Architect and designer Sebastian Mann sees furniture design “as a discipline of artistic practice, and not simply as the fabrication of functional objects”. It’s a fashionable theory but one that, in practice, too often results in chairs you can’t sit on and tables you are fearful to use. But with his range, launched recently online, Mann and his team have masterfully maintained a balance between form and function in pieces that are both arrestingly beautiful and a pleasure to use.
Take the limited edition Well Hung table (£6,425): the cantilevered swoosh of American black walnut and pre-aged copper is without doubt a piece of sculpture, but it is also a rather practical solution to the problem of how to fit a 2m dining table into a domestic living space. The Rozel dressing table (£885), from the main Battersea Collection, is also as useful as it is visually interesting. The drawer (made from an engineered coloured wood called Valchromat), shelf and mirror are all essential features of a decent dressing table, but here each has been carefully positioned to give the piece a fashionable cubist aesthetic.
“We were keen to pay homage to our surroundings with our debut collection,” says Mann of the Battersea Collection, named after the area of south London where the company has its studio. Each piece in the series also takes its name from a particular local road, such as the simple yet chic circular Austin coffee table (£395), made in dyed Valchromat with steel frame detailing. The whole look is distinctly urban too; Mann use lots of industrial materials like zinc, copper and steel, the forms are largely straight-edged and streamlined, and the colour palette is limited to natural wood and two shades of grey – dark and not so dark.
But while these pieces are certainly simple, they are far from austere. The pre-aged copper detailing on the Well Hung table and the equally smart Bureau 1.1 (£6,100) adds a note of quiet warmth and luxury, while the mirrors on the Rozel dressing table and the accompanying Alexandra drawer unit (£1,475) can be made with rose-tinted glass. This is grown-up furniture that still makes one smile.