“My Wassily chair is very angular, very simple and very elegant, with a tough canvas seat and back. The canvas is a natural biscuit colour, which is quite old and stained. One of the armrests keeps coming unstuck, so it’s been superglued and gaffer-taped over the years – but the fix that finally worked was when my sister [Erica Toogood, with whom Faye founded her fashion brand] stitched it together. It’s in our sitting room now, looking out to the garden, so it has a prime spot. At the moment, it’s got a sheepskin slung over it to make it more comfortable.
I think it’s probably from the 1960s but it may be older. My husband Matt’s parents gave it to us. Matt’s father was an architect and his grandfather was a really important modernist architect [Frederick Gibberd]. The chair is the point at which our two aesthetics meet. The stressed cream canvas is very me and the steel frame and the simplicity is Matt. If it were a new version, it wouldn’t please either of us – but because it’s a bit bashed around and has personality, it is something we both agree on.
Before meeting Matt, I wasn’t as aware of modernism or Bauhaus. I was into early-British folk furniture – wobbly Windsor chairs were much more my thing. We met in our early 20s when we worked at World of Interiors. He was an architecture writer and when he introduced me to modernism it changed my style. I found a kind of naïvety and a purity within some of the early-modernist and Bauhaus-movement furniture that’s mirrored in early folk pieces – I think there’s a similar desire for simplicity there.
This chair [produced by Knoll since the 1960s] has remained with us for the past 20 years. We’ve moved from a Georgian terrace to a 1960s house in north London and it’s worked in both environments. In the Georgian house, all the walls and doors were painted dark colours. It was almost like living in a Vermeer painting: very small rooms with very little light, cluttered with all our collections. In our next house, the interiors had what my mum called “Swedish sauna tongue-and-groove” with parquet floors and grey brick. When we moved in, everything from the old house looked terrible and anything with colour had to go. We restricted the palette to white and natural tones, which made it really calm. But I kept the Wassily chair. When you decide what to keep, it’s not about what’s in fashion but what has meaning: it’s about recalling when you found a piece or when someone gave it to you.
The Wassily has had some influence on my own furniture designs. Less so on my latest pieces, but the Spade chair was an attempt to reach that level of simplicity. The Roly Poly, in fibreglass, almost feels like it could be made from that same beaten-up canvas. It has that natural, heavily patinated look about it.
The chair has been treated with a lot of contempt given that it’s something we love. It’s not precious – it’s everybody’s chair. The children are allowed to jump on it. We’ve had babies snuggled up on it and had it upside-down to make a den. No one’s aware if it’s of any value, and nobody cares because it’s not going anywhere. We’ll keep mending it until it can be mended no more.”