NEW YORK, NY – Bernhardt Furniture Company, a family-owned American manufacturer, is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2014.
To mark this occasion, Bernhardt Design honors the company’s heritage of fine wood-working and upholstery craftsmanship with a new collection of products that underscore this artistry. Designers Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance, Ross Lovegrove and Jephson Robb draw inspiration from three different traditional furniture archetypes and recreate them for today’s world. New York artist Frederick McSwain completes the celebration by paying tribute to generations of craftsmen and artisans with a series of original artwork.
HARPER BY NOÉ DUCHAUFOUR-LAWRANCE
“In the collective French memory, one vision of America is the view of a rocking chair sitting on an open porch. It might be influenced by the movies, but the picture of a man sitting in a rocking chair on a front porch with his feet up on the balustrade, is quintessentially American.
"In my mind the rocking chair was invented in America, although I’m sure that is not true in fact. For me, designing a new rocking chair is the ideal way to celebrate the heritage, imagination, and craftsmanship of Bernhardt Design. The Adirondack chair served as early inspiration, but my focus soon turned to the Windsor rocking chair, whose complexity and refinement are remarkable.
"I wanted to take the essential elements of the Windsor rocker and put them together in a new and different way. The Windsor chair is essentially a kit of parts that are joined together in a very defined way – glides, spindles, arms, and backrest. The chair is constructed almost like a tiered cake, with one piece stacked on the previous one.
"I rearranged these sections and connected them differently to develop one continuous loop. All the elements are integrated in a more aerodynamic way, which is appropriate for a chair that is about motion. The goal was to create harmony between the various elements, to form an unbroken line.
"This atypical arrangement of parts generates something that is more contemporary, but still remains true to its historical reference. The exterior of the Harper chair is very much like a birds nest with a structure composed of twigs. The interior is a cocoon - in this instance a suspended cocoon. The seat and back appear to be floating inside the nest.
"I wanted to bring warmth and texture to the cocoon, rather than use the typical wood ∞≤√ seat found in a Windsor chair. To achieve this, I looked at leather saddles as a point of reference. The floating saddle seat brings a level of tailoring and quality to the chair, while still maintaining an important sense of familiarity. It was important that we use classic American woods: maple for the spindles and cherry for the structure.
"The choice of maple for the spindles was very deliberate, selected for its light color and visual transparency. The contrast between the two woods enables you to follow the form of the chair and easily see the suspended interior. For me, the most special aspect of Harper is that you experience something different from every perspective. As you walk around the chair it is constantly changing and becoming something new.” Named in honor of Bernhardt Design founder Anne Harper Bernhardt, the Harper chair is constructed in solid American cherry and American maple with a natural clear finish. With age, the cherry elements will darken. The seat is available in leather in a range of colorways.
ANNE BY ROSS LOVEGROVE
“When thinking about this project and how to consider Bernhardt Design’s wood heritage, my starting point was the American courthouse chair. These chairs were such a visible part of the American landscape because of their very powerful presence.
Using this historical reference, I wanted to create a chair that is contemporary and a reflection of my design vocabulary. I have worked with so many different materials in my career and used various technologies, but I have never designed a wood chair, and it is something I have always wanted to do. One of the interesting things about working in wood is that it is a truly organic material and full of surprises. Just like a slab of marble, you don’t know what you are getting when you make your first cut. This makes every piece unique.
As in all my work, the Anne chair is about sculpting a material: creating something that has a human dimension and looks interesting from any view. I’m very inspired by deep pre-historical tools and objects whose materials are often eroded, and the essential form feels sculpted by use and time. Products can often feel edgy, as if they are waiting for use – never really becoming part of us.
In the case of chairs, there must be some reference for the eye to read comfort and tactility, as well as to enjoy the reshaping that comes from ownership. For this reason I wanted to use walnut, because it has so much character and depth. It is a warm material, and you can almost feel the age of the tree in its personality. This chair is complex to make and references both the old and new Bernhardt.
It is a combination of old-world craftsmanship and technology using master carvers and seven Axis CNC machines. My concept for the leather seat begins at the end, so to speak. The intention was similar to people buying jeans that look and feel a little broken-in before they are worn. I wanted the seat to be very fluid, almost as if were poured into the frame, as opposed to being a distinctly separate element. This casual draping effect speaks to prior use and provides a visual cue regarding comfort. The final result is a chair that is rather timeless, one where it is difficult to assign a time and date.” The Anne chair, which derives its name from Bernhardt Design founder Anne Harper Bernhardt, is available in solid American walnut with a natural finish. The seat is available in leather in a range of colorways.
