First look at Michael Mortell’s new furniture collection for Dunnes
It’s cool, sophisticated and designed to suit contemporary apartment living
Michael Mortell picutred in his appartment in Dublin in 2016 Photograph: Aidan Crawley
A chance encounter with CEO Margaret Heffernan in the George’s Street HQ of Dunnes Stores three years ago led to this week’s launch of Michael Mortell’s furniture debut for the Irish retail chain.
The range consists of five signature pieces – a cocktail/drinks cabinet, console table, room divider, coffee table and sideboard.
Made in Portugal in oak veneer and metal, they have an unmistakably cool modern look that draws from mid century modern aesthetics so much in vogue at the moment. Furniture from that period, the 1950s and 1960s that resonates today was spare and streamlined without excessive decoration or ornament often using new materials and colours.
“Cocktail cabinets from the 50s and 60s were the height of sophistication and today bars in the home have become popular again through the rise in home entertaining,” says Mortell.
Art deco speciality
No stranger to furniture since opening his first shop 10 years ago followed by his flagship in Francis Street in 2014, Mortell specialises in mid-century and art deco furniture and collectibles.
His first venture into creating his own pieces came when a Dublin couple who liked his style asked him to make them three pieces of furniture – a settee, a unit and a side table for their apartment which he decorated with zigzag motifs similar to ones he had seen on an art deco desk in the office of the celebrated French interior designer Andree Putnam, “so that became my signature to an extent both on my knitwear and bedlinen”, he says. In the new furniture range, the motif carries through on doors of the drinks cabinet and on the console table.
“This has been very much a learning curve for me and I had to work with within certain limitations in regard to content and price. Dunnes has never done a range of furniture at this level,” he says.
Each item is designed to suit contemporary apartment living as well as older houses with spacious rooms. “The pieces are quite versatile and in materials – wood, ebonised steel – that are sympathetic to various interiors and are more accessible to people with slightly strained budgets.
In my shop I have very expensive consoles that cost thousands which many young couples can’t afford, so these are great pieces at these price points. I only buy (for my shop) because I like the pieces and I only design what I like,” he says.
Popularly known for his stylish rainwear and his newly established womenswear collections for Dunnes – his latest autumn/winter collection goes on sale next week – Mortell bridges the gap between fashion and furniture with a certain ease, using references that encompass both.
He had the privilege of seeing the Yves St Laurent apartment in Paris before the famous auction of its contents in 2009 thanks to friends who were big world collectors and viewed everything in the auction which made a lasting impression.
He describes his furniture range as based on a decade of immersion in interior magazines and years of noticing locations in Vogue fashion features, “so this is a prêt a porter range of furniture similar to what I do in fashion and the interest in mid-century has seeped into it. It is the way I see design from my point of view.”
The collection also includes cushions, throws, rugs, frames, lamps, vases and dressing gowns with prices starting at €12 for a frame up to €1,800 for the cocktail cabinet.