Rena Dumas’ classic furniture designs are reissued
Rena Dumas’ transformable furniture designs are reissued by The Invisible Collection and RDAI. Wallpaper* contributing editor Nick Vinson celebrates a masterclass in geometry
Greek-born, Paris-based architect Rena Dumas, who opened her studio, Rena Dumas Architecture Intérieure (RDAI), in 1972, is perhaps best known for creating the architecture style for Hermès. The partnership began in 1976 and continues past her death, in 2009, to this day.
Although Dumas designed furniture and objects for others, including the Pippa collection of folding furniture for Hermès from 1983, she designed the Okeanis collection of tables in 1988 just for herself, a project she referred to as a secret pleasure. According to Denis Montel, who joined RDAI in 1999 and is now artistic director and general manager, Okeanis is about exploring geometry. ‘It fascinated her, the way the furniture could move, changing geometry and telling different stories in their transformation.’
Made up of two complementary halves that can be paired together or left apart, each ‘Okeanis’ table cleverly combines curves and straight lines. The tabletop can fold up to provide a tray table, and with the addition of a central leaf it transforms into a dining table or desk.
Elegance is the essence of Dumas’ work: the right shape, the right materials, executed with restraint and simplicity. Both in Okeanis and in Pippa, you see her fascination with folding and unfolding.
The reissue also includes the ‘Aria’ console and bedside tables, made up of stacked outlines of cubes in brushed oak. The console was a commission for a private residence in 1985. Dumas developed the bedside tables later, and eventually the ‘Lumière’ rug, a hand-knotted silk carpet with a central yellow sun motif.
I had often admired these pieces when I visited the offices of RDAI on rue du Mail, Paris. Another visitor to the studio was Isabelle Dubern, co-founder of digital design platform The Invisible Collection. Dubern proposed to Montel and Julia Capp, RDAI’s managing director, that they re-edit Dumas’ furniture, which would sit very well among The Invisible Collection’s curated selection of pieces by leading designers, including Pierre Yovanovitch and Joseph Dirand.
In her teens, Dubern had fallen in love with Hermès, but unlike most girls of her age, she was less interested in the bags. ‘It was more something about the stores and their architecture’ that attracted her, she says. So she read a lot about Dumas, ‘a super-independent, super-modern woman’. ‘Bringing these pieces back to life was a dream,’ she says. She was thrilled by Montel and Capp’s interest.
The Invisible Collection is also offering the ‘Arca’ table, designed by RDAI in 2020, made from 92 per cent recycled travertine mixed with a resin, produced by Noma Editions. For the tenth anniversary issue of Wallpaper* (W*92, October 2006), we brought together fashion’s favourite icons with architects who have inspired their work. Among these ‘power couples’ were Rena Dumas and Patrick Thomas, then CEO of Hermès. Artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Charanin photographed them in Dumas’ office, where she sat on a Helmut Lübke chair and in front of her own ‘Okeanis’ table. §