An architect by training, a furniture designer by choice, Scott Richler of the Montreal-based firm Jennifer Scott looks at interiors with an artistic eye. The one-time jewelry designer launched his furniture line in 2004 and now offers custom home furnishings and interior design services. At once contemporary and capricious, his pieces have won him both corporate and residential clients. He talked with us about his approach to home decor.
Style at Home: You started your professional life in fashion design, but your degree is in architecture. Is it fair to call you a Renaissance man?
Scott Richler: [laughing] I'm not sure about that. But yes, after I graduated, I started working for an architecture firm, but on the side, I was designing a jewelry line with my wife and business partner, Jennifer [Kakon]. At that point, fashion was more of a distraction than anything. But for fun, in 2000, we went to an accessories trade show in New York and ran into someone who wanted to represent our line. Three months later, our jewelry was in stores in New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and, of course, Montreal. Then we expanded into other areas, and soon we had a line of belts, bags and dresses.
S@H: How big a leap was it from jewelry to interior and furniture design?
SR: It's all related. Once you're accustomed to designing, you get comfortable creating all sorts of things. Good designers see things in ways others don't, and can translate a vision into three dimensions. They're multitalented and capable of crossover.
S@H: It sounds as if, in your opinion, good designers push themselves to try new things. Is that why you made the leap?
SR: It was a natural evolution. And maybe a little bit of fate. We had a boutique in Old Montreal, and the space next door became vacant. On a gut feeling, I jumped on it, as I had this vision of myself designing furniture.
S@H: How does your experience in jewelry infl uence your furniture?
SR: I like all my designs to be invested with jewelry-like elements, whether it's the sheen of metal or the details. Our Soho chandelier is totally derivative of fashion – it hangs like a dress and the crystals are interwoven throughout like a piece of jewelry. There's a freedom in fashion design, and we bring that to our furniture in fabric choices and details. That's not to say we ignore function. We experiment, sure, but the art lies in doing so within the constraints imposed by that function. For example, we just created this huge table for a client. It's sturdy quarter-cut oak, but we did a raw steel inlay and then lacquered it so it shone like a jewel. Because of my history, I tend to design backwards: I'll see the intricacy first and design around it.
S@H: Does lighting play a large part in your interiors and products?
SR: Light fixtures are the jewelry of a room. Any architect will tell you that
light is an integral part of design: it creates drama and contrast, that "wow." Space is made up of material and light – that's it. There are only two kinds of light: the kind that exists naturally and the kind we create artificially. With light fixtures, we can push the fanciful aspect. It's our opportunity to be expressive.
Photo of Scott courtesy of Gabriel Kakon; main image courtesy of Marc Montplaisir