How I Made This: Pierre Yovanovitch’s Mama Bear Chair

The lobby of the Paris townhouse occupied by the Pierre Yovanovitch office and showrooms is not beige, per se, but rather a warm cream. Two floors of the townhouse are dedicated to exemplifying what your house could look like if you were to hire Yovanovitch’s firm. As they’re showrooms, these two floors are completely stocked with the interior designer’s furniture line (though he mixes designers in his actual projects), and art fills the walls just so. Like the furniture, the art is switched in and out regularly, supplied by acclaimed contemporary gallery Kamel Mennour, whose Paris spaces were designed by Yovanovitch. The townhouse is within striking distance of all the major Parisian museums, but after passing through the grand entry door—so common in Paris—the bustle of the tourist-packed area disappears. Stepping inside is to step into a hush.

On display in one of the showrooms is a Yovanovitch piece recently acquired by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs: the Mama Bear chair. It is the middle-sized piece in a set of three inspired by the Goldilocks fairytale; there are also a larger Papa and a smaller Baby. As the name suggests, the chair looks something like a bear, with the upper corners bloomed into ears, the armrests and larger segments plumped, and two indents in the middle of the back giving the impression of eyes. The Bear chairs are upholstered in a white textured fabric that looks fluffy from a distance, but on closer look one can see the fibers are actually gathered into something more pebbly, more robust. Like all good-quality furniture, it doesn’t sag as soon as butt meets cushion but embraces the body instead; it encourages lounging, but not slacking.

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The Bear chairs were designed in 2012 for a private client, but Yovanovitch introduced them to the public only in 2017, showing them at the R & Company gallery in New York, which sells his furniture. “It’s a way for me to become a brand,” Yovanovitch says without irony, while settled on one of the long couches in his office. Although he formally launched his furniture line, consisting of 45 pieces, only last year, he has run his studio for more than 20 years. As he designed interiors, it made sense to start creating furniture for the houses he was renovating. “It gives me more freedom,” he says, “because I can design what I want.”

The Bear chairs, specifically, were made to be round to counter the very straight lines of the original house Yovanovitch was designing (he has since started embracing more curves in rooms’ architecture). He wanted something with humor, thinking that private spaces shouldn’t be too serious—it’s where we’re supposed to be ourselves, after all.

Still, choosing to create furniture that adds to the greater design conversation is not for the fainthearted. “There are thousands and thousands of chairs in the world,” Yovanovitch says. “Only beauty is not enough for me,” he adds. “It’s too easy.” What he means is that to design a pretty shape is simple enough, and as for function, a chair just needs to support a seated person. Adding comfort, though, makes the task harder.

This is not to say that Pierre Yovanovitch chairs and couches are soft or squishy. They all have an amount of pushback that helps one avoid gluteal fatigue after several sedentary hours. The Mama Bear chair takes it a step further, with its back curving around and embracing the sitter. Yovanovitch has a restless mind, he says, one that is constantly plagued by worries, so he likes something to physically reassure him. “You need something around you to give you more peace,” he says.

Yovanovitch tried therapy two years ago but quit because he “didn’t want to go too far,” as he puts it. He says his therapy now is going into the office every day. He’s constantly making small improvements, whether that means rotating pieces (in both senses of the word) in the showrooms or his houses, or tweaking his latest furniture or interior designs. “I don’t think you can be successful without pressure,” he says. “I think you need it all the time.”


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