In Spring 2019 Baker Furniture launched The David Collins Studio Collection for Baker range of fabrics in London. The collection is inspired by The Studio's archive and experience of developing custom designs, patterns and materials.
An ancient, cracked plaster finish, Japanese book bindings, a design classic screen and x-rays of vegetables; not the first things that spring to mind when imagining luxury fabrics, but they are in fact just some of the inspirations behind the new textile collection by David Collins Studio for North Carolina-based furniture company, Baker. A diverse list maybe, but delve deeper in to the design process and these unusual combinations begin to make much more sense.
It was in fact the desire to create a collection of ‘ultimates’ that first motivated Simon Rawlings, Creative Director at David Collins Studio to push forward with the project. ‘We always have our go to textiles – the satins, the velvets, the silks, the mohairs and the linens that we love to use, but they’re all sourced from different places’ he explains. ‘I thought if only we could create a capsule collection where ‘ultimate’ fabrics work beautifully with one another; a one stop shop for pulling together a gorgeous room, with the best quality and the most seductive colours we could possibly achieve. We saw a gap in the market, and this range was born of a desire to fill that gap.’
Enter premium furniture company Baker, who in 2016 collaborated with David Collins Studio on the creation of a custom, hand screen-printed wallpaper for the hallways in the 44th incarnation of New York based charity project, the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, arguably one of the most important events in the design calendar. The success of this partnership led to a proposal from Baker, who initiated the development of a complete collection of fabrics, designed by the British studio. ‘Baker felt like the right partner, and they had the commitment to doing something super luxurious’ says Rawlings. ‘We’d talked about creating a collection in the past, but there was always something that wasn’t quite right. This time, everything was perfect.’ At the forefront of the project was Baker’s Product Manager Anissa Leatherman, whose incomparable knowledge gleaned over 30 years in the textile industry was instrumental in the production of the collection. ‘Working with Anissa has been key’ says Rawlings. ‘She knew exactly which fabric mills would be able achieve what we were looking for, so we hit the ground running.’
Baker felt like the right partner, and they had the commitment to doing something super luxurious
Research began by digging deep in to the David Collins Studio archive, looking at patterns, signature colours and other common threads that permeate it’s illustrious 33- year history. Everything from the interlocking stones on the floor of The Wolseley and the geometric, Art Deco curtains at Claridge’s, to architectural textures such as parquet and mosaics and the materiality of furniture and fashion fabrics were taken in to consideration. ‘There were hundreds of ideas, but we didn’t want to simply replicate patterns, so we had to take a different approach’ says Rawlings. ‘We put pen and brush to paper, literally huge sheets, painting designs, photographing and resizing them – it was a hands-on process to discover how we could interpret things in a different way.’
A vast collection of ideas was born, then edited down to a more condensed selection by the team before being transferred in to a large book, which was presented to Leatherman. Hard bound, and packed with information, drawings and samples, it told the story of how each fabric should look, feel and behave. ‘Studying this tome, I was able to understand what David Collins Studio is all about, and to really gain a sense of their aesthetic’ she says. ‘As we began to discuss the stories behind each design, they took on a character of their own. A drumbeat starts, so you feed in to that. The process became quite fluid and organic.’
Via Baker’s extensive network of craftsmen and artisans, Leatherman was able to pinpoint specialist companies from around the globe to realise the designs, many of which are technically difficult to produce. ‘Several of the mills are Italian; they have the equipment, the yarns, and the knowhow’ she says. ‘Italian velvets are amazing, and they do great jacquards too. Belgian linens are some of the best in the world, and India does a spectacular job with embroidery. I have a deep well to pull from. I know who’s capable of what and who creates the best quality, so I feed in to where their strengths are. With this project, everything needed to offer a little more than was expected.’
We put pen and brush to paper, literally huge sheets, painting designs, photographing and resizing them – it was a hands-on process to discover how we could interpret things in a different way.
The final collection, which took around two years from conception to delivery, comprises 13 fabrics in six core colourways, plus a selection of ‘bridging’ shades that bring the main themes together. Signature blues such as navy and periwinkle sit next to violets and mauves, as well as emeralds and jades, dusty pinks, greys and silvers.
Key designs include ‘The Eileen’, a two-tone mohair velvet, laser cut to create a pattern inspired by Eileen Gray’s iconic screen as seen in many of the studio’s projects, and ‘Chiyogami’, which takes its cue from the Japanese book binding papers that line stairs at The Wolseley and the walls of Soho’s Bob Bob Ricard, and is the same design developed for the wallpaper in the original Kips Bay Decorator Show House. ‘I wanted it to be much more than just a print, so we turned it in to a tapestry weave, quite heavyweight but still with a fluidity of movement’ explains Rawlings.
‘Cracked Velvet’ mimics cracked gesso - a hand-crafted finish that has become synonymous with the studio over the last three decades – with a surface that splits to reveal a contrasting ground. Inspiration also came from straw marquetry, Art Deco book bindings and even a simple doodle. ‘That one is Pen Line, a jacquard fabric’ says Rawlings. ‘I like it because it says a lot about what we do. From a distance it’s looks gentle, but zoom in you really start to appreciate the finer details.’
As we began to discuss the stories behind each design, they took on a character of their own. A drumbeat starts, so you feed in to that. The process became quite fluid and organic.
But what of the x-ray vegetables? ‘Years ago I did a project in Miami. We x-rayed a lot of fruit, vegetables and plants, and used the contrast to populate designs. For this collection we wanted a sheer fabric, but something that made a statement so that’s how the ‘X-ray’ applique sheer came about. It was a wildcard’ he laughs.
Since completion the collection, which is available exclusively through Baker’s showrooms, has been used in the newly finished TAK Room restaurant for Thomas Keller in New York, where a scattering of cushions can be found at the bar. ‘We tend to specify bespoke, so it won’t feature in every project going forward, but if it’s right then it does add another layer of satisfaction’ says Rawlings. ‘We can be braver and bolder now we understand more about techniques and have gained a more confidence. Exciting new additions are, quite literally, on the drawing board.’