Lerival, a design house that bridges contemporary furniture and architecture, was founded by Dominique Gonfard and James Coombes in late 2008. They founded the company aiming to push the boundaries of design and promote undiscovered talent by inviting architects from around the world to create a piece of furniture—ideally one that's modular and uses innovative or unconventional materials. So far, they've released 15 pieces (or series), and plan to continue to release five new pieces per year.
Among the offspring of Lerival's collaborations are the Kulms Chair, a bamboo-root inspired chair made of CNC-milled lacquer ply by Nagatomo/Jan (Miso Soup Design), based in Barcelona; a series of interlocking laser-cut aluminum outdoor tables by Atelier Manferdini in Los Angeles; and the Stool/Stool, a multi-use piece made of folded powder-coated aluminum that can be used as a stool, a shelf, and a ladder, created by MOS Architects.
Curious to hear more about the unconventional design company, I emailed founder Dominique Gonfard a slew of questions.
Why did you found Lerival?
Furniture design had always attracted me throughout my architecture studies. In many ways there is a certain freedom in furniture design, which I think appeals to architects in general. Lerival was founded to take advantage of this design energy and directly bridge contemporary furniture and architecture by bringing to market pieces that represent what we admire most in contemporary architecture. The architects we work with are all highly respected practitioners, and it is often humbling to realize the amount of design-talent that we have access to. A huge amount of time and effort goes into creating each piece.
How is Lerival unique among furniture companies?
Three things. 1, Lerival is about emerging talent. It’s about saluting contemporary aesthetics and spirit, born out of independent, entrepreneurial, multifarious designers who want to elevate the design discourse in the US. 2, Lerival is creating a niche market in the very traditional furniture industry, defined currently by European models on one end (the Italian model), and affordable mass-market, non-descript products on the other. 3, Lerival is pushing a contemporary modern aesthetic that is urban, elegant, confident, forward-thinking, and most of all has a purpose behind it. Our pieces are defined by sculptural and strong personality shapes, innovative materials, smart processes, and modularity. We seek to present an alternative to furniture offerings typically found in the market.
Tell me about the process behind developing a new product for Lerival. Is it very collaborative, or does the designer have full control over what's designed and produced?
The development process differs from piece to piece. At times, we allow the architects we work with to have full control over a design. In these cases, we act more as project managers or producers, there to handle the logistics and overall marketing of the design. At other times, it can be a very collaborative relationship, in which we are involved in almost every element of the design’s development, from the finalization of materials, details and colors to structural and proportional testing and packaging. Throughout, our overriding role is that of both manufacturer and editor, there to translate a design (whether pre-existing or already partially tested) into a market-ready product, fabricated and packaged appropriately.
Do architects approach furniture design differently than other kinds of designers?
Each of the architects we work with designs from a personal perspective that they have developed within their own architectural firms, and we find that this lends an honest and controlled aspect to the pieces. A great example is MOS: a clear progression of thinking, and a direct tie, to their architectural work is evident in every piece they put forth, from their IVY Coat Hooks, which Lerival distributes, to their latest pieces, like the Table/Table and its accompanying Stool/Stool (pictured above). That’s what is the most fascinating to me about the architects' work: each individual's approach and aesthetic diffuses throughout the process.
Do you have a favorite product, or one you're particularly excited about at the moment?
We’re very excited about MOS’ new Table/Table (pictured above), and the potential it holds for so many varying uses. Three units together form an individual work station, while as few as six can create a conference, meeting or dining table. It can easily increase in size and flexibility as units are added. We’re excited about the table’s simplicity and easy assembly, which we’re hoping will encourage people to have fun with the piece and experiment with its layout and use.
Looking forward, what's next? What's your vision for Lerival in the future?
With the opening of our first showroom in September (pictured above), we finally have a home base from which to expand our collection and our roster of architects. Our aim is to become a go-to source among the contemporary architecture, design and interiors communities for pieces that are consistent leaders in design and detailing, and reliable and exciting additions to any setting—from the small to the large-scale, in both personal spaces and commercial settings.