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.
Behind the Brand
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.’
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
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.
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.
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.
PURE & SIMPLE
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.