Award winning Hollywood actor Brad Pitt has teamed up with furnituremaker Frank Pollaro on a collection of inventive designs. In his debut as a furniture designer, the actor is presenting about a dozen pieces—tables, chairs, and one rather fantastic bed—alongside 45 or so works by his collaborator, Frank Pollaro, whose New Jersey firm is noted for its impeccable reproductions of Art Deco furnishings.
The unveiling, which will take place November 13 through 15 in New York (register at pollaro.com for details), has been years in the making. “I’ve been doodling ideas for buildings and furniture since the early 1990s, when I first discovered [Charles Rennie] Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright,” says Pitt. “Actually, I found Wright in college, when looking for a lazy two-point credit to get out of French. It forever changed my life.”
By now, Pitt’s passion for architecture and design is well established, evidenced by his Make It Right foundation, which enlists prominent architects to create quality affordable housing in post-Katrina New Orleans, as well as by his high-profile collecting of modernist and contemporary furniture. But it wasn’t until he met Pollaro that he seriously considered making his own furnishings. When Pollaro paid Pitt a visit to install a reproduction Ruhlmann desk the actor had commissioned a few years ago, he spotted Pitt’s sketchbook, filled with drawings of furniture designs. Pollaro didn’t hesitate. “I asked him, ‘Why don’t we make some of this stuff real?’” he recalls. “Brad said he thought that could be fun.”
They started with the bed—an Art Deco ocean liner of a bed, featuring a lustrous tropical-hardwood frame that extends from its gently curved headboard, along the floor, to a graceful arc that ends in a cantilevered bench capable of seating, one imagines, the entire Jolie-Pitt clan. Refinements include exposed nickel trusses to support the king-size mattress, integrated shagreen foot pads, and nickel side tables with silk-under-glass tops that seem more suited for cocktails than alarm clocks. It took Pollaro and his team more than two years to make the piece, in part because of “difficult physics and engineering issues related to the simplicity of the design,” he says. Once it was completed, he and Pitt agreed it should be exhibited. But not just the bed—a whole collection of Pitt’s creations. And their partnership was born.
To decide which of Pitt’s ideas to produce (there are “literally thousands,” according to Pollaro), the two men regularly get together for meetings “lasting anywhere from seven to ten hours,” Pollaro says. “We talk about design, about materials, about craftsmanship, about classicism, about modernism. He has a respect for the masters of design.”
Describing himself as “bent on quality to an unhealthy degree,” Pitt says Pollaro “embodies the same mad spirit of the craftsmen of yore, with their obsessive attention to detail. It just so happens Frank and I speak the same language. And we both have a predilection for far too much wine.”
In addition to the bed—only nine will be made, each in different materials—the Pitt pieces include a dining table, a cocktail table, several side tables, a few club chairs, even a bathtub for two in Statuario Venato marble. Many of the designs incorporate the idea of a single line. That line can be geometric, as in the case of a 17-foot-long wood dining table whose jagged base dramatically zigzags at unexpected angles. Or it can be sinuous, as with a glass-top side table that features a wispy spiraling metal base finished in 24K gold.
When asked about the appeal of an uninterrupted line, Pitt explains that there’s a metaphorical element that’s difficult to articulate. “It started with my introduction to Mackintosh’s Glasgow rose, which is drawn with one continuous line,” he says. “But for me there is something more grand at play, as if you could tell the story of one’s life with a single line.”
All of the initial designs, customizable in a variety of materials and finishes, will be made in numbered editions or limited production and signed by Pitt and Pollaro. Though Pollaro declines to discuss specific figures, he notes that his prices are “typically at the highest end of the custom-furnishings scale, and these will be up there, even north of that.” But, he adds, eventually certain pieces may be adapted for larger-scale production, in different materials—a chair in molded plastic, say. “The same chair we charge $45,000 for might sell for a fraction of that,” he says.
Pitt, who still has a pretty demanding day job—he plays an enforcer in Andrew Dominik’s stylish mobster film Killing Them Softly, which opens in theaters November 30—hesitates when asked how he feels about being called a furniture designer, cautioning, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
For his part, Pollaro predicts that this is just the beginning. “I think we’ll be doing this for a long time,” he says.
adapted from Architectural Digest
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