair designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Vitra in 2015, and named after the Parisian neighbourhood where the brothers’ studio is based.
The diverse works, from names including Christian Louboutin, Phillippe Starck and Constance Guisset, will be exhibited from 9 – 11 December 2023 at Hôtel de l’industrie in Paris before being auctioned to raise funds for La Source Garouste, an organisation tackling social exclusion through creative workshops with young people.
‘Belleville’ chair reimagined
The charity – co-founded by furniture designer Elizabeth Garouste and her husband Gérard, a painter – has been holding similar auctions since 1997, when the couple invited their artist and designer friends to transform a simple cardboard chair into something unique.
The choice of design piece to be reimagined changes every year; the organisation has had partnerships with brands including Kartell and Flos, as well as Vitra, which have supplied items such as Starck’s ‘Louis Ghost’ chair and the ‘Panton’ chair by Verner Panton to be creatively altered by La Source Garouste’s friends and collaborators.
Though many established designers have repeatedly taken part in the auction, the organisation also invites young and emerging creatives, mostly from France. This year, one of those new participants is Mathieu Tran Nguyen, a Paris-based interior designer. He crafted a custom covering for the ‘Belleville’ chair, made from wooden beads, woven from recycled car seat covers.
‘I didn't want to transform the chair itself, but rather the bubble wrap packaging in which it was delivered to my workshop,’ he explains. ‘I wanted to give it a value by reworking it and giving it an aesthetic character, through this covering made of wooden beads. The idea was simply to reinterpret the purpose of packaging, giving the Bouroullec chair a second skin.’
Other works include ‘Bella’, by Constance Guisset, in which strings of giant black pearl necklaces cascade from the back of the chair. With ‘Casinhathor’, Christian Louboutin – known for his red-soled shoes – transformed the chair into a red, glittering throne honouring the Egyptian goddess Hathor. Philippe Starck’s minimal intervention, meanwhile, features a heart cut out from the chair’s wooden back.
Furniture and product designer Elise Fouin removed the chair’s legs, added decorative wooden balls and transformed the piece into a mirror and shelf. Camille Miceli, creative director of fashion brand Pucci, painted the chair’s frame bright orange and pink, and upholstered the seat with Pucci’s psychedelic Marmo print in silk twill.
Covering the chair in bright blue fake fur, NeM Architectes gave it a monstrous presence, describing it as ‘fetishistic and zoomorphic’. Furniture designers Normal Studio, meanwhile, transformed the chair into an all-black ‘valet’ shelving and storage system, adding three wooden trays of different sizes and a pole from which to hang coats.
‘I really appreciate the interpretations of the chair,’ says Erwan Bouroullec. ‘Somehow they extend the language that the chair contains but that we intentionally condensed during design.’ The projects, he adds, ‘extend the scenarios where the chair could be the stage set. Design is a practice that needs to be invisible in order to let life build on it.’
The full collection will be exhibited 9 – 11 December 2023 at Hôtel de l’industrie, 4 place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris 6e, before being auctioned for La Source Garouste. For more information, see lasourcegarouste.fr/actualites
See all the chairs at ventelasource.fr/les-oeuvres
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Francesca Perry is a London-based writer and editor covering design and culture. She has written for the Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times and Wired. She is the former editor of ICON magazine and a former editor at The Guardian.
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