Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
All Images Courtesy of Claste
Claste is a furniture brand from Montreal that has created some highly noteworthy works in marble. When we first encountered Claste, we were struck by their elegance and the effective mixture of the inherent hardness of stone with a soft, natural quality of marble. Then, thinking back on the marble furniture we’ve encountered before Claste’s “Tension” collection, it becomes apparent how revolutionary Claste’s pieces are. Ask the average person on the street what comes to mind when they think of marble, and they’ll undoubtedly mention either an ornate bathroom or a gaudy columned entrance way. Claste tells us they are specifically working against such bourgeois deployments of the material.
The pieces from the brand’s inaugural collection present the marble in as pure a way as possible, a way that seems unmitigated even by gravity. The chair and our personal favorite, the “Where We First Met” bench, both use glass to lend the marble a sense of floating. Likewise, the “And Here I Sit” chair seems float on its own accord. The collection as a whole defies the forces of nature in its presentation of beautiful natural materials.
We spoke with Claste co-founder and creative director Quinlan Osborne.
The combination of glass and marble seems central to your work. Can you talk a little about the significance of the combination to you?
In reality, this collection is an exploration of the materiality of stone and how it can be presented so as to engage the user from both a tactile and visual perspective. Viewed this way the glass can be seen more as a medium for presenting the stone in a manner that allows it to express something that it would otherwise be unable to do. The intent was to create a series of pieces that play off our preconceived notions of what stone is, to take the inherent solidity and permanence of the material and present it in a way that expresses its delicate and graceful nature. Marble is often perceived as a bourgeois material unsuitable for contemporary design so the desire was to show that when used in an appropriate manner it can not only achieve a very minimalist and modern character but also retain an element of the richness and warmth of more traditional design and detailing.
Where do you source your marble?
The majority of our marble is sourced from Italy but there are locations throughout the world that produce endless varieties of beautiful stones, including some incredible quarries right here in our own backyard. Because each stone has its unique nature and characteristics we take the time to develop an understanding of every material we choose to work with so as to ensure we present it in a manner that expresses its specific qualities and to do this we work with a group of amazing artisans in Montreal which is where we do all our fabrication.
I love the landscapes that form the backdrop for the photos of your pieces. Do you think the Quebec environment you work in influences your work?
While I believe that the environment in which we live has a certain influence on most people’s work, it was not our intent to draw a direct correlation between the landscape of Quebec and our design aesthetic. Rather, the idea was to present our work with backdrops that contain elements similar to the purity and simplicity of the overall collection. We chose vignettes that control and present the space around the furniture so as to show it from a certain context that is not always present when viewed from a different perspective. These scenes are more akin to moments than they are to landscapes and therefore the story they tell is as much about what is beyond the boundary of the setting as it is about the finished image.
The intent was to create a series of pieces that play off our preconceived notions of what stone is, to take the inherent solidity and permanence of the material and present it in a way that expresses its delicate and graceful nature.
How does your background in architecture inform your designs?
Architecture is an intensely critical practice, where every decision will have consequences well beyond the level of the artistic realm. It really is a way of looking at the world and seeing it from a combined aesthetic and functional standpoint which enforces the necessity to understand space in its totality, as a finished livable place rather than a conceptual shell to be inhabited at a later date. How a space is finished, whether through architectural detailing, lighting or furnishing, is always an aspect of the design development which emerges simultaneously rather than independent of the design process.
This understanding of the needs and desires from the viewpoint of the architect or interior designer has resulted in a methodology in our work that sees furniture as part of a larger context rather than independent objects.
While on the subject, can you tell us about your architectural work outside of Claste?
Two of our three founding partners come from architectural backgrounds and while I have left to concentrate solely on the creative direction of Claste, my other partner Philip Hazan continues to run his highly successful architectural practice in Montreal. His office has earned a global reputation for high-end bespoke design with several notable projects that make up an extensive portfolio of works, including the flagship stores for Tommy Hilfiger in Beverly Hills and London, England. His recent work includes the penthouse interiors for the Four Seasons Hotel in Montreal as well as high-end residential projects in Miami, New York and of course here at home.
What is the origin of the name Claste?
Ironically enough, considering the amount of glass and stone we used in our first collection the word claste originally comes from the old Greek term klastós which translates as “broken in pieces”. To us the term represents our desire to break from cherished beliefs and long-held traditions prevalent in the world of contemporary design and to present our own new and unique perspective which is rooted in our love of permanence and simplicity.