This afternoon in New York, the inaugural Bernhardt Design/Stylus American Design Honors award ceremony will celebrate two young US-based designers. The venue will be Bernhardt Design's stand at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which is fitting, since the work of a host of (mostly young, some American) designers, talent-spotted and nurtured by Jerry Helling, Bernhardt's president and creative director, will form the backdrop.
Among the work will be the Corvo chair, fresh from its launch in Milan last month. Beautifully made and unusually beautiful-looking from whichever angle you see it, its fluid lines are the work of the Paris-based designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. A work of timeless elegance, it looks utterly contemporary yet has subtle, indefinable echoes of the past - the Art Nouveau of Paris, perhaps? Or Britain's Arts and Crafts movement?
That may be at least in part because of the unusual way that Duchaufour-Lawrance developed the design - creating it first in carbon-fibre, then working backwards to reinterpret it in wood. And that was not as simple as it may sound. It took two skilled sample-makers almost a month to produce the first prototype. It soon became evident that the deceptively simple-looking design was too complex in its curves and angles to be manufactured using standard modern equipment, so Bernhardt elected to do it the old-fashioned way: by hand.
Fifteen different carving tools are used to hand-shape Corvo from solid American walnut, before it is sanded and sealed with a natural finish. The result is that every chair is slightly different, reflecting the personality and working style of the artisan who made it. It's a rather wonderful way of turning received ideas about modernity on their head. And it is a very lovely chair. www.bernhardtdesign.com