by Anmol AhujaJul 16, 2021
Named after the Linnaean genus assigned to the European roe deer - Capreolus - the Capriol chair by British architect and designer Nigel Coates exudes the spirit of its namesake with elegant, curved rear legs that seem poised to spring forth into the wilderness. Developed by Coates as part of a larger design collaboration with the luxury furniture design brand Sofia called ‘Viet-Now,’ the Capriol chair combines elements of Vietnam’s traditional crafts with the designer’s own classic sense of style, peppered with idiosyncrasies and nature’s raw vivacity.
“The chair is part of a collection I'm doing with a company in Vietnam, which is quite a big collection of cabinets, sideboards, tables, sofas, and armchairs,” shares Coates in a conversation with STIR. “I've been working on this collection with my Vietnamese partners now for three years. The dining chair is named Capriol after a kind of deer. So, it has the spirit of a kind of elegant animal,” he adds. In the same vein, each piece in the collection captures a unique archetypal spirit, taking cues from Vietnamese craftsmanship and reinterpreting them in an eclectic display of colour and materiality with subtle yet dynamic variations.
Capriol, in particular, is loosely based on the Tuscan rustic chair, with ‘naturalistic lines’ evoking the lithe posture of a roe deer. “The back legs are charged with energy. I like to make furniture that has an animal energy in it - or a human energy,” Coates remarks. The lightness and refined, austere appearance of the chair design contribute to the high degree of functional comfort it offers, while being simply pleasing to the eye.
In the designer's view, the project’s origins can be traced back to a visit he made to Hanoi in November, 2019. As the pandemic began in March the following year, Coates and his collaborators continued to work on the collection. The British designer who is currently based in Siena, Italy explains, “There's a spirit in this collection where I try to use aspects of Vietnamese culture as touchstones, like in the references to traditional lacquer techniques, although the colours have gone a bit wild.”
The chair’s base measures 45cm x 38cm, with the backrest rising to a total height of 83 cm. A number of colour and material options for both the frame and upholstery are provided in the design catalogue, including choices between frames of natural walnut, black, or white shades, along with upholstery in either seagrass, or beige, black, and camel shades in leather. Natural, grainy textures in the walnut finish option, combined with the expertly done wood carving evident in the form of the chair’s frame, impart even more of an earthly feel to the piece, almost reflecting the patterns of fur seen on the roe deer.
In his conversation with STIR on the design and experience of the exquisite chair, Coates fondly reminisced that the Capriol chair’s conception was a response to his own experience of travelling to Vietnam and soaking up an entirely different atmosphere during his 10-day sojourn there. He adds, “I didn't imagine that Vietnam would be quite that inspiring. There's a bit of me in the chair and a bit of Vietnam - particularly from the people who made it.”