Designed in 2005, the Smock Chair by Patricia Urquiola and produced by Moroso, was already at the forefront of my mind a few years before it arrived in Australia writes Stephen Crafti.
Jaci Foti-Lowe, founder of Hub Furniture in Melbourne and in Sydney, was giving a presentation to architects and designers at her then Exhibition Street showroom on her highlights from Milan that year. And while the backstory on the Smock Chair was intriguing, so were the images – so I became one of the first to order this chair Down Under after the presentation.
Referencing the world of fashion, the Smock Chair, starting at $8,800 (including GST) brings together the traditional craft of smocking and contemporary design. At the time, Patricia Urquiola was expecting a baby and the chair’s design coincided with her smocking (a form of stitching that adds flexibility to materials such as leather and cotton which this chair is available in) a garment for her then-unborn child. She remarked at the time (through Jaci Foti-Lowe’s presentation) that the idea of seeing a businessman sitting in a smocked-style armchair also amused her.
When I saw the image of the Smock Chair on the screen in the Hub showroom, I could also see the comparisons with a stylish 1970s handbag, the armrests evoking handles of a bag. The black and cream tweed fabric covering the back of this chair, combined with a black leather seat (the covering which I ordered), also reminded me of a traditional Coco Chanel tweed suit. And as with a Chanel suit that offered women a sense of ease and flexibility, the Smock Chair features a swivel-steel base that allows for ease of movement.
My Smock Chair sits in the reading nook in my home. Framed by crystal wall sconces created by Suzie Stanford, it’s both a place to cocoon as much as providing a sculptural form in this interstitial space (located between the kitchen and the formal living room). Others obviously saw the beauty in this unique chair, as I stumbled upon it in a variety of abodes, both commercial and domestic.
The Smock Chair appeared in hotel lobbies, used in multiples to create a sense of drama. Others placed the Smock Chair in living rooms or in bedrooms as a side chair. Even before it really took off, I could see that this chair would be a future classic, a chair that would hold its own and be highly coveted for years to come. It doesn’t resemble other chairs, yet there’s a familiarity with some of its features, such as the smocking, that resonate.
Jaci Foti-Lowe immediately responded to the Smock Chair. “Patricia has a way of looking at objects, whether it’s a vase or a chair, and finding inspiration from a completely different field,” she says. “In this case it was a bag and creating what you see now as the Smock Chair,” she adds, who also appreciates the way Urquiola fuses the soft with the strong in all her designs. “You have the steel base and arms combined with the softness of the smocking.”
Soon after this chair arrived in Australia, Jaci organised an exhibition, inviting a number of Australian designers, including designers such as Akira Isogowa, Lisa Gorman and Christy Barber to bring their own ‘voice’ in developing a fabric to cover the chair. “It’s a classic, a totally new idea that breaks new ground in the design world,” she adds.