Charles Zana: Ithaque
Debuting his first furniture collection against the historical backdrop of an eighteenth-century Parisian townhouse.
Hôtel de Guise, Paris
Until 24th October 2021
In the Hôtel de Guise, with its poetic charm of a bygone era, French architect Charles Zana has launched his first eponymous furniture collection. In an exhibition titled ‘Ithaque’, after the island of Ithaca – home to Homer’s Greek hero Odysseus – the collection has been unveiled during France’s international contemporary art fair, FIAC. Shown against a backdrop of wood-panelled floors and vintage wallpaper, the collection exudes a timeless quality of sumptuous sophistication.
Zana is known for designing the restaurant of the French auction house Artcurial, the interior of Hôtel Lou Pinet in Saint Tropez, the offices of Condé Nast in Paris and Goyard’s store in Monte-Carlo. Referencing twentieth-century designers Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Chareau and Carlo Scarpa as influences, he has received commissions for numerous residential projects and is acclaimed as a “creator of atmospheres”.
Although Zana has designed bespoke furniture for specific projects over the last three decades, this is the first foray into producing a collection independently. It comprises more than 30 new pieces, alongside adaptations of works such as the ‘Calanque’ table featuring superposed, rock-like layers.
“After the Covid-19 crisis, I wanted to return to my first love, furniture, which is why the exhibition is called ‘Ithaque’ because there’s this idea of a voyage,” Zana says, referring to Homer’s Odyssey. “My early passion for furniture is what led me towards pursuing a career in architecture.”
The collection is produced in a subdued palette from luxurious fabrics, such as velvet, and conceived from soft, rounded, minimalist forms. A headboard curves around the bed in the main room, a sofa is articulated to create a cocooned space, armchairs occupy corners and lighting in stone and marble is evocative of Giorgio Morandi’s still-life paintings. It’s an understated and refined vision of luxury with an emphasis on high-quality materials and craftsmanship, with pieces having ample space to breathe.
“Before the pandemic, we were living in more of a baroque, decorative moment but now we’re going toward things that are simpler, more authentic and in natural materials that play with proportions,” Zana says. “I’d love to have a place like this eighteenth-century townhouse, which is still in its original condition, and not put too many things inside.”
After discovering the townhouse a few months ago, Zana asked the French art consultant Philippe Ségalot to collaborate with him on the presentation. Ségalot suggested juxtaposing his work with the delicate paintings of interiors and landscapes by Nathanaëlle Herbelin, a young half-French, half-Israeli artist whose sober aesthetic resonates with Zana’s vision.
For Zana, installing his furniture in an empty, pre-existing, historical décor – rather than one that he has created himself – marks a new experience and way of working. Furthermore, it reflects how his vision of luxury has evolved during the pandemic. “Luxury today is about having an old space with a narrative and being contextual, not imposing a style, and really striving to understand a place,” Zana explains.
Charles Zana: Ithaque at Hôtel de Guise, 72 Rue de l’Université, 75007 Paris.