Style. You know it when you see it. It’s either in a designer’s DNA or not. Taste. It’s as obvious as the difference in daylight and dark, and, when it’s inborn, it’s an unstoppable force. I saw both of these attributes the first time I walked into the vanCollier booth in The Salon section at High Point Market last April. I returned this past October to see what the NC duo—husband and wife team Beth and Chris—had brought to the fair for the fall Market and I wasn’t disappointed. My pick of the products: the furniture they had designed inspired by a statuesque Gingko tree on their property.
The species, known both as the ginkgo biloba and the Maidenhair tree, has been around for at least 2,000 years, and in Far Eastern philosophy, it is considered a symbol of peace, resilience, longevity and hope. The delicate fan-shaped leaves, which have long been prized for their beauty and heralded in literature, are the motifs I spotted right away in the vanCollier space.
One of the inspirations for the designers was creating a counterpoint to the proliferation of angular and industrial furnishings they’ve been seeing. “While we appreciate a variety of influences, we wanted to incorporate something different, something unique,” they remarked. “Not being able to find more fluid, organic pieces sparked a desire to create our own furnishings, and, in the end, the right inspiration was in front of our faces the whole time.” They are speaking of the sixty-foot-tall gingko tree just beyond their windows.
“We had been using the bare branches for arrangements in our home and for client projects,” they continued. “This inspired us to begin sketching designs and thinking of various ways we could incorporate the gingko motif into functional and artistic furniture and accessories.” Once their drawings were complete, they noticed how the curvilinear forms echoed the French Art Nouveau designs of the early 20th century. “Translated, Art Nouveau means New Art,” Beth said; “this echoed our desire to create new art we could embrace and feel passionate about.”
There are a number of pieces in this new series, including the Ginkie Martini table, the Claude Gueridon table, the Hawes sconce and the Remy console table, all organically adept at calling the gingko leaf to mind. The candlesticks are reminiscent of the stems. They are handcrafted from steel and hand-painted with a gilded finish. Custom sizes and finishes are available. I am glad this time-honored tree caught the attention of these talented designers, and that they heeded the call to turn the motif into new art forms that will look stunning within interiors spanning a number of stylistic notes.
Text of New Art from vanCollier © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here and Stranded on the Road to Promise. She also produces The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.