When we last spoke with Christopher Stuart he was still soaking up his experience visiting Cadillac’s historic GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan, a Detroit suburb with deep cultural ties to the Motor City. After that trip, he decided to use Cadillac’s classic Sapele veneer for his project—it was to be his sole material, though he’d never worked with veneer before.
But that was by design. Stuart, whose furniture studio is in the suburb of Carmel, Indiana, had always wanted to work with a veneer to experiment with curvature, and, well, because southern Indiana claims to be the Veneer Capital of the World. He gravitated to the Sapele veneer and how the pattern of its grain seemed to change in the light. ‘There was something really warm about it, something a little more classic,’ he explains. And that timeless veneer lent itself to Stuart’s preferred form, the bench — except this time he was channeling Cadillac’s luxe wide-bench car seats.
‘I wanted to be somewhat abstract with the idea and the form,’ he says. ‘I also wanted to capture how you can simultaneously feel the interior and exterior of the vehicle,’ he adds, taking inspiration from both the dashboard and exterior design. ‘Automotive styling uses a lot of fluid curves and moments to make a vehicle look aerodynamic, like it’s moving fast. Cadillac incorporates some sharper lines. You get these really beautiful moments of detail, like a pinched crease that goes down the side of the vehicle. Or where the fender might meet the hood. I wanted my piece to have some of that as well.’
Ultimately, he made a piece that is uniquely his: both abstract and minimal, one that telegraphs Cadillac’s 114-year history. ‘I wanted the piece to be timeless and classic,’ he says. ‘A little futuristic while still honouring the past.’
Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
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