Home decor gets the celebrity treatment - think Cindy Crawford furniture and Lionel Richie china
As with anything fronted by a celebrity, the product has to stand on its own – and that goes for furniture and home accessories too
Furniture and home accessories are getting more of the celebrity treatment than ever.
Lionel Richie has just unveiled his LR Home Collection, a predictably lavish offering of barware, vases and bone china dinnerware. Other recent additions to this end of the market include the year-old Draper James line – founded by A-lister Reese Witherspoon – which is doing a brisk trade in blankets, throws, coasters and trays.
Cindy Crawford and Sofia Vergara both sell couches and dining-room chairs in collections for US retailer Rooms To Go. And architecture aficionado Brad Pitt, with furniture maker Frank Pollaro, comes up with the occasional armchair or table.
Other alliances have, however, fallen by the wayside: Justin Timberlake had a short-lived stint as a furniture designer for a now-defunct line called HomeMint Decor. And actress Tiffani Thiessen’s plans for a nursery offering, with upscale brand Petit Nest, also vaporised quickly.
But when a celebrity-endorsed partnership works, it can become a legitimate force in the design world.
Jane Seymour teamed up six years ago with California-based brand Michael Amini, whose furniture is sold worldwide, including, soon, Hong Kong. In the last two years however, the Jane Seymour-helmed collections for Amini – now nine of them, with names like “Hollywood Swank” and “Platine De Royale” – have become his most well-received pieces, with prices from US$2,699 to US$6,899.
They are luxurious in tone: large, leather, tufted headboards; intricate carvings on hefty mahogany dining tables; embossed silken bedspreads – the sort of thing you might see in Seymour’s own Malibu estate.
Amini said that it took a while to settle on the sort of furniture that an actress like Seymour could make, and that potential buyers could relate to; as with celebrity-helmed products in any category, the consumer is buying as much into the image of the celebrity, as the product itself.
“I suggested we come up with something that resonates with peoples’ imaginations of her Hollywood lifestyle,” said Amini. “We wanted to bring crystal and sparkle and bling to people, in the form of upholstered furniture, mirrors, crystals. It was something of a risk. But it took off like a shuttle.”
Certainly, a celebrity’s sensibility is as much of a draw as anything. Witherspoon’s Draper James line, which includes clothing and accessories in addition to home offerings, is predicated on Witherspoon’s Southern upbringing. She says she was inspired by the genteel ways of her grandmother, Dorothea Draper and her grandfather William James Witherspoon. Indeed, the home accessories, priced from US$18 for a trinket tray to US$400 for a sterling silver bowl, recall the sort of thing you might find on a white wicker table on the front porch of a gracious Louisiana mansion – melamine trays patterned with bright yellow lemons, glass paperweights painted with a large magnolia, a preppy striped dog bed.
Of the line, Witherspoon says her grandparents taught her to take pride in her home. “Whether it’s Nashville or New Orleans, Beaufort or Birmingham, there is a special breed of charm and grace that’s a signature to the American South,” she said.
Similarly, Lionel Richie’s homeware is a nod to what he enjoys — fine dining and elegance with a dash of formality. That’s evident in his own sprawling Beverly Hills home, which is filled with overstuffed couches, large vases (up to US$1,370) of fresh flowers, and sparkling crystal chandeliers.
His bone china dinnerware comes in six motifs, among them Versailles, Geneve and Milano. The plates, all white and gold, are state-dinner worthy. The crystal barware is designed to match it, with hefty tumblers and pitchers. There are also the leather accessories textured to look like exotic skin.
“I’m not trying to design a fad,” he said. “I’m trying to design a timeless collection that will be around every year for the rest of your life,” said Richie. (He is, however, targeting the “get-bored-quick” set with the launch, this year, of LR Loft, which features colourful, pop-culture-inspired collections.)
As with anything else fronted by a celebrity, the product has to stand on its own. Brad Pitt’s arrangement with Frank Pollaro has done just that, yielding a dozen coveted pieces that were numbered and produced in limited edition. Among the collector’s items are a tub made of grey and white Venetian marble and a bed whose base is made of dark Ziricote wood and stingray.
More than resting on the laurels of a Hollywood name, the collaboration shows off his aesthetic.
Amini conceded that in the case of Seymour’s collections for his company, it would be near-impossible to have her sign off on every fabric choice or chair dimension. But what she does bring is an overarching vision – and one he says has found favour with customers from places as diverse as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
“We have basically taken her taste level, and her experiences, and translated that into furniture,” said Amini. “She attends all the big furniture shows with us. She is involved at every level. The first thing about a piece of furniture is that it has to catch your eye, and then it has to be affordable. It has to be appreciated for what it is, because otherwise nobody will buy it, no matter which celebrity is attached to it.”