The founder of The Design Release, Julia Haney-Montañez, tells us the story behind the chair that helped her find her true calling.
Choosing a creative career is not an easy task. In an economic infrastructure where productivity and economic growth are the priority, education systems often find themselves encouraging pragmatic professions, such as law, finance or diplomacy, under the pretence of them leading to financial security.
London-based interior designer Julia Haney-Montañez grew up in one such education system, and though she remembers always being the happiest when making art, pursuing a creative path was never an option growing up. Instead, she graduated with a finance degree. Fast-forward ten years, and Julia is a reconverted interior designer and the founder of The Design Release—a global event calendar dedicated to design exhibitions and fairs, also serving as a consulting agency promoting design on a global scale.
Julia talked to us about Kwok Hoi Chan’s Limande armchair and how this elegant leather and metal lounge chair from the 60s opened up her eyes to the depth and possibilities of interior design, ultimately inspiring her to change careers.
In This Changed My Life, we invite creatives that inspire us to talk about a book, film, artwork, or person that changed their life.
“My design background began in my early 20s in New York City, where I graduated with a finance degree during the depths of the recession. I immediately lost my job like many people, but I was very lucky to receive a severance package which I used to move to Paris for three months, my favorite city at the time. In Paris, I connected with a friend who was opening a bakery and helped her conceptualize the shop’s design. This small project helped me develop a creative interior design process I have used ever since. During my research, I went to visit the Musée des Arts Décoratifs—the Decorative Arts Museum—next to the Louvre, which would be a huge turning point in the story of my life.”
“When exploring the museum’s permanent collection, I found their chairs exhibition, which visitors may know is a bit hard to find, so at the time, it felt like a true discovery. I was struck by how the chairs referenced a time in history—the advancements in craftsmanship, technology and materials. I was so new to this that I barely knew the most important architects also designed the most important chairs. It was a world that immediately absorbed me, and I became obsessed.”
“The piece of furniture that inspired me the most that day at Les Arts Décoratifs, and still to this day, is Kwok Hoi Chan’s Limande armchairs that he designed for Steiner in the late 1960s. These chairs are a perfect representation of design remaining contemporary. This chair could have been designed today as the scale, shape, materiality, and stature are unique, beautiful, and fresh.”
“After that visit, I would spend hours in the bookshop almost every day, soaking up everything I could about furniture history and design. I soon decided to move to Los Angeles, where my creative friends had moved from New York, and re-invent myself as an interior designer.”
“For me, the Limande chair symbolizes the excitement of change and discovery.”
“The Design Release calendar was born from a personal need to locate design exhibitions around the world. After my two-year stint in Los Angeles, one of my career-defining jobs was working for the Architectural Design Fair, an annual furniture trade show in NYC, where I was responsible for curating a section of 200 emerging artists and designers.
To convince my boss to allow me to travel to Milan, Toronto, Copenhagen, and Paris for their design weeks, I began collecting dates and information about each trade show and satellite exhibition, adding them to a spreadsheet which would then become the basis for TDR.”
“Due to its rarity, the Limande armchair is not currently part of my collection, which is mostly made up of chairs from the same decade. I hope to acquire a pair in the future. Still, when I visit Paris, I always stop into Les Arts Décoratifs to pay the chairs a visit. Sadly, the current redesign is not as beautiful as the very first time I saw the collection. However, the Limande chair is still in view, alongside one of the best institutional collections of chairs.”
“For me, the Limande chair symbolizes the excitement of change and discovery. That at whatever point you are in life or your career, there is always something new to learn and see, to never give up on absorbing information, and to truly love what you do.”
Julia Haney-Montañez is a London-based interior designer and the founder of The Design Release—a platform promoting design worldwide through a curated calendar of exhibitions and fairs. To see upcoming design events visit them here.
Illustration: Jenny Wright
Images: Reid Rolls