Leave It To A Former Stylist To Design Your Dream Furniture

Photo: Courtesy Baker.
Kara Mann is walking me through the new Milling Road collection she's designed for Baker furniture. Clad in head-to-toe black, a bejeweled tiger strewn across the back of her cropped satin bomber jacket, Mann confides that she starts each day with Refinery29 as we ooh and ahh at each new chair, table, and objet in the impressive lineup.

The Chicago-bred designer's work has drama in spades, which makes sense when you consider that Mann got her start as a fashion stylist. Each of the 54 pieces is quietly impressive, with an almost monastic elegance that demands a closer look. Red leather is wrapped around the antique bronze frame of the Sling Chair; the Lust Chest is finished in oil-rubbed bronze; traditional caning is offered in blackened walnut in a sharp, geometric silhouette. This is furniture that begs to be touched; a Fifty Shades of Grey allusion wouldn't be entirely off the mark.
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Photo: Courtesy Baker.
Baker gave Mann carte blanche to update the line as a stand-alone offering, its pedigreed factory executing her vision to a T. (At the time of my visit, an order for the Kuwaiti royal family was in production in Baker's workroom, to provide some perspective.) "I think there is always a tension in my work — between sophistication and edge, classicism and irreverence, feminine and masculine," she tells us. "This is true of the line, as well, because I wanted [the furniture] to work for different types of people in a variety of settings. The whole line is a series of archetypal forms, classic patterns, sharp details, and muted colors that we’ve infused with a sense of modernity."
Photo: Courtesy Baker.
But the collection isn't simply a revved-up take on tradition. It's "sexy granny," I offer, and the team agrees that's not a far cry from its intention — a svelte collection that lures the viewer in with familiarity and then kicks it up a notch or two to captivate a younger, fresher audience. The price points are right in line with that mission, and the versatility of the line speaks to its evergreen appeal.

"I spend an enormous amount of time observing how [my clients] live, work, and entertain, and trying to understand the dynamic of home and family entertaining," says Mann. "We want our designs to support and amplify their lives. That is the measure of our success."
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