April 14, 2020
A Sense of Place
SOANE BRITAIN’S NEW HOME EXPANDS THE STORIED COLLECTION’S PRESENCE IN SAN FRANCISCO
To step into the new Soane Britain showroom is to be surrounded by color and pattern, all bathed in golden light pouring in from the huge west-facing windows. The space—simple and open—allows Soane founder and chief designer Lulu Lytle’s elegant and beautifully crafted pieces to shine: A half wall greets you as you enter, the flowing forms on its Frond wallpaper perfectly echoing the undulations of a Ripple console. Says Lytle, “Every piece is made in Britain, using a network of workshops that excel in traditional crafts like iron forging, chair making, precision engineering, saddlery, and rattan weaving.”
Lytle founded Soane in 1997, she notes, because of her “concern about the viability of traditional craft skills and the pressing need to make less, in better ways.” Case in point, rattan. A flexible Asian climbing vine that has long been harvested and used for woven furniture and housewares, it is one of Soane’s signature elements. Lytle began designing rattan pieces for the collection several years ago, her imagination sparked by an Edwardian sofa she found that had a romantic, royal past. Upon learning that one of Britain’s last rattan workrooms was about to close, Lytle stepped in, and today the Soane workshops in central England are making inspired use of the almost forgotten art of rattan weaving.
Lytle’s favorite rattan piece turns out to be the first she created: the scalloped Daisy light, which is suspended gracefully over a table in the showroom. Like all Soane pieces, it nods to designs of the past while transforming them into something entirely new—a characteristic that enables them to sit happily in almost any kind of interior, whether it’s a 17th-century English country manor or a West Coast midcentury residence.
Lytle is always fascinated by the nuances of place—she majored in Egyptology at university—and notes that her California clients “are drawn to patterns printed in azures and yellows on whiter, brighter base cloths, as well linen sheers and natural rattan.” Collectors of the latter can dive into Soane’s brand-new Cobbler’s Cove line, created for the namesake boutique hotel in Barbados and soaked in glorious marine greens and blues. Aficionados will also have a wonderful opportunity to learn more about this ancient craft when Lytle’s passion project—a new monograph on the history of rattan—is published by Rizzoli later this year.