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Six of the most whimsically modern takes on button-tufted furniture Add to ...

Button-tufted furniture is often associated with oversized leather armchairs and sofas. The kind with scroll armrests and heavy wooden feet. If you haven’t seen the diamond-shaped patterning at your grandparent’s place, you might have noticed it in a Victorian painting or illustration. Completing the scene could be a Sherlock Holmesian character, lounging, pipe-in-mouth, in his gentlemen’s only salon. Fair enough, such upholstery was popular in the mid-1800s. Puffy perches were a newly accessible luxury to the upwardly mobile middle class, as industrialized manufacturing made them more widely available. Previously, all such upholstery would have been done by hand and so would have been prohibitively costly.

At the time, tufting wasn’t just pretty, it was also practical. The evenly spaced ties were used to hold the padding (horse hair, for example) in place, to prevent the seat from getting overly lumpy. Cushions these days are filled with high tech foams that never get clumpy, no matter how squirmy the sitter, so tufting is often unnecessary. But it’s reviving as a look nonetheless.

These days, designers love the poufs and puckers for their nostalgic qualities. Whether it’s being used in an armchair or something much more avant-garde, tufting still recalls a time-gone touch of luxury and an unquestionable bit of comfort. Here, six of the most whimsically modern takes.

Chesterfield chillin’

Many homeowners want a perfect pairing between their sofa and whatever art hangs on the wall behind it. Usually, that means matching the colours. But Paris-based designer Robert Stadler takes the union to a new extreme: his Monochrome couch has seemingly gobbled up the frame of a canvas. 
Price upon request. Through carpentersworkshopgallery.com.

Fluid but firm

Malleable, foldable fabric is a natural fit for tufting. Hardwood, less so. But using a computerized router, Toronto-based designers Joy Charbonneau and Derek McLeod (the former an architect with KPMB, the latter a furniture maker) have dimpled a walnut bench, giving a sense of softness and fluidity to an otherwise stiff material.
$6,550. Through derekmcleod.com.

Minimalist plush

Working with Italian manufacturer Moroso, Milan-based designer Patricia Urquiola has created a modern take on the traditional armchair called Klara. The tufted leather back, with its enveloping shape, is reminiscent of a 19th-century seat. The minimal beech-wood frame adds a contemporary lightness. 
From $2,952. Through moroso.it.

Park it on a puffball

Dutch design studio Tweelink was inspired by boxwood topiary balls for its Bux pouf – the shape, if not the twigs, seeming like an cushy place to crash. Durability was an important consideration. The pot is made from hard plastic, not fragile clay. The stool is upholstered in a leatherette that’s suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. 
Price upon request. Through tweelink.nl.

Dimpled delight

The Ploum sofa, by French manufacturer Ligne Roset with designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, is basically a giant piece of high-tech foam covered in a soft, stretchy fabric. The continuous, even padding – uninterrupted by a poky, hard frame – allows for consistent comfort, regardless whether the lounger is sitting upright, resting his head along the back edge or lying down with his feet up on one of the arms. 
$6,487. Through kioskdesign.ca.

Lush, not lumpy

For his La Michetta sofa system, Italian-born, New York-based designer Gaetano Pesce was inspired by nobbly, hand-kneaded bread. Fittingly, each section has its own, idiosyncratic appearance. The differently sized boxes link at the bottom by simple brackets to form a limitless variety of seating configurations. 
From $1,958 a piece. Through meritalia.it.

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