Paul Smith’s favourite chair

The British fashion legend likens his CAB chair, designed by Mario Bellini in 1977, to an old pair of jeans or a suede jacket that just gets better with use

Paul Smith with one of his Mario Bellini-designed 412 CAB chairs
Paul Smith with one of his Mario Bellini-designed 412 CAB chairs | Image: Jake Curtis

“It’s so difficult to name a favourite chair when there are others that come a close second – the 699 Leggera and Superleggera by Giò Ponti (I’m a huge Ponti fan), and before he passed away I was privileged to meet Vico Magistretti, who designed the magnificent 905. But the 412 CAB is the chair I use literally every day. It’s like a great old pair of jeans or a suede jacket – it just gets better with use. At the office, I have a set of six without arms and two with arms that sit around the table in my studio where I have my design meetings. If you look closely, you’ll see the scratches where some of the staff have sat on them wearing jeans with rivets. That doesn’t disturb me – it adds to the character. I’m a friend of Zeev Aram [founder of Aram Store] and he got them for me 18 years ago. Since then I’ve bought three more for my home. They’re a bit too new at the moment – I need to use them more. I’ve got a two-seater at the house, too, which is quite rare. I spotted it at the shop [in Albemarle Street] and immediately stole it, as you do.

The 412 CAB chair was designed by Mario Bellini [for Cassina], who I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet; I like his work very much. It’s a steel frame wearing a coat – a leather cover that is zipped and stitched onto the support. It has a lot of similarities to my world – zips and stitches and leather. It’s also a very comfortable, practical, last-you-a-lifetime type of chair.

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The CAB fits in well with the mix at home. In my study, there’s a Dieter Rams Vitsoe shelving system on the wall, and then a completely inappropriate table with cabriole legs and a leather top, which I use as a desk. So you’ve got the slick modern style of the Dieter Rams shelving and the Bellini chair, a vintage metal light on the table with nice old-fashioned crosshatched detailing, and on the shelves there’s a very simple radio and TV system sitting next to some Bernard Leach pottery, raku‑ware and a collection of mountain pots from Kanazawa in central Japan. As a clothing designer my style is irreverence: the wrong things with the wrong things – a worn-out chambray shirt with a cashmere ensemble, a pair of slightly used trainers with an immaculate suit. That’s what I do – an eclectic mix that shouldn’t necessarily work together but they do for me.

I’m away every week. Recently it’s been Berlin one week, Milan the next, followed by Paris, Athens, Chile, Japan and Korea. I look forward to coming home – returning to the familiar. Home is a mixture of the things that are precious – whether it’s a rare heirloom or simply a drawing from a grandchild. Many people commission interior designers and have beautiful houses, but they often lack a strong personal connection to the owner. Another way of doing it is to build up your interior over time, by buying pieces when you travel or spontaneously when you see them. To me, home is made up of all those things you’ve collected in life.”

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