One of the brightest collaborations from our 2013 Handmade exhibition (see W* 173) in Milan last April was between the Tokyo-based French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux and the German furniture company Schönbuch. When we heard that their one-off collection of 'Mille-Feuille' storage units were going into studio production, we have to admit to feeling a little smug about our matchmaking endeavours.
We put our Handmade collaboration couples (and ourselves) under considerable pressure to come up with their pieces in time for the Milan show each year. The normal time span for product development in the furniture industry, from concept to retail, is something like five years. In the case of Schönbuch and Moureaux, Schönbuch's managing director Michael Ress explains, 'we had no more than six weeks'. But a whirlwind romance doesn't have to be short-lived if the chemistry is there.
'Right from the beginning, they understood what I imagined completely,' Moureaux says of working with the Bavarian company. She marvelled at the painstaking effort the firm went to in order to get the colours, form and finish exactly right. Adds Ress: 'It was an excellent cooperation between Emmanuelle and our team, a perfect initial design, great communication, quick responses and fast decisions.'
Little adjustment was required to take the prototypes the next step. 'The product was nearly ready for production right after Milan, we only changed the drawers from silver-covered MDF to solid stained oak, since we believed this more traditional form of drawer manufacture would fit the product better and enhance the quality,' Ress explains.
Now, some six months later, the fruits of their joint endeavours are ready to share with a broader public. Specialising in high quality foyer and hallway furniture, Schönbuch knows exactly how to make an entrance. And being a Bavarian firm, it seemed appropriate that the launch presentation of its new Mille-Feuille storage units took place in Munich's noted fashion concept store Schwittenberg, where the colourful, stand-alone statement pieces proved a perfect foil for the stricter sartorial lines of clothing brands APC, Acne and Perret Schaad.
Available in S, M and L versions, with two, three and four drawers respectively, the price tag for a Mille-Feuille ranges from €3,870 to €7,510, but this is no off-the-peg product. Lacquered in eight, twelve or 21 colours (Schönbuch had to invest in a new paint mixing machine to meet Emmanuelle Moureaux's exact specifications), the Mille-Feuilles take a long time and extremely skilled craftsmanship to produce. Furthermore, the company do not expect to make more than a small number of examples at first. After all, these pieces are showstoppers, not staples.
Emmanuelle Moureaux has designed one-off furniture pieces before for her buildings and interiors, but this is her first series piece and, judging by the bouyant mood at the launch party, we get the distinct impression it won't be her last.