By  on May 16, 2006

LONDON — Suzanne Trocme, an architecture and design writer, lives her life in pursuit of the perfect object, and prefers to go without rather than compromise.

A married mother of three, she doesn't have a sofa in her home because she can't find one that's just right, and would happily wear earrings if, say, Jean Arp, the sculptor and painter, had designed jewelry.

So it seems natural that Trocme, the author of six books, special projects editor at Wallpaper and a contributor to Architectural Digest, has turned her hand to design.

Her first furniture collection, for the Lenoir, N.C.-based Bernhardt Design, features 14 pieces that will be unveiled at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in Manhattan next month.

The collection, Suzanne Trocme for Bernhardt, is this year's offering from Bernhardt Design, which works with a different creative each year.

"The pieces are about getting to the nectar of design, reducing down and editing," Trocme, dressed in black, of course, said during lunch at the private London club The Hospital.

"This is not statement furniture, and it doesn't belong to a particular decade," she said. "What I've tried to create are timeless, versatile, quality wardrobe basics, the little black dress equivalent of furniture."

Trocme said her Forum chair works in the dining room, office or bedroom. The legs kick out slightly at the back and there is a narrow gap between the arms and the back of the chair.

"I wanted to create an edgier, but not tricky, contemporary chair that could replace the generic upholstered dining chair," said Trocme, adding the cutouts on the side reduce the volume and create "shadow gaps," which enhance the overall look.

In designing the sofa, Trocme said she thought of the cushions first.

"Looking at sofas, I always had the feeling that cushions are put on as an afterthought," she said. "But the shape of the cushion is key to the element and form of the sofa."

The long, back cushion on her League sofa is curved at each end, which gives the piece its overall shape.Her Guild chair has a similar comfort-and-clean-lines aesthetic. The Nordic-inspired wooden chair has a soft padded cap over the back, an idea that struck her when she was rolling white cotton socks onto her infant son's feet.

"You want to touch that pad, embrace it somehow," Trocme said. "And it's a delight to feel when you're pulling out the chair for someone to stand up. I rather like the politesse aspect of it."

Jerry Helling, head of Bernhardt Design, said Trocme is filling a significant niche in the U.S. furniture market.

"We see a lot of furniture that's overdesigned, futuristic or nostalgic," he said. "I think there's a lot of fear among furniture designers today of not making a big impact. As a result, they tend to overdesign. It's very difficult nowadays to come up with one simple idea."

The collection that will go on display at ICFF has been done mostly in white leather, but Trocme said the pieces can be custom-made in any material and fabric.

"It depends on the space you're trying to fill," she said. "In my own home, I'd cover some of the pieces in white Chanel-like bouclé fabric. Clearly, the look will be totally different if you opt for a dark wood stain or white bleached wood."

Prices range from about $400 for the tubular, wooden Echelon side table to $3,000 for the leather sofa.

Trocme said potential customers range from department stores, hotels and restaurants to private individuals who can't afford big-ticket design items — and who have little interest in what Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn have to offer.

"Ideally, people will see this furniture as part of a whole lifestyle," said Trocme, who will finally be able to return home to a suitable sofa. "I don't see the point of wearing fabulous shoes and a great suit if you're living in a place that's not stylish."

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