In a post-Covid period of reinvention, Porto-based furniture brand Hamilton Conte is embracing modularity, new shapes and above all, comfort.
‘Covid seems to have given us curves,’ I mused recently to an industry friend while taking in an exhibition of new design, where barely a single straight line was to be found. While I posited the theory that all this obsessing over the plump little microbes taking over our lives has skewed our vision and turned interiors into blobby islands of furniture, my friend, who has experience in interior design, both virtual and real, put forward a far more rational and fascinating theory. ‘I thought it was all the 3D artists imagining fanciful interior-scapes starting to have a real impact on future design,’ she said. ‘Historically, industrial design started with pen and paper, and straight lines were more realistic. But now, with technology, the possibility to design soft and round is bringing more soft and round into our worlds.’
The curve is king
There’s no doubt that a new bent for bends pre-dated Covid, but in the design world’s great post-pandemic reset, the curve is coming out as king. Perhaps it is simply to do with possibility, perhaps it’s a pressing need for comfort. And perhaps someone like Ross Hamilton, CEO of Porto-based fine furniture brand Hamilton Conte might have answers, given that his newest collection is all sweeping silhouettes, arching frames and plump upholstery.
‘At Hamilton Conte, we are interactive. Our furniture is made-to-measure so we react to our customers. And the minute you give choice, it's fascinating where people’s imaginations take them’
‘We are in a period of reinvention,’ declares the American-born CEO decisively. ‘coming out of Covid, things are changing. We are at a crossroads in terms of style.’ Noting that the last big reset was after the sub-prime crisis in 2008, when mid-century geometries set in, he continues, ‘Shapes are changing in the living room. There are more curves. It’s not new but it’s more significant now.’
Eclectic influences and refined materials
Founded in 2009, Hamilton Conte has already set out its cart as a thoroughly modern and collaborative, made-to-measure brand, eclectic in its influences, refined in its materials and finish, and full of anecdote. It has an eye on wellbeing, and how furniture makes you feel, and a passion for the nurture of the craft that brings its pieces to life. It is perfectly placed to respond quickly to new moods in interior design.
For its founder, the great reset starts with introspection over how we want to live now. ‘Yes, it has to look pretty, but how are we using our pieces of furniture? What are the pieces that are useful? I’ve just pulled two coffee tables out of my home and put in two poufs that we can move around and put our feet on.’ The poufs are, naturally, taken from the new collection which features two oval-shaped pedestals – the Cami Oval and the Atanásio. ‘We always need to put our feet up. And they fit perfectly into the curve of the sofa – you can be laid out flat, basically.’
Freeing the mind of convention
Not that tables are out entirely – additions to the collection include side tables Lupa, with its circular top and wilfully wobbly legs, and the Manolo Model S with its soft corners and gently warped pins. And with the gently arced Ignacio sofa already a collection kingpin, for this season Hamilton is taking the sharp angles out from the ubiquitous L shaped sofa with soft bends added into the Barbara sofa. ‘There is a rational side to the Barbara – it’s modular. It’s a counter-proposal to the L shaped sofa - and comes in an open V-shaped version too,’ he explains.
Curves, it seems, naturally occur when we start to consider comfort and review the finer details of the furniture we live with – the cushioning on a chair seat, the arc of a sofa-back, the sensory hit from a well-padded support. But there also seems to be something in the idea that we let go of the linear when we free the mind of convention, as is the case for those 3D artists redefining our living room layouts.
‘At Hamilton Conte, we are interactive.’ offers Hamilton. ‘Our furniture is made-to-measure so we react to our customers. And the minute you give choice, it's fascinating where people’s imaginations take them.’ While he recognises that a curved sofa might not appear a natural fit for a domestic setting, since it needs the luxury of its own space to float in – it’s in fact exactly this peripheral space that he perceives people to be hankering after now.
‘When you give people options, they start to dream.’ And when our minds leave the box, it seems, they don’t think in straight lines…