Tatjana von Stein’s theatre of interiors
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Walking into a space by the interior design practice Sella Concept is an immersive experience. Rich velvets, reflective metallics and strong, sophisticated colour palettes transport you to another realm. The studio’s founder and creative director Tatjana von Stein describes it as her “little corner of the world” and attributes her escapist sensibilities to childhood: “My mother is an artist, so from day one I was immersed in the creative world, which gave my work theatrical flair. It’s about generating an experience and transporting people to another dimension.”
Based in the UK, the French-German designer has infused her theatrical aesthetic into colour-punctuated residences, fashion headquarters, members’ clubs and restaurants using individual pieces, unique objects and vintage finds. In 2019, Sella Concept launched a debut range of furniture – a series of stools featuring curvaceous forms inspired by the bathers at Hampstead Heath’s Ladies’ Pond. This month, however, she’s launching an independent range of furniture, a collection called Mise en Scène that goes under her own name.
Translated from the French for “setting the stage”, each piece draws inspiration from the performing arts and the shapes of dancer’s bodies as they move across the stage. “Dance evokes a lot of emotion within me,” she says of the pieces, which also drew on the 2021 Isamu Noguchi exhibition at London’s Barbican (which showcased Noguchi’s collaborations with the dancer Martha Graham) and her love for the TS Eliot poem “Burnt Norton”. “I was really excited to see how I could connect with a static object to a point that it becomes something from a different world.”
While von Stein remains at the helm of Sella Concept, this new creative avenue takes her in a direction where she can totally indulge her point of view. “I try not to look right or left as I don’t want to set my work within the parameters of a particular style,” she says. “I want this to be uniquely my creative expression. The collection needed to be a result of my personal perspective while honouring influences of the past.”
The hero pieces of Mise en Scène include an elegant bar unit (£40,530), sofas in sectional and plain designs (from £19,230), a burrwood and glass coffee table (£11,320) and a silk-panelled screen (£28,295). “The bar is a mix of many worlds: it conveys the aesthetic of a classic car combined with a typical French-furniture piece, complemented with sleek stainless-steel legs that reference the dancer’s silhouette,” says von Stein. “The most important point is that it transcends any era, which is how I want my pieces to sit – within both classic and contemporary environments.” She enjoys the idea that each piece offers different contradictions. “It is a balance of masculine and feminine, of simple form but complex engineering, and of fluidity and stability,” she says. “It’s a world of juxtapositions, which is exactly the approach to all of my projects.”
In manufacturing the collection, von Stein was eager to reconnect with her French roots and collaborated with Aurige, a collective of heritage conservators and expert artisans such as stonemasons, fresco painters and sculptors whose projects have included the restoration of Notre-Dame. The designer also worked closely with Pierre Noire, a virtuoso of wood crafting, which, she says, brought a significant dynamic to the collaboration. “They added integrity, not only in helping to preserve such valuable skill sets, but in ensuring the quality is second to none,” she adds.
The pieces were photographed among the giant sculptures awaiting restoration at the Chevilly-Larue workshop of Tollis, a specialist in art restoration and interior decoration, which contributed to the developmental conversations about the collection’s finishing options. It’s a fine display of French artisanal craft where intricate marquetry techniques and hand-crafted details and features coalesce with modern innovation and technology.
Collaborating with small ateliers fed into von Stein’s environmental ethos; the wood was also sourced locally. “We have to design with purpose,” says von Stein. “I’m very aware that no one needs another table, yet here I was designing one, so in doing so it was important to understand the mission: it’s about reclaiming design, what it truly means and going on to create design classics of the future. Everything about this collection is in opposition to mass production and the vast array of copies that are produced every year.”
Crafted as potential heirlooms, the numbered pieces are highly individual. The mirrored surfaces, high-gloss lacquer finishes and brushed-steel spinal inserts add to the inimitable ambience that occurs as the light shifts or when one interacts with them. In the home, their energy creates drama: a distillation of the designer’s theatrical imagination.