Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler

LDF19 • Spotlight On: The Latis Chair by Samuel Wilkinson

The hotly anticipated Latis Chair has just landed in-store and online as part of The Conran Shop’s new-season collection. Designed by British designer Samuel Wilkinson, this future collectible is exclusively available at The Conran Shop.

Unveiled in the spring, the Latis Chair received much acclaim and Wilkinson was consequently awarded his first Design Guild Mark. This prestigious award from The Furniture Makers’ Company celebrates the chair’s contribution to British design. Wilkinson believes the chair’s success rests on its versatility and the way each iteration “appeals to a wide spectrum of clients”. Latis suits those looking for a restaurant seat, as well as those simply looking for a chair for their home.

Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler
Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler

Wilkinson’s inspiration behind Latis was the desire to “produce a signature chair with a modern aesthetic [that] works with the supply chain”. As a result, the chair features shared components that mean different variations can be easily created. The chair’s silhouette itself was carefully designed to embody “visual lightness, a refined character and an element of craft”.

Another crucial part of the design was ensuring it functioned as part of The Conran Shop’s process. This is essential with bespoke furniture because it is often ordered in smaller quantities. By working closely with the manufacturers, The Conran Shop and Samuel Wilkinson have created a design that fits perfectly.

Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler
Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler

The factory

A family-run factory in northern Italy expertly produces each Latis Chair using hand and machine techniques. Wilkinson specially chose this factory for its craftsmanship and meticulous attention to each element.

Despite being specialist baroque furniture manufacturers, the factory was the perfect fit for the Latis Chair. The innovative techniques and skilled craftsmanship that goes on behind its walls are unparalleled and essential to creating Latis. Nonetheless, Wilkinson stresses that it was an “educational process from both sides to get through development to the finished piece”.

Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler
Latis Chair at its factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler

This dedication to detail is essential because the chair’s striking appearance cannot be achieved without it. Most noteworthy are the chair’s backrest and arms. Here, a piece of carefully chosen steam-bent ash curves gently around the chair to create a truly refined aesthetic.

A Viennese-plaited lattice straw back and seat provide the finishing touch to the chair and further enhance its lightweight aesthetic. The Latis Chair is also available upholstered in fabrics from the Kvadrat/Raf Simons collection.

The Latis Chair embodies Wilkinson’s dynamic approach to furniture design and looks striking when paired with the coordinating desk. This design boasts the same high standard of the chair and doubles as a dressing table.

Samuel Wilkinson at the Latis Chair factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler
Samuel Wilkinson at the Latis Chair factory in Italy | Image courtesy of Zetteler

Samuel Wilkinson founded his studio in 2007 and his fresh aesthetic builds on experience working with different materials and techniques. This unrivalled understanding of manufacturing and craftsmanship ensures that each piece he designs is finished to the highest standard.

The Conran Shop has a long history of collaboration with Wilkinson because his uncompromising style mirrors its own. Over the years, he has exclusively designed the Fold Outdoor Sofa, Prop Chair and the Flo Lights.

A Q&A with Samuel Wikinson

To find out more about the Latis Chair series, we sat down with the designer himself for a Q&A session.

 

What was the inspiration behind the Latis collection?

Like for most of my pieces, I don’t really start with an individual source of inspiration, normally it starts from a material, manufacturing process or a bigger idea, e.g. about how the object works with the supply chain. The main idea for Latis was to try and produce a signature chair with modern aesthetic and shared components so that chair variations could be easily created. When working through concepts, we were looking for an idea with visual lightness, a refined character and with an element of craft.

 

What did you enjoy most about bringing the design to market?

The fact that we ended up with a design that was not too distant from the original intention, at a respectable good price, was a success in itself. As Conran buy a product from suppliers ‘little and often’, we had to create a design that could be cost-efficient for the business model or the product would not have existed. We came up with a system where the steam-bent components could be manufactured in larger numbers, then these parts could be adapted as and when different chair variations of the chair (upholstered/Vienna straw etc.) were required. This allowed Conran to create many more options than they had originally budgeted for which was great.

 

Why did you choose Italy as the location for its production?

Italy has such a long history in design, especially manufacturing furniture, so it felt like the right place to search for a supplier. Luckily we found a highly skilled, family-run factory in the northeast corner that had all the right attributes to produce the chair. The factory specialises in classic baroque chairs, extremely detailed pieces but of a totally different style. Quickly on our first visit, we understood they had all the skills (from high-tech CNC to handcrafted finishing) to make Latis but it was still a bit of an educational process from both sides to get through development to the finished piece.

 

Congratulations! Latis won you your first Design Guild Mark – why do you think they chose your design?

I think the fact that the design’s versatility, with all the iterations, allows it to appeal to a wide spectrum of clients – from an interior designer looking for something light and airy to complement a space, an architect looking for a comfortable dining chair suited for a long sit in a restaurant, to someone looking for a nice chair set for their home.

 

Your portfolio is extensive – what are your favourite materials to work with and why?

I enjoy working with all materials – each has its own challenges to extract all the best attributes. Right now we have been working with wood a lot as we’ve been focusing more on furniture, so that’s probably my favourite, mostly because it ages so well!

 

Our Chelsea LDF window is called ‘Ad Infinitum’ and plays with the idea of timelessness in design. For you, what makes a design timeless?

A timeless design is always refined, simple and to the point. A piece with just a little uniqueness and character but not with too much personality, as this will probably date.

 

What upcoming projects are you most excited about?

I am working on a couple of large-scale public realm projects that could be very interesting, so these are at the top of the list!