Take a seat

Leon is a restaurant chain renowned for its eye-catching design. From menus to interiors, the place is painstakingly pretty, referencing traditional yet quirky styles with nostalgia-tugging graphics.

For the opening of the eleventh branch in Old Compton Street, in London’s Soho, Leon is cranking its design credentials up a notch with a series of eleven specially commissioned chairs.

Leon head of marketing Georgie Sanderson says, ‘We found the artists through word of mouth – they’re mostly friends of friends or people we got chatting too who eat in Leon. It’s about bringing vibrancy and colour – bringing a part of Soho into Leon.’

Eleven (see what they did there?) young designers who frequent the Soho area [insert winks and nudges here] have been commissioned to decorate a tolix chair in a style that they think reflects both Soho and Leon, accompanied with a quote explaining themselves. All of the chairs will then be used in the new restaurant.

Robert Clarke and his chair
Robert Clarke and his chair

Henry Dimbleby, Leon co-founder, describes this as a ‘celebration of personal craft’, as well as being a great way to engage with the local community.

Among our favourites are Anita Mangan’s cheeky chair. She says, ‘The idea behind my chair was Soho being the life and soul of London, and the red lines are the arteries running through it. But then Georgia [Glynn Smith] photographed me with the chair outside Trashy Lingerie and now I think it looks like I’ve tied up my chair. Naughty, naughty chair…’

It seems this racy aspect of Soho caught many of the designers’ eyes. Louise Body says of her chair, ‘I thought that the lacy theme was very fitting for Soho’s saucy reputation and it tied in nicely with aspects of my own work.

Louise Body and her chair
Louise Body and her chair

‘I created the design using some of the lace handed down to me by my maternal grandmother.’

Casper Scarth’s charming chair, however, draws on more traditional influences.  He says, ‘Soho is a hubbub of activity – always fresh and exciting.’

He adds, ‘Inspired by Asian wallpaper and the traditional theme of the oriental flower garden this chair is influenced by the work of Dutch artist Daan van Golden who explored Japanese traditional motifs in his early 1960s enamel paintings.’

Perks for the artists are the obvious publicity of having their photos on the wall and their chair proudly displayed in the store – as well as eating for free in Leon. Seems there is, in fact, such thing as a free lunch after all.

Tom Lohner and his chair
Tom Lohner and his chair

Leon ‘s Old Compton Street branch will open on 21 March at 36-38 Old Compton Street, London W1D.

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