ALEX BY JEPHSON ROBB
“For me, Bernhardt Design’s history is not only a story of fine woodworking, but also a respect for quality sewing and upholstery. To capture these elements in one new product, it appeared the obvious place to look for inspiration was with the Chesterfield sofa.
Additionally, it seemed oddly fitting that Americans actually popularized the use of the name ‘Chesterfield’ to describe this type of sofa. Using this icon as a design source was also a very personal choice for me. When I was growing up, the first piece of furniture that actually made an impression on me was a Chesterfield sofa. I was about 13 when, on a sunny Glasgow afternoon, the deliverymen arrived with a very large and very long grey Chesterfield sofa. At the time I described it as ‘a battleship’.
I was fascinated by all the buttons, and amazed that my head and feet didn’t touch the arms when lying down. It seemed larger than life to me. Drawing from my first experience, I wanted to capture the essence of this grey sofa in a more contemporary way, but still preserve its impact and stature. A typical Chesterfield sofa conveys opulence and elegance, which is achieved through the visual complexity of generous rolled arms, buttons and tufting. My entire design process was about reduction and simplification – finding a way to express elegance in a modern way with clean lines and precise details.
The foot is ordinarily the least memorable element in a Chesterfield, however I wanted the base of the sofa to have more importance and communicate craftsmanship. I used solid walnut to create a carved base that traces the entire parameter of the sofa, with a small shaped leg that is an integral part of the structure. The final detail is a small ring of solid bronze. I often use bronze in my public sculptures and I thought this one small gesture would be the jewelry.
Even though I explored many possibilities for the body of the sofa, the base didn’t change from the first day. In my memory these sofas are about scale and charisma. I wanted to reinforce this idea, so the Alex sofa is 104” and has a significant presence. Gone, however are the rolled padded arms, which are replaced by very straight clean lines. The sofa is actually built in two pieces, so the exterior can be very crisp while the interior is soft and comfortable.
The biggest design challenge for me was how to communicate quality and comfort without the repetition of buttons and tufting. I decided to go with a single uninterrupted belt that creates one continuous tuft as it traces the interior. Three single buttons on the seat and one at the termination of the belt replace the multiple buttons of a classic Chesterfield. These simple and sparingly used details allow the sofa to look contemporary, but also achieve both visual and actual comfort, which was very important to me.”
The Alex sofa, named for Bernhardt Chairman Alex Bernhardt, is available in various leather and suede colorways. The solid American walnut base is finished in natural walnut, and the leg detail is solid bronze.
FAMILY TREE BY FREDERICK MCSWAIN
“In New York’s Museum of Natural History, you find the Hall of North American Forests. Filled with nostalgic dioramas, the exhibit depicts the ecologies of various regions on the diverse continent. Mounted on one of the gallery walls is the room’s main attraction: an irregular-shaped cross section of a 1400-year-old Giant Sequoia.
Its thick bark and sheer mass are said to be fire, insect, and disease resistant. On my first visit I vividly remember being hypnotized while attempting to count the concentric growth rings – one by one. When contemplating an appropriate tribute to the generations of Bernhardt craftsmen who carry on the tradition of fine woodworking, this memorable visual served to inspire me.
Like Bernhardt, I am a product of the state of North Carolina. Four generations of my family lived within a stone’s throw of one another. My grandparents grew timber; my father was endlessly buried in a mound of sawdust; and my elementary school teachers would mark my height with the same wooden yardstick. Needless to say, wood is part of my DNA. Although times have changed, technology and automation haven't drastically reduced the number of hours that most Americans spend in the workplace.
Our co-workers and colleagues typically become an extended family, creating a unique culture of shared values and behavioral norms. It only takes a brief visit to one of the Bernhardt factories to feel the sense of pride, emotional investment, and respect for heritage that seems to prevail from the production floor to the CEO’s office.
