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Godalming designer Sarah Louise Dix’s mad mix of art meets furniture

PUBLISHED: 19:54 02 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:54 02 October 2013

Sarah Louise Dix

Sarah Louise Dix

Archant

There’s something rather naughty about sinking into the comfort of SARAH LOUISE DIX’s ‘corset’ chair but, as the Godalming-based designer tells Janet Donin, it’s a mad mix of art meets furniture

How would you describe your style of furniture to us?

It’s garment inspired upholstery as all my prototype pieces have an element of clothing involved: starting with the corset chair with its ribbon and eyelet detailing to the man’s jacket chair, which has a vintage leather jacket as part of the upholstery, and my wool coat chair, which is draped with a man’s coat. They are all rather Dali-esque and my way of changing the look of contemporary furniture.

So what was it that inspired you to mix fashion with furniture?

I’ve always loved fashion, especially vintage clothing, and made my own shirts and skirts from a young age. I studied fashion design at college and went on to work in PR on the Vivienne Westwood account. Her collections were incredibly clever and really inspired me to look at my other love of antique furniture in a different way. Then ten years ago, when I had my daughter, I did upholstery at evening class where I learned the traditional skills.

And tell us about your fascination with corsets…

I love the structure and feeling of luxury found in corsetry – the satin, the intricate boning, the seams and ribbon detailing – which I thought could translate into rather opulent and totally flamboyant furniture.

Where do you find the materials for your work?

I buy vintage chairs from various places, stripping each of them down to the basic frame then restoring each one before doing the reupholstering. I find the original fabrics and garments in charity shops and markets. But with my fashion background, I can replicate many garments myself. Now I have my corset chair frame, which is copied from an original Victorian chair, made for me in Sheffield and can make the corset chairs to order.

What pieces are you working on at the moment?

The corset chair, from my original couture collection, is still the most popular so I am developing that using different materials. It was originally in a satin damask fabric with boning and velvet ribbons. Now I’m working with a beautiful Scottish wool tweed in lovely muted shades.

Any other new projects on the go?

I’m also developing my Pink Label range, which is a progression of my couture range but produced in a Sheffield factory rather than being hand-made by me. This makes it more accessible and more affordable but I will still source all the fabrics and trims, whether they are satin, towelling or linen, and choose the colour combinations too.

Do you have a favourite style of furniture?

I really love the strong lines of Art Deco furniture, which are often softened by curved ‘shell’ like backs. I’ve sourced several styles on eBay, including tub and boudoir chairs, ones with swooping wooden arms, and the occasional two-seater sofa. All of which would translate well with my style.

How do you go about creating a new design?

I don’t work well drawing out my designs on paper. Like John Galliano, who always created his designs using a dressmaker’s dummy, I like to drape my fabrics over the furniture to see how they fall in relation to the chair frame. Then I’ll go with what I like best. All of my designs will include a quirky detail though. I plan to incorporate a tiny fabric cat in the corner of a chair or embroider a flower or bee somewhere.

Do you ever have any totally mad ideas?

I love Salvador Dali and also the furniture art by Nina Saunders who morphs chairs and sofas into odd shapes so I often think about chopping a chair frame in half and reposition the pieces, but everything will always be comfortable and my love of fashion will always filter into my designs.

Does your own home reflect your style?

My sitting room does reflect my love of Art Deco. I have a 40s leather suite and a Deco cabinet full of glass and china, plus old bookcases.

And you also host your own upholstery classes?

I am passionate about upholstery and passing on the old skills and methods, so I set up and run 10-week courses in the Carpenter’s Shed at Dapdune Wharf, the National Trust property on the banks of the River Wey in Guildford. Students can come with a piece of furniture and upholster it traditionally. I have all the tools and materials available to students. My new term dates are on my website. I also run courses in Godalming.

What is the best thing about living in Surrey?

It’s the countryside. I grew up in Wiltshire and living here reminds me of my childhood. I get many of my best creative ideas walking my cockerpoo, Barley, along the River Wey. It’s so calming.

***

For more information about Sarah Louise Dix Furniture and her courses, call 07949 153558 or visit her website at sarahlouisedix.co.uk

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