The Old Town of Geneva – a charming maze of winding streets and squares – wasn’t the first place I expected to find a hip architecture studio-cum-homewares shop. But last summer as I browsed the area’s chocolate shops and fondue restaurants, on the lookout for kitschy Swiss souvenirs, I stumbled across Ateliers-PHI – an utterly cool, contemporary space that lured me inside with a Le Corbusier vignette in the window.
The space centres around the work of its owner, architect Sophia Slingerland, whose minimalist furniture ranges from desk shelves to sofas in luxurious walnut and elm, as well as bold metal designs. I could easily see the aluminium Sit at Ease fauteuil (SFr4,200, about £3,300) in my New York living room (were it not for the hassle of shipping), along with many of the other objects chosen by Slingerland to fit with the sleek aesthetic – among them the angular porcelain Prisme vases (from about £95) made in Switzerland and designed by Margot Reymond in shades of dusky pink, sea green and slate; cushions (about £98) in similarly muted hues; and the playful take on the classic Swiss cuckoo clock, Coucou (about £305) by Soren Henrichsen.
I love that everything in this Swiss shop has a somewhat Japanese feel – from the simplicity of the materials to the high quality of the craftsmanship to the subtle hues. What I walked away with in the end were some delightfully unusual soaps (from about £4) by Club Savonnette: pastel-coloured sculptural forms that are moulded to fit the hand. They are completely bizarre yet rather soothing to wash with, in an ever-so-faint scent that reminds me of my summer in Switzerland.