KGBL’s most popular design, the Duran Coffee Table with Borosilicate glass top in a NYC art collector’s pied-à-terre. Interior design by Eric R. Smith Inc., Photo: Eric Laignel.

KGBL Redefines Classic Modernism for Contemporary Interiors

Christiaan Bunce, principal designer. KGBL is the evolution of Christiaan’s journey from artist to furniture designer — and the pursuit of instilling beauty in the objects he creates.

KGBL makes modern and clean-lined furniture that is designed and crafted in New York. Their pieces frequently incorporate unusual materials handled with skill and care. Comfort, style, and luxury are their touchstones. Incollect spoke with principal designer Christiaan Bunce about the inspiration for his pieces and what is coming next for the brand. 

by Benjamin Genocchio  

Left:   In the entrance hall of a six-story 1869 townhouse in Boston’s Back Bay, KGBL’s Felix bench in hand-carved statuary marble with honed finish provides a bridge between classic and contemporary. Interior design by Hacin + Associates. Photo: Michael Stavaridis. Right: A contemporary clean-lined dining area softened by a touch of luxury —  the elegant Maxim Bench, shown with a bronze base, American black walnut blocks, and Woven Peacock fabric. Photo: Alan Tansey. 

How would you describe your design sensibility?

Unapologetically modern, contemporary, luxurious and curated.

Left:   For the principal bath in her firm’s Kua Bay, Hawaii project, AD100 designer Nicole Hollis installed a pair of  KGBL’s pivoting Starling Mirrors in American black walnut with bronze hardware details and inlay. Photo: Douglas Friedman. Right: A color-drenched bar in a Fort Worth, Texas family home with KGBL Walcot Stools in American black walnut with satin brass base and footrest, seats in Moore and Giles Emerald leather. Interior design by Meredith McBrearty Interiors, photo: Emily Followill. 

What is your inspiration?  

Inspirations and influences are historical and contemporary and come from the worlds of furniture, fashion, and art, and the talented people who have dedicated their lives to a sincere pursuit of any of these disciplines. I like pairing old with new. I like to find shapes, forms, and material combinations that emote. Fundamentally, I love creating special and unique objects that include a small piece of me.

So what specific historical sources and connections do you relate to?

It’s an evolving and eclectic mix. Lately, I’ve been looking at Egyptian revival architecture. There are a host of artists and works that serve as my lighthouse. I recently participated in a discussion on the influences of art on interiors and furniture. The artists I referenced ranged from Piero della Francesca to Michael Jackson. 

The Terranova is a simple concept: a solid, rectangular block of marble that has been interrupted to accept the metal prong legs that delicately support it. The Terranova side table in Nero Marquina marble top with bronze legs, and the Terranova coffee table and side table with statuary marble top and bronze legs.

What materials do you prefer to work in and why? 

A mixture of materials is my preference. Materials can inherently possess visceral meaning and presence when used thoughtfully and with consideration. Curation and editing materials to create life within an object is both a challenge and a pleasure. My goal is to find interesting combinations that elevate a finished furniture piece beyond a simple assemblage of materials. 

Are there materials you haven't used you would like to work with?   

At the moment, I’m developing some pieces that will be cast in plaster. I’ve always been in love with plaster as a material. It feels uniquely organic and tactile. I love the way cast plaster feels to the touch. The quick transformation from powder to liquid to solid is completely magical and satisfying. Additionally, I’m working on some sand cast metal forms which I’ve been dying to do.  I love the texture created by sand casting as a foil to more refined surfaces.

The Laguna Coffee Table is the exploration of a rarely used shape in design: the pentagon. The five-sided form of Calacatta Vagli marble is softened by the addition of lozenge-shaped leg assemblies in solid bronze. The Laguna provides an unexpected alternative where a round table might typically be used.

Everything is crafted in New York. Why did you make that decision?

It may not be the most cost-effective decision, but it is critically important to KGBL to directly oversee the quality of the finished product as well as have a platform and facility to develop designs while allowing them to germinate over time. It also helps in prototyping to the same high standard as our finished pieces.

Left:   A custom Johansson Cabinet in KGBL’s mirror-polished signature lacquer with bookmatched walnut burl doorfronts and bronze hardware. Styled with a custom-sized Startling mirror in American black walnut with bronze inlay and details. Interior design: Hacin Design, photo: Michael Stavardis. Right: The Johansson End Table. Like all KGBL cabinetry, this piece is beautifully finished on all sides. 

Your style is contemporary but it also has a hand-crafted feel to it. Is that important to you?

Yes, this goes hand in hand with the crafting of our pieces here in New York. The hand of an artisan touching our pieces and the intimacy of that process means everything. Since I was a kid, I wanted everything I made to be special. Making something with your hands becomes a personal investment and represents an individual’s point of view. It says something about them. I really believe in this. 

The Villaflor Sofa’s bladelike leg detail appears to pierce the upholstery, wedding the base to the seat and anchoring the whole. A second material has been introduced to the Villaflor’s exterior, creating a play of light and texture.

How does a design come to life? Do you sketch it on paper or computer? Do you make models?

It happens in a variety of ways. It certainly can be sketching or computer-driven, but I have found many of my best ideas have come while working on things in the studio. The simple experience of touching and manipulating materials directly is a catalyst that sparks imagination. I also like to draw influence from disciplines, objects, and concepts completely unrelated to furniture.

Do issues of sustainability factor into product designs?

KGBL’s position on sustainability is to design and responsibly create furniture to a standard of quality that could last through generations with the smallest carbon footprint possible. KGBL rejects the concept of the production of furniture that is made to be disposed of within a few years and business models based on that notion. 

The Duran Coffee Table is KGBL’s most popular design, and with good reason — it is uniquely memorable. Thick slabs of spectacular Borosilicate glass, which has an organic quality not found in any other glass, float atop a slim profile frame. Light plays across, under, and around, casting wavy, fascinating reflections.

What is your most popular product in your line and why do you think this is so? 

The Duran Coffee Table. It’s the perfect combination of timeless and modern with a unique material presence. The piece has been distilled into its essential components. Nothing superfluous whatsoever. 

Cone-shaped cylinders of solid marble join to form the perfectly proportioned DeMarco Side Table. Shown with Statuary top and White base, White top and Nero Marquina base, and White top and Verdi Nuvoloso base.

I love your DeMarco side table, it is just a perfect size and shape. How did that design come about? 

Very modernist-influenced design. The tulip table was a starting point, but we wanted something a bit more contemporary and stout.  Choosing to carve the table in solid marble was an important decision as its material presence creates a strong sense of mass and tactility.  

Can custom versions of pieces be tailored to a specific setting and do you accept custom commissions?

Yes, we generally customize all pieces, with a few exceptions, in terms of size, wood/metal options, and color options. We have also worked with several of our clients to design specific KGBL pieces for their interiors.  We are also preparing to launch a few numbered and stamped limited edition designs. 

You work with interior designers and architects all the time, can you tell us about some of the projects you have worked on recently?

There are so many but we recently worked with Victoria Hagan on a custom furniture project where she had sourced custom liquid metal coated panels in England that we helped incorporate into a custom cabinet. It turned out beautifully.

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