These qualities are the essence of Bernhardt. Drawing inspiration from 1960's minimalism, I created six unique wall sculptures in homage to the people, places, and things that have shaped Bernhardt's 125-year history. These simple forms are derived from hand drawn circles, each a nod to the organic and intimate relationship between woodworker and raw material. The 2D shapes were then digitized, modeled and finally crafted in solid walnut. Reminiscent of a vertical timeline or strands of DNA, anodized aluminum pegs are arranged like rungs of a ladder dissecting the circle.
A single polished copper element offers a focal point to the syncopated increments. Referencing Bernhardt's penchant for understated elegance and quality upholstery, a saddle-leather band quietly completes each assemblage, adding subtle ornamentation or ‘bark’ to the outer perimeter.” Family Tree is a series of six original art works ranging in size from 24” to 42” diameter. The individual pieces are composed of solid American walnut, anodized aluminum, solid copper and saddle leather.
ABOUT BERNHARDT - 125 YEARS
Bernhardt Furniture Company celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2014 and reaffirms the company’s founding values of making quality furniture and building a strong community for its employees. Bernhardt's history is one of creativity and passion for the artistry of furniture making united with a deep commitment to people and relationships. Unique by today’s standards, Bernhardt remains a family-owned business that is deeply committed to the welfare of the local community.
In 1889, John Mathias Bernhardt founded the first industrial venture in rural Lenoir, North Carolina, which would later become the Bernhardt Furniture Company. Leveraging the region’s natural resources and local woodworking skills to strengthen the local economy, he opened his factory with vast ambitions and twenty-five employees. In the twelve decades since, the company has mastered and refined its craft to become a leading diversified global furniture manufacturer. From humble roots making oak bedroom furniture, Bernhardt capitalized on the evolution of the home by adding other styles and categories of residential furniture throughout the twentieth century.
Expanding to new markets, it introduced a contemporary furniture brand, Bernhardt Design, in 1980. Bernhardt Hospitality was created in 2009 to serve the growing travel and leisure industry.
Bernhardt is currently one of the largest family-owned companies in the country and employs people on six continents. Its furniture is found in homes, offices, hotels and universities around the world. Now led by the fourth generation, the Bernhardt family has been intimately involved throughout the company’s history. Bernhardt’s success comes from the work of more than just one family, however. Generations of artisans have passed their expertise to the next, while incorporating new technologies and innovative ways of making furniture. The creativity, ingenuity and dedication of countless fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and husbands and wives form the bedrock of the company. At this milestone, Bernhardt Furniture Company acknowledges the values upon which it was founded and celebrates the individuals whose spirit of sharing has made a better community and a stronger company.
ABOUT BERNHARDT DESIGN
Bernhardt Design was founded in 1980 by the 125-year-old Bernhardt Furniture Company and continues to be a leader and innovator in furniture design and production. During the past 10 years, President Jerry Helling has assembled an extraordinary creative team that has positioned Bernhardt Design as one of the leading international design companies with a roster of talent that includes: Ross Lovegrove (London), Arik Levy (Paris), Jaime Hayon (Barcelona), Yves Béhar (San Francisco), Patrick Jouin (Paris), Fabien Baron (New York), Monica Förster (Stockholm), CuldeSac (Valencia), Suzanne Trocmé (London), Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance (Paris), Jeffrey Bernett (New York), Charles Pollock (New York), and Claudia and Harry Washington (San Salvador).
Taking a proactive approach to sustainability, Bernhardt Design is one of the first furniture companies to have achieved level® certification, BIFMA’s multi-attribute standard assessing the environmental aspects of products, processes and facilities. Setting a precedent for leadership within the corporate community, Bernhardt Design created and sponsors an annual interdisciplinary course with the world-renowned Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, challenging students to create world-class designs for mass production.
Bernhardt Design also sponsors the ICFF Studio, a scholarship program that provides emerging design talent exposure to manufacturers, retailers and media from around the world Bernhardt Design created Tools at Schools, a collaborative partnership with creative consultancy Aruliden and The School at Columbia University, where the project introduced design into the school's 8th-grade curriculum. Forty-four students immersed themselves in the design process, from research and ideation, to hand sketching, to 3D drawing and modeling. They ultimately created the classroom of the future with real products, which debuted at the ICFF in New York.
Internationally, Bernhardt Design supports young designers through their sponsorship of The Carrot Concept, which was conceived to advance the design profession in El Salvador, and America Made Me, a program to promote new brands and young American design talent abroad. As a founding member of Be Original, Bernhardt Design is committed to the importance of preserving original design through education and informational programming.
