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Readdressing the remit of function in contemporary furniture design

Anya Cooklin-Lofting | 04 Sep 2021

       

For Theoreme Editions’ Jerome Bazzocchi and David Giroire, beauty itself is a non-negotiable function of the very best contemporary furniture design, especially as homes take centre stage in a post-COVID world


“An edition house is to furniture what a gallery is to art,” says Jerome Bazzocchi, one half of the design duo behind Theoreme Editions, the three-year-old French maison d'édition. It offers furniture designers a creative carte blanche and the opportunity to work with some of the leading artisans in the industry. Together with his business partner, gallerist and communications expert David Giroire, Theoreme Editions provides an editorial eye for emerging designers, inviting fresh faces to submit design proposals in response to a loose brief.

A real patron of the French arts, Theoreme Editions works incredibly closely with select designers to transform their work into an expectation-exceeding, game-changing collection, elevating the global reception of French design. “In this way,” Giroire clarifies, “we work as an editorial publication, line-editing each design piece to help our designers break into the luxury space.” So, this is an editing process distinct from the typewriter and the editing fluid: it is the physical recrafting, the reconjuring of concepts and materials.

Jerome Bazzocchi (left) and David Giroire (right), founders of Theoreme Editions

It is Tuesday when we eventually dial into a three-way WhatsApp call from London, the South of France and Italy respectively, and Bazzocchi tells me that the pair “truly complete each other.” I hear the hum of a coffee machine and a brief, curt exchange of rolling French colloquialisms as he relays his order to the barista, while Giroire begins to indulge me in the story of their meeting. “We met fifteen years ago while working at Dior,” he laughs, his words amongst the discordant clatter of the cafe on Bazzocchi’s line. “We have been friends for a long time and we share passions and interests that have led us to build Theoreme Editions. It was always bound to happen,” he says, and chimes of agreement ricochet across the call between the two men.

Brass Armchair by Achille Pool

Mirror by Joris Poggioli

Giroire continues, “so three years ago, we agreed on a structure, or a concept, that would allow us both to explore new career paths, playing to each others’ skills and working together. One of the initial ideas we both agreed upon was that young designers are often overlooked in the luxury space, yet they have so much to say. The second point of accordance was that we are both obsessed with beautiful things. Thirdly, we knew we wanted to propose a new idea of typically French design to a modern audience.” 

“Around the world, French design is considered very luxurious and well-executed,” Giroire says, and I tend to agree. The question is, why change it, then? From the bulging, eighteenth century, golden, acanthus-clad commodes by Charles Cressent and Andre Charles Boulle to contemporary, show-stealing pieces by Vincent Dubourg and Mathieu Lehanneur, the canon French design has much to contribute to the world stage. “But compared to countries like Germany with its sleek and exciting innovations in furniture design,” he continues, “we felt there was nothing refreshing happening in France. So, we challenged the new designers to come up with something to alter the global reception of French design.”

Constantin Bench Francesco Balzano

For the very first (and current) Theoreme Editions collection, which debuted at the Milan design show, Salone Del Mobile in 2019, the designers were asked to respond to the brief, Sculptural, Monolithic, Minimal. For the subsequent rounds of ‘edits’ to the submitted pieces, Bazzocchi ensures me that, “as a rule, we never make decisions alone, so the collaborations are very much between the maison d'édition and the designers.” To offer an example, he recalls the first iteration of Paris-based designer, Francesco Balzano’s Constantin Bench of which just twelve exist, numbered and signed. The finished piece is cast in a solid block of resin, but the concept for Balzano’s bench and the final limited edition differ greatly, having been subject to interrogation throughout the collaborative editing process. Bazzocchi tells me that originally, the bench was carved from pink travertine, an exquisite material, but not the preferred option amongst Bazzocchi and Giroire. “The beauty of casting in resin as opposed to limestone,” says Bazzocchi, “is that the material allows the light to pass through uninterrupted.” The result is a mirage-like apparition of a bench, a paradox of heft, weight, substance, and ethereality.

Jellyfish Lamps by Emmanuelle Simon

Mirror by Emmanualle Simon

And it is this paradoxical, thought-provoking essence that Theoreme Editions is bringing to its clientele of private collectors and interior designers. “We want to bring our collectors and contemporaries elements of the unexpected,” says Giroire. “It sounds too simplistic to say, but so much has already been made. Our collectors have such discerning tastes and vast knowledge of furniture design, so we work with the very finest artisans in the world, pairing these skills with the freshest creative visions in France. We want to create works that assimilate into both interiors as functional items, as well as art collections.”

Naturally, the question of whether Theoreme Editions’ furniture can be considered art is my next. “It’s complex,” Bazzocchi responds, primed for this diversion in our conversation. “It’s hard to say what is art and what is not, as I think time decides. If you look at the most iconic pieces of post-war furniture design, today some are considered works of art.” This is true: in 2009, the String® shelving system, designed in 1949 by Nisse and Kajsa Strinning, was classified as Applied Art under the Copyright Act, sixty years after its initial conception. To me, it seems very much within the realms of possibility that the sculptural angularity of Services Généraux’s Contenu Vase from the collection, for example, will find itself adrift in this same liminality between art and furniture within the century.

Totem by Joris Poggioli

But where do function and art intersect, and must all Theoreme Editions’ decorative design pieces have a use? The misattribution of lovely uselessness to things of beauty is an ontological trap I have fallen into before. Bazzocchi sets me back on my path when I pose such a question: “Beauty has a function,” he says. “It makes you happy, moves your mood and soothes you.” For Theoreme Editions, it appears the true function of beautiful things for the home has to do with supporting the mind rather than the body. “It is important to be surrounded by beautiful things,” he adds. 

The closing message from Theoreme Editions’ founders is that the very existence of beautiful design has never been more important. “COVID has centred people on their homes,” says Bazzocchi. “The world is a frightening place, so people want to return home to escape the anxieties of daily life in the beauty of their furniture.” He tells me that, commercially speaking, there is a huge business for interior design at the moment. There is a clientele out there spending more money than they ever expected on luxurious additions to their homes in the absence of international travel and the reduction in dining out. “Instead,” he says, “budgets are being spent on rare, beautiful, bespoke furniture.” 

Contenu Vase Services Généraux

Paysan Tables by Services Généraux

For Giroire, this shift in the luxury market signals permanent changes in furniture design and the way we live in our homes. “The future of furniture is about emotion,” he says. “New work must be able to command a strong emotional connection to its owner - we must feel an intimate relationship with our homes.”

Next for the maison d'édition is the second collection, Collection 02, which I am assured is ready for launch in September 2021. The collection will comprise a new curation of pieces designed exclusively for Theoreme Editions by a refreshed pool of designers. Another new project in the pipeline will see the French architect, Jean-Philippe Sanfourche, digitally refurbish a boutique hotel, or hotel particulier, to showcase furniture from both collections. Theoreme Editions plans to showcase the project online with an image drop in October 2021. I’ll be waiting with bated breath to discover the next names to know under their wing.

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