Right now, as the last weeks of winter pass through the United States of America, Connecticut is starting to defrost. Ice melts, nature wakes and the sun shines through the panels of glass that line the many modernist buildings across this sleepy state.
In the Schlumberger Administration Building in Ridgefield, Connecticut, sun streams through a central courtyard and into the rooms surrounding it, trickling through the building in the way original architect Philip Johnson once intended. Inside, the light casts shadows onto beautifully appointed rooms, dancing across buttery soft leathers and supple woods, illuminating the space that is setting a chart for the future of modernist design.
Inside this renowned building is the headquarters of BassamFellows: a lifestyle brand that takes the principles of modernism and distils them into a design mentality for the 21st century. The brainchild of Australian architect Craig Bassam and creative director Scott Fellows, the company is an exploration of the aesthetic that has informed their styles and tastes, a multidisciplinary movement that touches all elements of design.
The trademark aesthetic of the brand ‘marries architectural authority with a minimal-artisanal-philosophy’ in an approach aptly named “Craftsman Modern”. This extends to all elements of home and lifestyle, with the House working across architecture, furniture design, branding, lifestyle objects and personal accessories. Their headquarters, an eight-year passion project that revitalised Philip Johnson’s first non-residential building, took a desolate icon of modernism and breathed new life into its bones, drawing on the openness and material poetry of the era and elevating it with new spatial design, interiors and landscaping.
If their headquarters is their magnum opus – an insitu project which brings their achievements into one experiential space – then it is apt to rewind the story to its start. The scene is the 2003 Salon del Mobile in Milan, where BassamFellows launched their now iconic Tractor Stool. The antithesis of the mass-produced furniture of the early 2000’s, the Tractor Stool is a reimagining of the workman’s footstool. Its form is inspired by the ergonomics of a Swiss tractor seat, taking the core functionality of industrial functions and turning it into something refined. Each piece is a homage to the craftsman: with each grain and curve differing slightly from stool to stool, the result of locally harvested wood and a hand-finished production.
Since this first creation, the brand has gone on to release a suite of products that encapsulate their unique approach to design. From the geometric precision of the Circular Stool to the immaculate comfort of the Wood Frame Low Back Lounge Chair, each creation is a step towards the future of modernism, shifting us from the mentality that form follows function and into a world where one does not exist without the other.
The success of these products and simultaneous architectural interventions on some of the US’ most renowned modernist homes has seen BassamFellows engaged to collaborate with global brands and artisans. Perhaps the most prolific of these collaborations has been with the MillerKnoll Group, where the team were initially engaged as Creative Directors of the Consumer and Speciality division. The success of this arrangement can be found in its longevity and legacy, with BassamFellows continuing to design products for the Group over a decade on.
More recently, the team were also brought in to assist in the revival of luxury brand Bally, with their distinct aesthetic and curatorial sense working to inject the brand with a new artistic direction. Like on the MillerKnoll project, BassamFellows provided a brand identity, vision and product strategy, before going on to redesign all brand spaces – including retail stores – in the style of the “Craftsman Modern”.
In this world of rapid media cycles and endlessly shifting trends, there is something intimate about BassamFellows. Their work draws on a design legacy that has existed for over a century, honing in on the timeless and drawing it out into more than just a design style. For BassamFellows is more than a brand or a company; it is at its heart a way of being and an appreciation for the luxury found in considered design, exquisite materiality and authentic collaboration.
BassamFellows furniture collection is available exclusively in Australia through Living Edge.