ABOUT NOÉ DUCHAUFOUR-LAWRANCE Born in South France in 1974, Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance is a designer of objects and interior environments. Following in the footsteps of his father, a sculptor, his artistic interests developed at an early age. Growing up in this creative atmosphere, he had the opportunity to define his own language: using natural shapes with smooth and organic lines which remain fluid and structured at the same time. After earning a degree in Metal Sculpture from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d’Art, he studied furniture design at the renowned Les Arts Décoratifs. Fueled by his rich creative background, Duchaufour-Lawrance explored new boundaries and rapidly became involved in unusual projects that enabled him to define and create his own aesthetics and style. In 2002, he served as artistic director for the Sketch restaurant in Soho, London, and his bold design of the interiors soon transformed it into one of the most sought-after venues in the city. Having garnered worldwide acclaim for the Sketch project, Duchaufour-Lawrance established the creative studio Neonata, meaning “New Birth” in 2003. Functioning as a think tank and a research laboratory, Neonata’s team under Duchaufour-Lawrance’s direction “gives birth” to design and interior architectural projects that convey a sense of perfection down to the last detail. In a dramatic makeover for the high-end gastronomic restaurant Senderens, Duchaufour-Lawrance complemented and contrasted Majorelle’s historic wood-panels with luminous tables and engraved mirrors giving a contemporary twist of design to the Art Nouveau interiors. In 2007, Duchaufour-Lawrance received the prestigious Maison & Objets Créateur de l’Année award. In the same year, he designed the new interiors of the Maya Bar in Monaco, rejuvenated the famous Maison Sénéquier in St Tropez, and in collaboration with Brand Image created the new visual and architectural identity of the Air France business class lounges. Subsequently, in 2010, he began designing retail concepts for clients, such as Yves Saint Laurent and the BSL Gallery in Paris. His expanding acclaim for creating distinctive dining spaces led to new interiors commissions including Le Ciel de Paris in the Montparnasse Tower and Megu, a Japanese restaurant in Gstaad, Switzerland. Most recently, in 2013 he completed the private dining room for Chateau d’Yquem in the Parisian hotel Le Meurice and a chalet in St Martin de Belleville. Finding inspiration in nature, his series of “Down Side Up” vases resemble round pebbles; his office ensemble “Landscape” created for Longchamp takes the form of a moving landscape; and his furniture for Ceccotti – including the iconic Manta Desk – appears as an elegant mix of intertwined curved lines and ramifications. His achievements also include international successes for his design of Rémanence, a candelabra designed for Baccarat; a perfume bottle in the shape of a gold bar for Paco Rabanne; and award winning furniture collections for Bernhardt Design. He has been included in a number of international design exhibitions and his limited edition work has been featured at Art Basel and Design Miami.
ABOUT ROSS LOVEGROVE Ross Lovegrove was born in 1958 in Cardiff, Wales, and graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1980. He received a Master of Design degree from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1983. In the early 80’s, Lovegrove worked as a designer for Frog Design in West Germany on products such as the Walkman for Sony and computers for Apple. Lovegrove later moved to Paris as a consultant to Knoll International, becoming author of the highly successful Alessandri Office System. He was invited to join the Atelier de Nimes along with Jean Nouvel and Phillip Stark, consulting to among others Cacharel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Dupont. Since starting his own practice in London in 1986, he has completed projects for British Airways, Peugeot, Kartell, Cappellini, Apple, Issey Miyake, Moroso, Vitra, Mazada, LMVH, Motorola, Olympus Cameras, Luceplan, Tag Heuer and Japan Airlines. Most recently, he received considerable recognition for designing the Twin’Z concept car for Renault, which debuted in 2013. Winner of numerous international awards, his work has been extensively published and exhibited internationally including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in NY, Axis Centre in Japan, Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Design Museum in London, where in 1993 he curated the first Permanent Collection. Design awards include the Medaille de la Ville de Paris, the George Nelson award, the Royal Designer of Industry from the Royal Society of Arts, Federal Design Prize Japan, and the ID Good Design award, as well as the Designer of the Year award presented by the Architekture & Wohnen. The Go chair designed by Lovegrove for Bernhardt Design was awarded Best of NeoCon and was included in Time Magazine’s Best of Products of the Year. In 2012, FX named him Designer of the Year, and he won the Automotive Interior Award in 2013. Lovegrove’s work is held in permanent collections of various design museums around the world including Museum of Modern Art in New York, Vitra Design Museum and Design Museum in London. He has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions during the past fifteen years that feature his art, design and conceptual work. Lovegrove is the author of the book SUPERNATURAL and was the host of the CNN documentary Just Imagine.
