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Designing the Ruche Sofa

When I was in France earlier this year to report our latest Process story, which appears in our February 2011 issue and online here, I had the opportunity to not only tour Ligne Roset's factory near Lyon, but also to meet with the designer of the Ruché sofa, Inga Sempé. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to peek inside designers' studios and gain some insight into their creative process, and my conversation with the engaging, straight-talking, dry-humored Sempé was a highlight of my trip. I loved her atelier, a riot of papers, books, models, drawings, and prototypes in a corner room of her sprawling Paris apartment. And it was fascinating to hear more about the backstory of how the Ruché came to be; it made my visit to the factory the next morning that much more interesting.

Here's Sempé in her pleasantly cluttered home studio in Paris, where she works with a handful of assistants.

As it turned out, after designing her first sofa for Ligne Roset, the Moël, Sempé wasn't interested in creating another one. "[CEO] Michel Roset asked me to do a second sofa, and I wasn't that enthusiastic," she said. "It's hard to do sofas." But she became intrigued by the concept of "bringing air to a structure; to make it look as though someone had just thrown a cover on a frame." She wanted to create a sofa with space underneath it—a quality she says is especially important in small apartments, for maintaining a sense of airiness. "If I don't see space I feel suffocated," she added. The result, after many models and prototypes and sewing trials, is the Ruché. Here's a glimpse into the year-and-a-half journey from concept to final product.

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