A CERTAIN STRAIN of Italian giallo films — pulpy, garishly lit, brightly hued, murder-filled horror movies from the late 1970s — take place in impeccably decorated apartments filled with mirrored surfaces, Lucite accessories, and what is now highly collectible French and Italian furniture. Of all the valuable information gleaned from an adolescence spent obsessively watching foreign horror movies, what carried into adulthood was a love of modernist design. It was in these lurid, hyperstylized films that I first encountered the work of French furniture company Ligne Roset.
Founded by Antoine Roset in 1860, the company started out as a manufacturer of walking sticks before eventually going on to produce upholstered furniture in 1936. Today, Ligne Roset has over 200 stores worldwide and continues to foster collaborations with innovative designers — producing furniture, lighting, rugs, and accessories. When it comes to creating furniture that is somehow both futuristic and timeless — the sort of thing that would provide a place for an astronaut in “2001: A Space Odyssey” to lie down, or a villain in a ’70s murder mystery to pensively perch upon while smoking a Gauloises — Ligne Roset has the perfectly designed object to suit the occasion.
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While Ligne Roset is famous for several signature pieces, my primary obsession has always been the Togo chair. Originally designed in 1973 by Michel Ducaroy (making it only slightly older than I am), the Togo line is available in a variety of forms (loveseat, sofa, ottoman). But it is the chair, at least in my opinion, that remains its most perfect form. Ducaroy described his all-foam idea for Togo as “a tube of toothpaste folded over on itself like a stovepipe and closed at both ends.” One might also say the chair looks like a cross between a fabric-stuffed accordion and a giant caterpillar trying to do a sit-up. The luxuriously upholstered, uniquely pleated chair might look unusual, but it remains Ligne Roset’s best-selling item to this day.
Putting aside the artfully rumpled, space-age quality of the Togo chair, the best thing about these pieces is actually sitting in them. The perfect ergonomic curve and strategic padding (constructed from five different densities of foam) make for a seating experience in which you feel adequately supported while somehow nestled into a human-sized bird’s nest or comfy cloud made from suede.
There is an array of Togo knockoffs floating around, but there is no substitute for the real thing. The chairs are (and have always been) made and upholstered by hand in Ligne Roset’s factories in Briord, France — a skill only a select few have perfected over the years. Like fingerprints and snowflakes, each Togo is slightly different and said to reflect the unique hand of the artisan who made it. The chairs are the ultimate statement piece: cosmopolitan, contemporary, and wonderfully unconventional.
T. Cole Rachel Writer
T. Cole Rachel is the deputy editor of Departures. A Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media, his writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Interview, and the Creative Independent.
Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.