The Last Word with Christopher Guy Harrison
Known for exuberant pieces, he’s forging a unique global style.
Chris, what’s your design philosophy?
I’ve always admired elegance. I probably should have been born in a different era! I love the glamour of the 1920s and ’30s. I feel the same way about the early Bond movies. Everything you could dream about was there—beautiful locations, cars, people—and I always transfer that feeling to my designs. Another way I describe it is: If Coco Chanel were alive today, what would her home look like? I want to create that—lifestyle pieces that are clean, not overly ornate, elegant and timeless, so they look good in 10, 20 or 100 years.
Are you self-taught as a designer?
Unfortunately, yes [laughs]. I left school when I was 16 and went on to build a house with my stepfather in the South of France. We built it from scratch, just the two of us. And that’s what started my interest in being a designer.
Your signature design is the Chris-X [pronounced criss-cross] leg. What was your inspiration for that?
I began with an observation about dining chairs: You don’t really see them from the front. You look at them from behind. So why not start designing from behind? Dining chairs always had what I call a middle-aged waistline. I thought, how do I bring a more youthful waistline—let’s say a corseted waistline like Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind? When I pulled in the waistline on a chair, still there were two protruding back legs, which didn’t go with the slim waist. So I needed to modify the legs—to have the curve form a continuous sweep from one side to the other. That’s how the Chris-X leg was born.
You’ve done some hospitality projects and you’ve designed for films, such as Casino Royale. Do you have a favorite project?
The most important one to me was the Georgian Restaurant at Harrod’s in London. I’ve been going there since I was a kid. In redesigning the space, I asked myself the question: Where would I like to go for afternoon tea?
You live in Singapore, not too far from your workshop in Java. Is your home furnished in all Christopher Guy?
Yes, it is. Not because I have a crazy ego, but because it allows me to think about what works and what doesn’t. I change the furnishings quite often. It’s always evolving.
What’s your current favorite piece?
I think any designer would answer the same way: It’s the piece I’ve yet to design. There’s always going to be a new challenge.