ABOUT JEPHSON ROBB Glasgow native Jephson Robb graduated with a Masters degree in Design from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2003. He received his first commission "Temple" from Tord Bootje for the British Council's "Eight Rooms" touring exhibition in 2004. A highly respected work of design art, "Temple," was subsequently displayed in New York, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, and Frankfurt. In 2005, Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the New York Museum of Modern Art, commissioned "Cries & Whispers" for SAFE, the first major design exhibition at the museum after its reopening in 2004. "Cries & Whispers" has since been added to the museum's permanent collection. In 2005, Robb received his first public art commission for the Scottish Arts Council. "Golden Age," a 700cm diameter gold leaf circle in the centuries-old Pittenweem harbor, demonstrated the ephemeral nature of materialism. His next public art installation came in 2007 when he was commissioned by the Edinburgh Arts Festival to create an interactive art project, "Wonder," a series of 500cm high pyramids built on Portobello Beach. Robb's formidable bronze sculpture "Change" was commissioned as a parable for the revitalization of Scotland's historic Clydebank. The 500cm sculpture consists of three interloping bronze circles. Robb installed his largest public art commission to-date in 2013, “Love and Kisses,” a 25-meter long public sculpture for the Helix project in Falkirk, Scotland. In 2014, he completed his first architectural commission, designing three pavilions and two bicycle shelters for the grounds of the new South Glasgow NHS Hospital. A frequent participant in forums on art and design, Robb has conducted workshops at Vitra's renowned Boisbuchet summer sessions. Fusing together the traditional skills of a fine art practice with the technology of contemporary design, Robb has worked with a wide range of private clients and public organizations including Liberty of London, Frankfurt Messe, Atkins, The Environment Agency, Page/Park Architects, ARUP and Austin-Smith:Lord to create site-specific artworks, interior installations and permanent public sculptures. During the past 10 years Robb has consulted for Bernhardt Design as art director on a number of creative projects including advertising campaigns, web design and as creative director for exhibitions at the Salone Del Mobile in Milan. In 2010, Bernhardt Design invited Robb to design his first lounge chair, “Amri”. Subsequently, in 2012, Robb added new lounge seating collections and a range of guest chairs to the Bernhardt Design portfolio. He won a Good Design Award and Best of NeoCon in 2013 for his Quiet Table Collection.
ABOUT FREDERICK MCSWAIN A native of North Carolina, Frederick McSwain’s hometown was famous for a handful of subjects: the hamburger shop on Broad Street, an astronaut who piloted the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and a Revolutionary War battle site. Tucked away on the Cape Fear River, sprawling farmland and vast wilderness provided the mis-en-scéne. The local economy was composed of agriculture, textiles, and furniture production. It was quite common for workers in the community to take secondary jobs, usually in an unrelated field, and McSwain’s family was no exception. His parents invigorated small town life with side-ventures ranging from taxidermy to bail bonding, and McSwain was taught to explore the colorful possibilities hidden within the mundane. McSwain went on to study Fine Arts and Design at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. After graduation, his career began with a series of monochromatic painting installations. Quickly, he found that his interests aligned more with the construction, stretching, and hanging of the canvas, than the ritual of painting itself. Over the years, he developed a multidisciplinary approach to problem solving and a collective output that ranged from industrial design to music composition. In 2010, McSwain founded his eponymous studio to explore the overlapping worlds of art, design, and popular culture. Introspective in nature, his work commonly references themes that resonate on the human psyche. Using memories, dreams, heritage, mortality, and simple observation as catalysts, he strives to find the perfect balance between beauty and utility. In social context, McSwain views his work as an environmental trigger, a vehicle for emotion which is only fully understood when experienced. McSwain’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions in New York, Paris, and recently at the Museum of Vancouver. His projects have been featured internationally in publications such as New York Times, Esquire, Art Review, Interior Design, Elle Decor, Surface, and Dwell Magazine.
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