Architect and designer Nigel Coates has always been obsessed with visual polemics, or what he describes as “the knife-edge clash between modern and tradition.” His furniture designs fill a particular aesthetic territory that’s of-the-moment while also looking as though they have existed for years, if not multiple eras. Take his Struzza chair, a top-heavy armless seat with short spindly legs. Its form evokes a perfect Victorian frumpiness, except that it’s upholstered in chilli pepper-red ostrich leather.
At Salone del Mobile last month, Coates created another great moment of antiquity butting up with the here-and-now, by filling a crumbling house with 25 of his own pieces. Called Casa Reale, the exhibit was the home he imagined for “a king without a kingdom” (reale is Italian for both real and royal).
The king’s luxuries included throw carpets in the shape of kidney beans and wall sconces in the form of gold crowns. But one of the most impressive displays was a chandelier named Angel Falls, made up of tiny crystal men in spread-eagle poses as if skydiving, suspended in a cluster over the stairwell.
Another striking piece, the Picaro chair for Poltronova featured a lightly padded leather cushion that sits like a lump of uncooked dough atop a stainless steel cube base. With its unkempt panache, the pile truly recalls the well-worn throne of said king-without-a-kingdom.
Casa Reale represents a collaboration between Coates and his various Italian manufacturing partners, including AVMazzega, Boffi, Poltronova, Slamp and Terzani. All the pieces are limited editions and available online.