French design has kicked off 2013 with wit and whimsy. In one of those unexpected Gallic twists, the number 13 is considered lucky in France, so to find a clever collection of furniture and lighting produced by a new young company called La Chance—French for luck—is right in tune with the times. Dedicated to promoting the effervescent Nouvelle Vague of French design, the worldtraveled founders Jean-Baptiste Souletie and Louise Breguet, both architects and financiers, have rounded up an international slate of top designers to create a playful panoply of objects in metal, marble, wood and glass. Almost everything is produced in split personalities: the sober, natural, chic, subtle and classic Jekyll, or the optimistic, colorful, theatrical, arty and naive Hyde. Take the Swedish Note Design Studio’s Tembo stool, a modern totem of stacked wood, metal and cork with toy-like appeal and more or less the shape of an African tom-tom—Tembo is Swahili for elephant foot. Get it in cool Jekyll—natural cork, black lacquered MDF and black matte wood— or joyful Hyde— natural cork, light green wood and orange, yellow and blue lacquered MDF.
The sculptural steel credenza called Rocky, by Beirut-born, Paris-based Charles Kalpakian comes in Jekyll’s steely gray or Hyde’s two tones of blue. The Pool team (Léa Podovani and Sébastien Kieffer) has updated their Vulcain lamp with a lasercut dotted metal shade (Jekyll copper or Hyde white) and a metal or Corian base with a key on-off switch—white Corian or aluminum with black key, or gray anodized aluminum with yellow key.
Israeli Dan Yeffet and Czech Lucie Koldova, who trained with Arik Levy in Paris, imagined Iconic, a statuesque full-length oval mirror on a pedestal with a white Carrara marble base and white mirror back—Jekyll—or a solid oak base with lipstick-red mirror back—Hyde. The cushions of Paris star designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance’s steel and foam Borghese bench echo the shapes of the parasol pines in the famous Roman garden, with a choice between a chic carbon-black structure with gray cushions or a white base with cushions in shades of green. Hot or cool, the La Chance collection is irresistible.
His fans include Madonna, Tom Ford, Mick Jagger and Diane von Furstenberg; his limited editions stand out in interiors by high-flying decorators, among them Jacques Grange, François Catroux and Peter Marino. Hervé Van der Straeten is a French master of asymmetrical designs in marvelous mixes of materials: bronze and alabaster in the Virevolte chandelier, Plexiglas and bronze in the Lollypop mirror and blocks of lacquered wood whose painterly surfaces offer changing reflections in the Console Chaos. A captivating pair of witty end tables called Inclination, whose gilded bronze legs support burntorange lacquered-wood tops in a gravity-defying diagonal, will debut in the US at New York’s Galerie Ralph Pucci this spring (Jan 31–May 15).
When Louis Vuitton does whimsy, you can count on some extravagant results. Harking back to their historical tradition of special commissions, LV called on a star-studded cast of name designers to create a collection of luxurious travel-ready Objets Nomades. Inspired by Joy Adamson’s Born Free and the lightweight structure of 19th-century artist’s easels, Christian Liaigre’s folding Travel Desk is made of maple and leather; Patricia Urquiola’s Stool and Swing Chair both fold up to look like handbags; Maarten Baas’s Beach Chair, with cotton straps and a hand-sculpted, resincoated clay frame, is not only stylishly transportable, it also bears its author’s fingerprints.
Most beautiful: Swiss Atelier Oï’s hammock made of woven Nomade leather strips and gold-plated rivets with a detachable headrest is in the lineage of the legendary Vuitton trunk bed made for the 19th-century French explorer of Italian origin, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza (founder of the settlement that became Brazzaville).
Most covetable: Thierry Gaugain’s “O” Handbag Lamp, powered with innovative, low-energy OLEDs, whose warm glow illuminates the mysterious recesses of a woman’s purse; when turned off, it doubles as a makeup mirror.
Most spectacularly whimsical: Fernando and Humberto Campana’s Maracatu foldaway travel cabinet made of recycled leather off-cuts from the LV workshop in Asnières. In a limited edition of 12, the three-shelf, flamboyantly hued “cabinet”, a hanging pouch, is an echo of an imaginary fruit on a solitary baobab tree that the Brazilian brothers spotted in the Namibian desert, crossed with the feverishly contagious rhythms of their home country’s Maracatu dance music.
Signs of spring
If winter comes, can spring be far behind? French designers are ready for the first balmy breezes with kicky outdoor furniture to brighten terraces and gardens with pizazz. 22.22 Edition Design’s Jean-Claude Cardiet created the handcrafted, epoxy Illusion bench, whose three-toned Skaï covers in mint green, eau de Nil and white produce a trompel’oeil 3-D effect. It also comes in canvas, fabric or leather.
French manufacturer Roche Bobois also offers some highspirited solutions for al fresco living. Cédric Ragot’s Precious tables with diamond-faceted, steel-wire-cage bases come in a colorful selection of gueridons and coffee tables, while Song Wen Zhong’s stackable polycarbonate Ava chair comes in transparent tints—sky, crystal, amber, graphite and ruby. The most droll chair on the deck: Marcello Ziliani’s Madame O multicolored wrought iron chairs. It’s like sitting down inside an exuberantly hued hula hoop. And finally Fabrice Berrux’s cut-out fourleaf clover metal Bonheur stools definitely confirm 2013 as a year of good luck.
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of France Today