And Frank Pollaro saw Brad Pitt's sketchbook...
Brad Pitt, whose “Make It Right” foundation enlists prominent architects like Frank Gehry to create quality affordable housing in post-Katrina New Orleans - where his blockbuster Benjamin Button takes place - is no stranger to the world of interior design anymore.
After two decades of private study and thousands of sketches, his interest into luxury furniture has culminated in a successful collaboration with Frank Pollaro of Pollaro Custom Furniture, a New Jersey firm which mainly produces impeccable Art Deco reproductions.
Pitt’s first collection, which debuted 13th November 2012 in New York City, includes a number of tables and chairs, a double bath and one impressive bed: the pieces are a strange miscellany of Pitt's eclectic influences, which, he says, span from Arts and Crafts to Bauhaus and Tiffany lamps.
“I’ve been doodling ideas for buildings and furniture since the early 1990s, when I first discovered Charles Mackintosh and Frank Lloyd Wright" the actor told in an interview. "Actually, I found Wright in college, while I was looking for a lazy two-point credit to get out of French. It forever changed my life".
The impetus behind the project came when Pollaro paid Pitt a visit to install a reproduction Ruhlmann desk the actor had commissioned a few years ago. Pollaro spotted Pitt’s sketchbook and didn’t hesitate to ask him: “Why don’t we make some of this stuff real?”
To decide which of Pitt’s ideas to produce (according to Pollaro, they are “literally thousands”), the two men regularly get together for meetings “lasting anywhere from seven to ten hours”.
Pollaro explains: “We talk about design, materials, craftsmanship, classicism and modernism. He has a respect for the masters of design”.
They eventually started with the PP2 bed, a clear Art Deco example featuring a swooping tropical-hardwood frame that extends from its gently curved headboard to a sensual arc ending in a cantilevered bench capable of seating.
It took Pollaro and his team more than two years to create the first piece and once it was completed, he and Pitt agreed it should be exhibited.
This way their partnership was born.
In addition to the bed - only nine of which will be made, all in different materials - the Pitt-Pollaro collection includes a dining table, a cocktail table, several side tables, a few club chairs and a bathtub made in marble.
A recurring theme in Pitt's table designs is the substitution of conventional legs with one continuous line of structure, a single strip that bends and folds in a twisted 3D drawing. That line can be geometric, as in the case of The Long Run, a wood dining table whose jagged base spectacularly zigzags at unpredictable angles, or sinuous, as it happens with the glass-top Zeros & Ones side table, that features a lively spiralling metal base finished in 24K gold.
When asked about the appeal of an uninterrupted line, Brad Pitt explains that “it started with my introduction to Mackintosh’s Glasgow rose, which is drawn with one continuous line”.
The line has actually been a preoccupation for some time. In 2003 he told USA Weekend: "There is that thing I love of an individual in a room finding a line – and by 'line' I mean an angle, something that interests them – and following it and seeing where it goes".
The idea is that there’s a metaphorical element that is difficult to articulate: “for me there is something more grand at play, as if you could tell the story of someone’s life with a single line” he adds.
The world-known actor, who still has a pretty demanding day job, describes himself as “bent on quality to an unhealthy degree” and underlines that Pollaro “embodies the same mad spirit of the craftsmen of yore, with their obsessive attention to detail. It just so happens Frank and I speak the same language. And we both have a predilection for far too much wine”.
The New York Times asked four experts to review computerized renderings of some of the offerings and their verdicts were largely positive and encouraging, with only a sliver of snarl, as “modern”, “swanky”, “elegant” and “stifled” were all adjectives used to describe the designs. Probably the most intriguing observation about the pieces is the one where it reads “they are formal studies of movement and growth”.
All the first designs, customizable in a variety of materials and finishes, will be made in numbered or limited editions and signed by Pitt and Pollaro.
While the New Jersey brilliant craftsman predicts that this is just the beginning - “I think we’ll be doing this for a long time” he says – Pitt hesitates when asked how he feels about being called a furniture designer, cautioning, “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves”.
It looks like just time will tell if this is the dawn of a new career for the Oscar nominee, active humanitarian and Angelina Jolie’s fiancé.