Karim Rashid was the superstar of the ’90s design world. With his signature white suits and DayGlo plastic furniture, he was an undeniable force. And then, like so many overexposed celebrities, the design elite turned on him, and he became a target of derision for failing to evolve to new tastes. Well, Rashid may have just pulled a Madonna: His new sofa for the Spanish manufacturer Sancal shows a versatility his critics doubted he possessed.
Float is a whimsical, modular sofa with eight variations, including various color, pillow, back-height, and arm options. (The high-back version offers hook and mirror attachments.) And more interesting, it plays a very tricky optical game: When you look at it straight on, it almost looks 2-D. But when you see it from the side, you realize it’s actually not flat, and is in fact quite comfortably proportioned.
Rashid tells Co.Design that he developed 30 ideas for seating before settling on a system of modular components inspired by Spanish history: In the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. So I thought of the couch as a fortress, as a guardian to comfort and safety. The colors, cushions and finishes really come from the cultural mixes of Spain, from the Moors to the Muslims, to the Dutch and the French. So Float is like a fortress that floats within its moat.”
The Moorish patterns have invited comparisons to Doshi Levien’s My Beautiful Backside, which also features a rounded, asymmetrical back and patterned pillows. Rashid dismisses the similarity: “I think that if I did not show the contemporized Islamic geometries on the pillows, or had no patterned pillows, no one would even see that connection,” he says. But he sees both couches as portending a sea change: “Maybe there is a need to find new form, new spirit, and new vernaculars to the exhausted modernist furniture paradigm that has prevailed for the last 100 years.” And on a more personal level, perhaps Float signals the designer’s own hunt for a new identity.