History of the Louis Ghost Armchair and how to style it at home

We explore the history of Philippe Starck's 2002 transparent ghost chair and explain how you can style it at home

Philippe Starck's 2002 Louis Ghost Armchair

A familiar shape in an unfamiliar material that appears to be barely there, Philippe Starck’s 2002 Ghost chair was a stroke of brilliance. Made from cutting-edge transparent plastic, it was also a groundbreaking piece of engineering. It remains one of the most popular and best-recognised furniture designs of the 21st century, and is almost certainly an heirloom of the future

THE GHOST OF DESIGN PAST

In 1988, Claudio Luti took over the reins of his father-in-law’s Milan-based homewares company, Kartell, with a vision to make plastic a ‘noble material’ in the design industry. The brand, which had started of in 1949 making car accessories, had been built on the new materials available post war, however Luti was determined to produce pieces that would be seen as luxury goods. He invested in research and development of polycarbonate, a durable plastic with the transparency of glass. By the late 1990s the company had perfected an injection-moulding technique and top international designer Philippe Starck was brought in to imagine the world’s first transparent chair. La Marie (see below) was launched in 1999, but it was her playful successor that exceeded all expectations. Made three years later, Starck’s Louis Ghost was more ambitious. The silhouette of an 18th-century French armchair, this design went on to become a bestseller.

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Philippe Starck's 2002 Louis Ghost Armchair

Behind the Brand

Philippe Starck
Born in Paris in 1949, Philippe Starck is one of the most successful and influential designers of his generation. He first rose to prominence in the 1980s and has since designed a raft of objects – from furniture, lighting and homewares (for brands such as Alessi, Kartell and Flos) – to hotels, bikes, sandals, glasses, yachts and even electric cars. His prime focus is mass-market products that bring the benefits of good design to all. On designing the Louis Ghost chair for Kartell, Starck said: ‘I didn’t really have to design the chair because it is part of our Western shared memory… It’s a ‘Louis something’, we don’t know what, but everyone recognises it. It’s here when you want to see it and you can mix it if you want to be discreet.’

Antique Louis XVI chairs
The Louis Ghost is based on the shape of a Louis XVI-period armchair. This pair costs £1,850 from Decorator Source at Decorative Collective.

4 Ways to Style: The Louis Ghost

1

LIGHT EFFECTS

Lighted candle chandelier above glass topped table and pair of Philippe Starck chairs in country kitchen with Kelim rug

A Ghost chair is the ideal solution for small spaces where you don’t want to give the impression of packing too much in. For maximum effect, pair with a glass table and place by a window. The light will bounce off the reflective surfaces and fill your room.

2

SUBTLE SENSE

Three Louis Ghost Armchair around a mahogany table in a bright garden room

The Ghost chair’s barely-there transparency means it lets through light and doesn’t obscure views. In the setting above, it allows the garden to venture inside. As it doesn’t hide other furniture, it also enables the mahogany antique table to take centre stage.

3

SOLID CHOICE

View of a sideboard and dining table in contemporary London apartment. Image shot 02/2005. Exact date unknown.

For a stronger statement, choose the Ghost in a solid colour. The classic shape and contemporary material guarantee a strong hit of modern glamour. Pick an accent colour to complement your scheme or monochrome, as here.

4

PURE & SIMPLE

Philippe Starck Louis Ghost transparent chair next to side table in hallway with stairs
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Not just for dining, a Ghost chair subtly and stylishly fits in anywhere. In an area like a hall, where it’s important to avoid a feeling of clutter, use a crystal Ghost chair to finish your scheme, and let the architecture of the staircase and a display table of antiques stand out.