Alchemy Cairo, the new furniture line that is headed and designed by Karim Mekhtigian, one of Alchemy Design Studio’s three partners, debuted at the studio’s new store located in furniture retail mall Designopolis last month.
Mekhtigian’s signature contemporary take on local design themes of geometric patterns, traditional items such as the local ahwa (coffee shop) tables and the reconfiguration of standard items such as stools and coffee tables has resulted in a furniture brand that is inspired by the city yet vies on updating the traditional for the contemporary context of one’s living space.
Collaborating with both friend and colleague Christophe Pillet, what resulted was a centerpiece of a chair: Named the H Lounge Seat, it is curved with a high back, upholstered in black leather on the inside with a stainless steel exterior and larger than life.
Pillet has also designed a stainless steel stool that can double as a footrest, and the Sezz chair for Alchemy Cairo. Pillet’s accomplishments in his native France, Japan and the US run the gamut from furniture and product design to interior design and architecture.
Pillet has worked with celebrity designer Phillipe Starck upon graduating from Milan’s prestigious Domus Academy, and today he is the designer darling of hotel brands and clothing designers such as Lacoste and Catherine Malandrino for his sensual take on spaces.
Pillet spoke exclusively to Daily News Egypt about his work for Alchemy Cairo.
Daily News Egypt: With your H Lounge Seat being regal and grand in a modern sense, do you think that it requires a certain setting?
Christophe Pillet: I don’t think so, I think a space can enhance or dilute the character of a piece, but a piece should have its own character, its own story. Of course it depends, some pieces are made to be part of a space.
For example, if you’re doing the interiors of a fashion shop, you can design pieces that are really part or one element in the sense of the place. In that sense, they are part of the space — but if you are taking about these chairs, they have been made separately and are not made for one kind of space or one kind of style, or gender of space, so I think a good piece has to work by itself in any case.
What are these chairs intended to tell people? Or perhaps, add with their character to a space?
If you want to focus on what are they telling to people, what are they dedicated to, maybe the chairs are not the right location but they are saying what they want to say, they’re very arrogant. They are very simple. They were not meant to be in stainless steel, just initially intended to be high backed and in leather or fabric. In stainless steel they are very strong and they have a little bit of arrogance — it’s a gentle arrogance, it’s nothing bad.
When you designed the H Lounge Seat, where did you envision you’ll place them?
With a high back and a ‘one and a half’ seat, you could say it’s a lover’s seat, it contains a paradox, it’s to be shown and hidden, it’s totemic because it’s almost a piece of sculpture but big and visible, they’re not discrete so you see them. But they are high and curved to hide the people and to allow…[privacy]. That’s the paradox of this chair. They are meant to be in the middle of a space because they are hiding the people.
With regards to the design process, was it a collaborative process between yourself and Karim Mekhitigian or was it a personal process?
The personal process was that I designed it without discussing with Karim, he simply asked me to do a piece. As for my collaboration with Karim, it was not about the commercial aspect, simply about finding more good excuses to keep in touch and keep on with friendly collaborations.
The chair was never meant to be commercial. Tt was meant to be a good looking show off piece, but made sincerely, not as a joke, to make this partnership with Alchemy Cairo.
So when he asked me to do a piece I said I think I have an idea for you. I designed this piece with 3D renderings, and the piece appeared very shiny and maybe in the plans it was not said that it was lacquered wood or upholstery so he interpreted it in very shiny stainless steel. I like it very much, it’s more of a collaboration. It’s a co-design in the way he interpreted the drawing.
It’s now a piece more than it is a chair.
How is this different than any chair you had designed for Alchemy in the past?
The difference is that the fact that it’s high, it could be substituted for making walls in a room, and starts to make the piece become considered part of the architecture also in terms of structure and necessity to be high and not too transparent.
Until now I was just doing pieces with low seating, this one starts to be a statement in open spaces as in the situation we are now. We could have furniture that could be considered ‘interior architecture’ instead of building walls and placing libraries on the wall. We could perhaps have a library in itself that could serve the function of a wall.
If you want to make a private area in your house instead of making curtains or walls or dividers, maybe a piece of furniture can hold the necessity and functionality — just an idea.
This idea also stems from my love for flexible spaces. I love open spaces, flexible spaces, where things are not set forever. When you go into some houses where things are placed in such a symmetrical structured way, and when you move things two centimeters it’s not working — I hate that. And that’s not the way we live now. Our lives are such that we’ll be reading in our homes, our friends will then come over and we want to move things and our places need to have quality wherever the placement of product should be. So this is why investigating how furniture can play a role in partitioning a space is very interesting to me.
6 kms after the Cairo toll station
Cairo-Alex Desert Road
Designer Christophe Pillet’s H Lounge Seat for brand Alchemy Cairo is what the designer has termed “a piece.”
Christopher Pillet’s Sezz Armchair and Stainless Stool design for Alchemy Cairo.