Timothy Corrigan is in the midst of a renovation of his 18th-century Château de la Chevallerie, located in Alençon, the town that was tapped by Louis XIV to become the lacemaking capital of France. The château with its lovely 18th-century paneled rooms and parquet de Versailles wood floors, was the inspiration for the Chateau Collection, hair-on-hide carpets he designed in collaboration with Kyle Bunting, who is known for his artistry in hides. Released yesterday, in honor of Bastille Day, the rugs are painstakingly produced to allude to historical designs the pair freshened up so they would be apropos for 21st-century aesthetic sensibilities.
The Chateau Collection
Bunting visited the Chateau to speak with Corrigan about the designs he was planning, which they filmed. We found it so fascinating, not only are we embedding it below, we transcribed the conversation so we could post some of it here on Design Diary. The depth the two reached when they spoke about the historical aspects of the designs are illustrated by images of the patterns that grew out of their collaboration. You can see all of the Chateau Collection in the Lookbook Kyle Bunting put together, and on the company’s website. There you will also see stunning closeup videos of the designs, which illustrate the intricacies that are tough to capture in the photography of the overall patterns.
KB: One of the things I’ve noticed in your work, Tim, is you seem to be an avant-garde interpretist, if you will. I think you really understand the impact of European culture on design all over the world. Tell me about the style of carpets you’re envisioning being in here so I know a little bit about what you want to do.
TC: I love how Europeans took from different cultures, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries, and made the influences their own—that’s what Chinoiserie is. So I imagine taking the culture from traditional 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century rugs and reinterpreting them for today. The styles and designs will be there but will be reinterpreted in the beautiful hides that you are the king of.
KB: One of the things that’s exciting about this is that you have a unique perspective on what you’d like to do as we work together. Tell me about what you have in mind.
TC: The idea I have is thinking from an historical perspective first, looking at the influence of European-style carpets and European design influences and reinterpreting them today in a fresh way. There was a shift in design from Italy to France that took place from the 16th to the 17th centuries. Up until then, France was really a secondary player to Italy. And with the shift in the 17th century, France became the real powerhouse, both from a design and political perspective. But it would also be interesting to take an Italian design, one that is more Florentine in its influence, such as some Florentine textiles, and come up with a pattern. They were never known for great rugmaking but they were supreme at textiles. Taking that and translating it into a rug I think would be really incredible.
KB: We’re in Alençon, and there’s something appropriate about combining an Italian influence and a French-style product. Tell me about the history of this town.
TC: Alençon became the lace center for the world. The traditions started out in Venice, so there’s the Italian/French commingly, but Louis XIV was so determined to show that France was a real power on its own that he actually forbade the importation of any foreign products. Then, he designated Alençon as the center for lacemaking here in France. For hundreds of years, Alençon was known for lacemaking. So I thought it would be fun to take that aspect of lace and figure out how you translate that into a rug as well. Obviously, it can’t be a literal translation because lace is very fine and delicate and wouldn’t translate, but the concept of lace is interesting because there is an underlying design element that’s very geometric and grid-like and then the floral detail on top. That’s what I’d like to try to figure out how to translate that into a carpet design.
KB: In talking to you about this, it feels like you have an interest in and an appreciation for where many of the European patterns or designs come from and you have a pretty good feel for the history behind them.
TC: It’s so important to understand the history of how design develops because it is all cyclical, and each era is necessary for the next to happen. The third stylistic rug I think we should do is one that is really an Art Moderne style, which is again the follow up to Art Deco, which also developed here in France in Paris. So it’s taking that aspect a little further. Art Moderne was immediately after the Second World War and through the 1940s, so we take that style and streamline it; have some fun with it. That’s another of the rugs I’d love to work with you on.
KB: One of the styles in the Chateau Collection that is historical is an Aubusson. Tell me about those types of carpets and why you like about the idea of doing them in hide.
TC: An Aubusson is a flat-weave carpet so it naturally makes sense to translate it into hide. What an Aubusson carpet is really known for is bold colors and very strong patterns in their designs. So again, it’s just a natural for Kyle Bunting. And I think it’s the idea of these big, bold patterns that are then translated into hide in a more contemporary way because Aubusson rugs today are beautiful but they often feel a little dated. I actually don’t use Aubusson’s that much because they feel a bit like a time piece or a period piece, and I think that our objective would be to figure out how to take the stylistic aspect of an Aubusson from the 18th century and bring it into the 21st century. We would take some of those motifs but make them a little bolder or make them a little more graphic.
KB: Another carpet in Chateau Collection is a Polonaise—one of my favorites. Tell me about the history because I think that’s an interesting way to understand the design.
TC: Polonaise is one of my favorite styles of rugs and I use them often in projects. There’s some debate as to how the name Polonaise actually came about but the one that makes the most sense to me was that in the 17th century the king of Poland wanted to have some rugs made in Persia—Persia was at that time the most important place for rug design—but he wanted them to have more of a European influence. So he had rugs made in Persia that had that European influence and were called Polonaise. The designs are so much more open and lighter, they don’t feel like traditional Persian rugs. They feel like a European rugs with the construction of Persian rugs. They tend to be fairly light-colored but very jewel-toned so it’s a very contemporary style even though it comes from the 17th century.
KB: If someone had told me I was going to be doing Savonniere in hide! It’s not exactly the vision I had when I started the business…but from a technical challenge, I’m most excited about approaching this style – tell us about it.
TC: What I love about a Savonniere rug is it’s a plush carpet that was really designed to communicate richness, opulence, and wealth. What is so special about that kind of rug is that it is designed to show its richness through the way the yarns were used. They actually created shading and light through the yarns because of the thick pile. Again, they’re known for very beautiful bright jewel-tones, which is perfect for your kind of rug and your hides. But they tend to have more traditional patterns similar to an Aubusson. But where you see the difference is in the construction—you can get more details and much more richness in the Savonniere.
KB: With some of the pieces, we did have to shade or create a dimensional effect…
TC: And that’s what’s important to me; I want to get the feeling of how something is moving and therefore how it catches the light as it moves so it’s in a shadow here; it’s in the sunlight here. With that you create the effect of motion. But you do it through the hides and the gradual gradation of colors. And what I love about your rugs is that you have this huge array of colors so you able to create that effect.
KB: One of the things that is unique about working with the materials is while I may have created the carpet; I didn’t invent the material. I simply found a use for it. One of the interesting things about this is the way the material plays with light. It’s backlit, per se, so it has a reflective quality that it’s really difficult to see in something else. Talk a little bit about how you feel this point may impact the Chateau Collection.
TC: Color and light are so important in a rug because the rug sets the tone for the room. Everything else is built on that rug so I think getting the range of colors and the range of motion and the light onto the rug is so key, and I think that’s what we’ll be able to do with this collection.
Watch the Video!
There is so much more about the Chateau Collection in the video so be sure to watch it. We’ll be following Timothy’s progress as he continues to renovate this newest project through his Instagram feed. I didn’t know that Corrigan is the only American honored by the French Heritage Society for his extensive restoration work of numerous French national landmarks until I read the fact on Stacey Bewkes’ Quintessence blog. This post has video and photography of the Château de la Chevallerie as a work-in-progress from when she visited in 2018.