“The ability to refine and rapidly iterate design ideas brings a playfulness to creating furniture–the constraints of architectural construction don’t apply.”, says interior designer and product designer Alexander Purcell Rodrigues. The designer had always been fascinated with the dual and somewhat opposing disciplines of innovative technology and hand craftsmanship. So, a decade after founding his interior design practice, he created the Atelier Purcell collection of furniture, lighting, and textiles. With the ideology of ‘Tradition Redefined’ rooted at the core of the brand, Atelier Purcell aims to create heirlooms for the future.
The son of a British graphic designer and a businessman, and an architecture graduate from Cambridge University, Purcell worked for the iconic Richard Rogers Partnership. In 2009 he founded Alexander Purcell Interiors and Architectural practice, setting up shop in London and then expanding to Los Angeles and New York shortly thereafter. He later added furniture design to his portfolio by collaborating on products with Holly Hunt, Promemoria, Link Outdoor, and De Castelli, among other luxury brands.
The Atelier Purcell collection is synonymous with luxury featuring beautiful material pairings—solid brass and eucalyptus, stainless steel and oak, bronze and marble—and processes both digital and analog. Purcell Rodrigues says of his dual career as an interior and product designer, “A furniture concept can come from an architectural project—which is a more extended dialogue, trying to navigate a narrative as you move through a space—or can be sparked by the shapes in a shadow cast across the floor. I enjoy the reciprocity that can be achieved between the spaces we create and the objects we craft.”. Upscale Living Magazine engaged in an interesting interview with the designer.
What are the significant differences that you have noticed in luxury interior design over the last decade?
People are really taking the time to personally determine what they want. The to-the-trade business is flourishing. The consumer is more educated and more involved than ever and as a result, knows exactly what they want in their homes. People want products that define them (i.e. what their friends don’t have) and not just bespoke and unique but products that are luxurious and functional.
As you transitioned from interior design to product design, what were your key learnings?
I have always done these together – spaces and products working hand in hand and perhaps the product dovetails into the project. Many of my pieces work together geometrically so that they can sit in any given space and be functional. The Tuya sectional is an off-angle design and because it is not square, we designed a casework piece made from walnut or oak to elegantly complement the sofa while utilizing the negative space. It has a notch in it to allow for a lamp to illuminate the sofa beautifully. And then it can be combined with a Cascade coffee table which is beautiful alone, but its geometry matches that of the sectional, giving you an even through fare through the space.
What is your design process?
I approach the form-finding of a new design by focusing initially on detail and silhouette. Sometimes I will develop pieces with absolutely no idea what materials they will be made from! That said, sometimes the inspiration is in the material. But sometimes it is not. Humans see shape and shadow first – it is a protection mechanism we developed when we were cavemen/women to help spot danger and larger predators. So, when you first see an object, its silhouette is what we are drawn to before you begin to analyze its materiality and texture, etc.
Take the new Henley chair from the collection launching early next year. Henley is a very famous rowing regatta in England; or crew as you call it in the US. It is probably the most well-known race and quite the social scene, too. People come from all over the world to compete. In fact, it’s a race I won when I was a lot younger and fitter than I am now! It was recently my crew’s 20th anniversary of winning, so this particular collection is inspired by the form language of oars and boats. All I started with was the chair arm and its upholstery detail once that was resolved the rest of the design was built off that detail.
How can one incorporate bright colors without becoming overwhelming? Is there any rule of thumb?
Utilizing colour as statement pieces! A great example is my Vista chair and ottoman. Particularly a product whose silhouette you want to draw people’s attention to. Art also plays a key role in showcasing personality and color and connecting the overall aesthetic and making it the homeowner’s own.
Are there any distinct choice differences between London, LA, and New York?
The fact that I’m an international person, the design language is a combination of European meets California. It is dynamic, modern, tactile; I would say the style leans more towards Californian modern. In terms of clientele, those needs remain consistent – clients are looking for unique, high-quality, well-crafted, bespoke pieces. Obviously, because we are bespoke we can craft products to suit the different scales of locations – i.e. California is oversized vs New York and London which are a little bit more compact. Bear in mind most of these clients have homes all over the world so the choices they make are personal choices, not necessarily reflecting the city they have the home in.
Tell us about your first ever textile collection?
I wanted to create a textile collection that is rich and tactile, elegantly stylish, and traditionally refined. The collection fulfills dual needs: as an interior designer I’m always searching for the perfect textile solutions when designing hotels and homes and as a furniture designer looking to dress my creations in fabrics and leathers with a genuine ‘wow’ factor.
The highly curated array includes ten fabrics and three types of leather that are all produced in Italy include leathers, classic cotton velvets, houndstooth patterns, and mismatched weaves creating textured non-uniform surfaces.
What are the future plans for the studio?
Establishing Atelier Purcell has been time-consuming but I truly want to grow the residential / hospitality portion of the design studio. As inspiration often comes from projects and the necessity to create pieces that don’t exist to solve solutions in these projects. While we are global, our major focus in the coming months will be to expand our footprint in the US market.