“The ability to quickly refine and iterate on design ideas brings a playful edge to furniture creation – the constraints of architectural construction don’t apply,” says interior designer and product designer Alexander Purcell Rodrigues. The designer has always been fascinated by the dual and somewhat opposing disciplines of innovative technology and craftsmanship. Thus, a decade after founding his interior design firm, he created the Atelier Purcell collection of furniture, lighting and textiles. With the ideology of “tradition redefined” anchored at the heart of the brand, Atelier Purcell aims to create legacies for the future.
The son of a graphic designer and a British businessman, graduated in architecture from the University of Cambridge, Purcell worked for the emblematic Richard Rogers Partnership. In 2009 he founded Alexander Purcell Interiors and Architectural practice, moving to London and expanding to Los Angeles and New York soon after. He then added furniture design to his portfolio, collaborating on products with Holly Hunt, Promemoria, Link Outdoor and De Castelli, among other luxury brands.
The Atelier Purcell collection is synonymous with luxury with beautiful combinations of materials – solid brass and eucalyptus, stainless steel and oak, bronze and marble – and digital and analog processes. Purcell Rodrigues says of his dual career as an interior and product designer: “A furniture concept can come from an architectural project – which is a larger dialogue, trying to navigate a narrative as you move through a space – or can be triggered by the shapes in a shadow cast on the ground. I appreciate the reciprocity that can be achieved between the spaces we create and the objects we make. Upscale Living Magazine engaged in an interesting interview with the designer.
What significant differences have you noticed in luxury interior design over the past decade?
People really take the time to personally determine what they want. The retail trade is booming. The consumer is more educated and involved than ever and therefore knows exactly what they want in their home. People want products that define them (meaning what their friends don’t have) and not just bespoke and unique, but luxurious and functional.
During your transition from interior design to product design, what were your main learnings?
I’ve always done this together – spaces and products working hand in hand and maybe the product fits into the project. Many of my pieces work together geometrically so they can sit in any given space and be functional. The Tuya section is an off-angle design and because it is not square, we designed a walnut or oak cabinet piece to elegantly complement the sofa while utilizing the negative space. It has a notch to allow a lamp to illuminate the sofa beautifully. And then it can be combined with a Cascade coffee table which is beautiful on its own, but its geometry matches that of the sectional, giving you an even passage through the space.
What is your design process?
I approach the form finding of a new design by focusing on details and silhouette first. Sometimes I will develop parts with absolutely no idea what materials they will be made from! That said, sometimes the inspiration is in the material. But sometimes that’s not the case. Humans see form and shadow first – this is a protective mechanism we developed as cavemen/women to help spot danger and large predators. So, when you see an object for the first time, it is its silhouette that attracts us before we begin to analyze its materiality and texture, etc.
Take the new Henley chair from the collection launching early next year. Henley is a very famous rowing regatta in England; or the crew as you call it in the United States. It’s probably the most well-known race and quite the social scene too. People come from all over the world to compete. In fact, it’s a race I won when I was much younger and in better shape than I am today! This was recently my crew’s 20and anniversary of the victory, this particular collection is therefore inspired by the language of shapes of oars and boats. All I started with was the arm of the chair and its upholstery detail once that was worked out the rest of the design was built from that detail.
How do you incorporate bright colors without becoming overwhelming? Is there a rule of thumb?
Use color as statement pieces! A good example is my Vista chair and ottoman. Especially a product whose silhouette you want to draw attention to. Art also plays a key role in showcasing personality and color and connecting the overall aesthetic to make it the property of the owner.
Are there distinct choice differences between London, LA and New York?
The fact that I am an international person, the design language is a combination of European and Californian. It’s dynamic, modern, tactile; I would say the style leans more towards modern Californian. In terms of customers, these needs remain constant – customers are looking for unique, high quality, well-designed and bespoke pieces. Obviously, because we’re bespoke, we can make products to suit different scales of venues – ie California is oversized compared to New York and London which are a bit more compact. Keep in mind that most of these customers have homes all over the world, so the choices they make are personal choices, not necessarily reflecting the city in which they have the home.
Tell us about your very first textile collection?
I wanted to create a rich and tactile textile collection that was elegant and traditionally refined. The collection responds to a double need: as an interior designer, I am always looking for the perfect textile solutions for the design of hotels and homes and as a furniture designer looking to dress up my fabric creations. and leathers with a real “wow” effect.
The curated range includes ten fabrics and three types of leather which are all produced in Italy, including leathers, classic cotton velvets, houndstooth patterns and mismatched weaves creating non-uniform textured surfaces.
What are the studio’s future plans?
The creation of Atelier Purcell took time, but I really want to develop the residential / hotel part of the design studio. As inspiration often comes from projects and the need to create pieces that do not exist to solve solutions in these projects. Although we are global, our main focus in the coming months will be to expand our presence in the US market.