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Date published: March 03 2018

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Where did it come from? Where did you find it? - It is all so fascinating

Seeking that which amuses and informs is an all-consuming affair. For a designer it is a lifetime’s indulgence.

I’ve had the good fortune to travel as a young man whose family lived abroad, as a New York-based Art Director, and as a Vice President at Ralph Lauren before launching my first collection with Jonathan Charles.

I have been drawn to the best addresses and vetted as many venues as my bonafides allowed and I have been fascinated by streets and neighbourhoods - the unassuming as well as the extraordinary.

The Puces de Saint-Ouen, Paris’s great cultural depository, and the shops along Milan’s Via della Spiga still inspire; but how could one not also recall the charming little dress shops that once brindled 14th Street in New York - especially at Easter - or the surplus stores on Canal Street, the dull sheen of oxidized metal and tablets of colored glass. And, oh, how I love old hardware stores too; and candy shops, they dazzle.

Toy stores in forgotten neighbourhoods, their ancient shelving and forgotten goods. Unexpected linen shops and stationery stores with stacks of old stock. Pastry shops and bars: Mangini in Genoa where the well-heeled Genovesi queue up for salty pasticcini, and bottles of acidcolored digestive fill rococo style cabinets from the time of Napoleon III. Everything is beautiful, everything inspires.

Like the great interiors of the last century, not ones assembled under a professional’s eye (though there are many of those that are equally delicious) but ones that evolved with fancy and whim, that were pieced together with intelligence and wit and with an eye for colour, for shape, for the narrative of history; a rich stew or bouillabaisse, an after-dinner refreshment, a cocktail.

Often I think of the Paris apartments of the great couturiers and the personal digs of off beat antiquaries in the mansards overlooking the Seine on the Left Bank.

If you meander the tiny neighbourhoods, their dealers and bric-à-brac shops, you’ll find that I’m not the only one whose wanderlust has garnered an eclectic sensibility. Just look at the harvest! There’s the perfect Chinese table, waxy and the colour of licquorice, which anchors the very best rooms.

Why is it that the sinuous curl of the leg on a Biedermeier table just like a candy cane twist compels? There’s the inlaid design of a cherry branch in blossom or a hand painted bouquet like faded spun sugar. And rich chestnut and toffee colours of solid woods and beautiful veneers. Can we compare the crisp upholstered sofa or chair to that Easter frock or linen doily?

And intimacy and conversation: that’s what inspires, too. The scale of a slipper chair draws you in, the low cocktail bids you, its black glass surface refl ecting the room.

The mystery of a folding screen, dividing space, what’s behind it? The whimsy of the trestle desk whose delicate, hand turned, Louis Philippe horses belie their sturdy function, and how lovely it is to sit at and work. The Ming etagere whose 300-year-old design is fresh, and simple, and utilitarian, and exquisitely beautiful: remember the hardware store?

And so it is, the conversation, where did it come from, where did you find it? What are you doing this evening? We would be very charmed to see you here.

Churchman has recently designed a collection of furniture for Jonathan Charles which includes this hand-painted mahogany cabinet with two drawers and adjustable shelves with yolk shaped support, and is decorated with an elegant relief painting of bamboo, blossom and songbird motifs. 

Author: Calvin Churchman

Company: Churchman & Co

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