Forward-thinking furniture at Chatsworth House

Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth showcases 75 new chairs created by designers and students incorporated into the interiors of the stately home, with the aim of showcasing talent that “pushes the boundaries”.

Raw Edges - Endgrain
Raw Edges – Endgrain

An exhibition of chair designs has opened at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, which Chatsworth’s exhibitions curator Hannah Obee hopes will help to showcase the work of those who “push the boundaries” of contemporary furniture design.

Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth includes the installation of 75 seats incorporated within the interiors of the stately home, 71 of which can be “tried out” by visitors.

“The title of the exhibition is in reference to physically being comfortable on the seats, but also feeling comfortable at Chatsworth and feeling a part of the exhibition,” Obee says.

Thomas Heatherwick - Spun Chairs
Thomas Heatherwick – Spun Chairs

She adds: “Normally at stately homes, beautiful rooms are prohibited by a red rope which visitors can look over. It’s so important for people to actively engage with the exhibition and be stimulated intellectually.”

The exhibition includes chairs that surpass the norm of furniture design, Obee says. It includes work by international designers such as Thomas Heatherwick, Moritz Waldemeyer and Amanda Levete, and specially commissioned pieces by Raw Edges and Tom Price.

Tom Price - Counterpart
Tom Price – Counterpart

“With the recession, the temptation to be cautious in furniture design is obviously very strong,” Obee says. “It’s very important and exciting to see people trying to keep design moving, rather than repeating what’s already been.”

Designers such as Raw Edges have aimed to incorporate the existing colour and material schemes of the interiors while refreshing the design and making it contemporary.

Freyja Sewell - Hush
Freyja Sewell – Hush

The consultancy worked with the Whitewall Company to produce Endgrain within the house’s Sculpture Gallery – seats which draw inspiration from the ceramic tile patterns of plinths within the room, but also renew the style by “merging with the space”, says Shay Alkalay, one half of Raw Edges.

Raw Edges - Endgrain
Raw Edges – Endgrain

“They grow from the floor like tree trunks,” says Alkalay. “The idea of furniture is that it’s mobile – you don’t often have the opportunity to fix it to the ground. We’ve tried to achieve the balance of being respectful and placing our own interest on the place.”

Chatsworth House also partnered with Sheffield Hallam university to include the work of product and furniture design students and alumni, with the aim of enabling young designers to get ahead in their field, Obee says.

Student chair designs
Student chair designs

“There is a lot of pressure on creative courses these days, particularly those that only take on small numbers of students,” she says. “Many degrees from my background of contemporary craft and ceramics no longer exist. It’s very worrying – so it was very important for me to work with the community and provide the local university with a platform to showcase their work to journalists and design companies.”

Make Yourself Comfortable at Chatsworth will run until 23 October 2015 at Chatsworth House, Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP. Tickets are £22 for adults, based on entry price to view the house.

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