Collection by Jaime Gillin

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.

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.

Here's Sempé in her pleasantly cluttered home studio in Paris, where she works with a handful of assistants.
Another view of her studio.
Nestled amidst the creative chaos are the marks of a classic Paris apartment, so prevalent in the city that Sempé...
She showed me these very early handmade models, "made by me without any care, just to figure out better what I had...
This was her first more polished model, clad in a quilted cover she stitched up in her studio.
Here the original model rests on a pile of other covers, stitched in her studio by her employees.
"Here it began to be better," she says, pointing out the new "interrupted" stitch line.
Here are more "scale-one stitching trials," experiments with fabric and batting made at Ligne Roset's factory.
Here's the first full-scale prototype with a wooden frame, testing out a new way to do the quilt on a larger scale.
Of the first prototype, in red, Sempé recalls: "I was really sad when I saw it—I thought it was boring, and I was not...
As shown here, the prototypists then went back to the sewing machine to continue their experiments, reducing the...
Here's Michel Roset, CEO of Ligne Roset, sitting on "one of the first prototypes built with the right wooden frame,...