Some painters prefer photographs as their medium of choice, rewriting the celluloids with bursts of color. Others, with the public eye in their mind, find spaces outdoors—buildings, structures, even already existing works—and many, of course, favor the traditional canvas, saving their imagination for the brush. For painter turned designer Annabell P. Lee, denim is her preferred agent—at least when it comes to making couches. Born in New York and currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts, the process-based artist established her signature cheer-y, cheeky look by coating hand-washed gingham in vibrants dyes, which she then renders into jazzy corsets, box-y tees, and fantastic sweatpants. For her first large-scale furniture project two years ago Lee painted over 50 yards of denim to create a gigantic, modular buffet of textiles. Her most recent work, a custom '70s-esque loveseat for fashion brand Ganni's new Flatiron New York boutique continues her techniques via dye painted cotton denim while echoing her personality-driven design. Topped by a layer of foam and dacron, a pair of matching standard and star-shaped cushions are the pièces de résistance, which were hand-painted by the artist on cotton denim with dye, inserts, and vintage buttons. Altogether, the patchwork assortment, she says, was designed to be a "backdrop for people to pose with their Ganni gear on."
JOSHUA GLASS: I imagine your process for designing furniture is a different than how you create clothing. What was the timline like for this project?
ANNABELL P. LEE: Ganni reached out and asked if I could make a loveseat for their new store in 10 days. Usually one couch takes me around two months to make. It was an exciting challenge. I started making samples and calls the second I got the email. Living in a small town, getting materials quickly can be difficult, but it all came together in the end. It felt like Project Runway!
JG: Was there a specific inspiration?
APL: The original desire was to have my paintings exist on a couch. The design of the seats came second. The shape is inspired by '70s modular couches and conversation pits. I wanted to make something colorful and playful for Ganni to match their space.
JG: As this isn't your first collaboration, what made this experience memorable?
APL: I drove the couch down to New York from my studio, and dropped it off at the new Flatiron store. I ended up staying there for a few hours just taking photos and hanging out with the staff at the, having a blast. Despite being a large brand with many stores, Ganni really creates a unique environment that feels comfortable and fun.
JG: Creating for an existing space is different than making a custom order, how did you want the loveseat to interact with the rest of the store?
APL: I was hoping to create a fun backdrop for people to pose with their Ganni gear on! The seats are low to the ground to make it feel less formal. I also added a pile of pillows on top to make it even cozier. It felt different to create seating for such a colorful space. I’m very picky about the dyes I paint with so it was a new challenge to work with an existing color palate.
JG: Why do you think people—particularly on the Internet—are so obsessed with eccentric seating?
APL: Instagram really serves as a mood board. It’s an easy way to collect your inspirations and plan out your dream interiors. It also gives a platform for artists to share their unique furniture with the world.
Annabell P. Lee's lovseat is now at Ganni's Flatiron store at 150 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011.