Seicho host chairs
Seicho game table
The handmade contemporary furniture of Martin Pierce has acquired such a following among interior designers and architects in California that the Ruth Caplan showroom in Manhattan recently decided to represent the line. “His furniture is unusual and quite appealing—something New York hasn’t seen,” says Caplan, who’s in a position to know. Her clients include designers Thierry Despont (his last high-profile project was Bill Gates’s mansion in Washington) and Bunny Williams.
The Los Angeles-based furniture designer has created three collections, Hedgerow, Seicho and Ascot, and while the scaling is about the same and the pieces are compatible in appearance, each group has a different inspiration.
Hedgerow recalls Pierce’s birthplace, England, where thick interwoven hawthorn and hazel bushes are used as fences to divide properties, and his approach to designing the pieces is decidedly organic, or natural, both from a design standpoint and a structural one. The organic furniture incorporates a pattern of interlocking branches, and Pierce chose to make the legs on most pieces wider at the bottom. “I want the furniture to look as if it had grown out of the ground,” he explains. The designer also chisels the dark walnut frames of the pieces, making them look almost like hammered brass, depending on the finish. Finishes are applied with a light hand so as to bring out the character of the woods, such as walnut and English brown oak, which has, what Pierce calls, “a nice leoparding.”
“His veneers are gorgeous,” says Caplan. “The chinoiserie in the Ascot collection is done perfectly. The quality and craftsmanship are superb.” Ascot, with delicate painted designs of vines and leaves sprayed across the face of the furniture, was created as a complement to Hedgerow.
Pierce’s most recent line is Seicho, which means “to grow” in Japanese. It started with a game table commissioned by a close friend and now has expanded to include chairs and armoires. While the legs vary on Seicho (some taper out at the bottom, others taper in), the collection is characterized by simple lines and heavily figured veneers, such as a Japanese ash called tamo . “Seicho is becoming more refined and delicate,” explains Pierce. “By thinning the legs the pieces have a bit of an Oriental look, and they’re lighter.”
“The Seicho and Ascot lines are for more polished homes,” Caplan reports from New York, “and they seem to be the focus now that nesting has become popular and people are entertaining more in the home than before.”
Between the three collections there are more than four dozen armoires, tables, highboys, beds, screens, chairs, sofas and lamps, which are made of walnut, sometimes chiseled (Pierce began his woodworking career 35 years ago as a carver). “The scale of the furniture is wonderful for New York,” notes Caplan. “It has a presence, without being overwhelming.”