Doshi Levien unveils new modular sofa for Hay

Doshi Levien unveils new modular sofa for Hay

Hay and Doshi Levien unveil their latest design collaboration: the ‘Quilton’ family of modular sofas, with a distinctive, sartorially inspired design

Danish design brand Hay presents Quilton, a new modular sofa by London-based designers Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien. Described by its creators as ‘a quilted landscape sofa system’, it features a distinctive quilted motif inspired by classic sofa design and tailoring. It’s a piece of furniture that combines discreet elegance with bold, inviting forms and the signature elements of Doshi Levien’s design work. 

Doshi Levien and Hay

Designers Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien posing in their London Studio, next to a bright blue version of their Quilton Sofa for Hay
Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien at their London studio with the ‘Quilton’ sofa for Hay, upholstered in their ‘Raas’ fabric for Kvadrat

‘Doshi Levien are designers you go to when you want a strong product,’ says Rolf Hay, brand co-founder with his wife Mette. ‘They are distinguished by their ability to create products that truly stand out, and they are incredibly original and detail-oriented in the way they think about design.’

Doshi Levien first started working with Hay in 2014, shortly after meeting Rolf and Mette at Salone del Mobile through Kvadrat (a mutual collaborator). Their first project, the ‘Uchiwa chair’, reflected the duo’s interest in pattern cutting, and was well crafted and at the same time affordable. The ‘Dapper’ chair followed a few years later, part of an invitation from the Aga Khan Foundation to furnish a student housing project in London’s King’s Cross. Tasked with creating 350 chairs, the designers called upon Hay’s expertise and worked together to develop the design.

‘It’s been a very focused collaboration,’ says Doshi of their latest project. ‘What is great about Hay is that they are a company from our generation: design entrepreneurs who’ve set up and built a brand. It’s really exciting to work with a company where you feel the owners are your contemporaries.’

Quilton sofa: ‘a quilted landscape sofa system’

The Quilton sofa by Doshi Levien for Hay in blue, photographed at the Barbican in London against a wide window from which the building’s architecture is visible
The ‘Quilton’ sofa, upholstered in Kvadrat’s ‘Atlas’ fabric on the front and ‘Flamiber’ fabric on the back and base. Photographed at the Barbican, London

The ‘Quilton’ sofa was born from an idea conceived by Doshi Levien. ‘We often make strategic suggestions to companies, looking at what’s missing from their collection,’ explains Doshi. ‘Jonathan and I went to them and said, we think you should do a seating collection which is softer, elegant, has tailoring, and, at the same time, is very warm and accessible. And that’s how the project actually started, from a small sketch in my book.’ 

Sketching and drawing are integral parts of the duo’s process, a very hands-on approach that includes hand-drawing and hand-prototyping in their London studio. ‘Rolf said to me: when I look at your sketches and I close my eyes I can really imagine the beautiful sofa,’ recalls Doshi. ‘So with Hay, we are also working with that level of trust, a company where you don’t have to create fantastic renderings and visualisation, you’re presenting them with the sketch, and they understand it: it’s a very fluid and a very different way of working.’

The design process

Nipa Doshi, left, and Jonathan Levien, right, seen handling sketches for the project, showing the quilted, grid-like motif of their sofa design for Hay
The design process included sketching and drawing at Doshi Levien’s London studio

The starting point for the sofa was modularity (there are 13 available modules as well as a standalone three-seater). As Doshi explains, they wanted to create a balanced design that was elegant and at the same time soft, with generous forms. ‘Jonathan and I love tailoring and sartorial details, so the quilting became a very important aspect of the piece,’ she says. ‘It almost reminds me of a classic sofa; you have a memory of a classic sofa, but it’s still something new.’

The bold quilting on the seat is the defining element of the design, but it was equally important to the designers that it didn’t become a grid that’s all over the piece: ‘There’s also restraint in the grid. From the back, for example, you just have a very soft, but clean surface.’

The sofa’s design is all about the details: there is the quilting, of course, but also additional elements such as the subtle floating base, which gives the sofa lightness. A thin strip of material separates the sofa from the base, and the design’s configuration allows you to mix and match materials and colours on the sofa’s front, back and base, with a palette that includes textiles and leather. 

Shot in a studio space with concrete floor, the Quilton sofa is seen here in different configurations, in colours including cream, blue, grey and green
A few of the possible modular configurations of the ‘Quilton’ sofa

Having worked on surfaces and textiles throughout their careers (creating collections for Kvadrat and Bolon), Doshi and Levien were particularly interested in the choice of upholstery for the design. ‘The scale of the sofa can really allow for texture; these forms require a certain amount of volume,’ says Doshi. In its debut version, the sofa features Kvadrat fabrics such as ‘Raas’, which the duo designed with voluminous yarns in blue and black; Margrethe Odgaard’s ‘Re-wool’ in grey, and ‘Atlas’ in blue; as well as Fanny Aronsen’s ‘Vidar’ in a distinctively bold green hue. 

The designers also art-directed the photography for the launch, shot at their Barbican apartment in London. ‘Hay is an international brand, and we wanted to bring that plurality to the pictures,’ says Doshi. ‘To show that just because you have design in your house, it doesn’t mean that everything else around it has to be exactly contemporary and modern. So we brought that sense of eclecticism to the pictures, to convey this idea of cultural exchange between modern design, traditional objects, and the architectural elements of the Barbican.’

It’s impossible to launch a piece of furniture in 2021 without addressing how the pandemic has changed the way we live. ‘[In the past 17 months] the sofa has changed: it’s become a platform to work on,’ concludes Doshi. ‘Our homes became very important; working remotely changed the landscape of how we treat our homes. People have suddenly realised that home needs to be an environment that we want to be in.’ §

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