Furniture designer Nika Zupanc
The art of the investment buy, courtesy of the designer behind some of decor’s most covetable collaborations.
For someone who designs furniture for a living, Nika Zupanc has a curious attitude when it comes to possessions. “I am not attached to objects,” says the Slovenian with a shrug when we meet up with her in Toronto. “I like very empty spaces. I like nature. I like to be able to breathe, and I think that comes from my life philosophy of not being very attached to material things.”
But do not misunderstand Zupanc: This much-feted product designer, who has collaborated with the likes of Dior, fully endorses the life-changing magic of a really beautiful sofa. “I like to say that furniture creates the stage for your life; the things you own should emanate not from where you are in life now but where you want to be,” she says, offering the decor version of “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”
She continues in her accented, slightly imperfect English. “You’re building your identity when you choose your furniture, just like when you choose your clothes,” says Zupanc. “More important, you are creating the emotional state for yourself and other people, so it’s extremely important that you choose your furniture wisely.”
We sat down with Zupanc in a quiet room in a Toronto convention centre. Upstairs, the finishing touches are being put on vendor booths at the Interior Design Show, where she is set to give a talk later that night. She’s also at the annual expo to showcase her latest collection with British interior brand Sé. “I created this collection to look like it was from a movie made by Tom Ford,” says Zupanc of the assorted chairs, sofas, lamps and accessories. “I wanted to work with very beautiful materials in a simple way, to get a sort of elegance.” “Elegant” can also be used to describe Zupanc herself, who is wearing a leather jacket and a large flower brooch that could look a bit “try hard,” but on her, thanks to her excellent posture and general European-ness, looks incredibly chic.
NIKA'S GREATEST HITS
From left to right: Miss Dior Chair, Pride Mirror, Stay Armchair, Lolita Lam
Zupanc has actually made a career out of taking something that could be considered a bit tacky (the “bow” chair she created for Miss Dior is a perfect example) and, using the power of clean lines and clever construction, transforming the kitschy into the heirloom-worthy. Many have described this as a “feminine” aesthetic, and certainly this latest collection is heavy on sinuous curves, softly burnished details and upholstery in a millennial-approved rainbow of soft pastels. Zupanc, however, prefers other adjectives. “I don’t see it as very feminine,” she responds. “I would rather say that it’s very poetic, or very elegant, or perhaps very beautiful, which is not necessarily very feminine.” In fact, she says, the essence of her work is the functionality of those comfortable-yet-beautiful dining-room chairs you expect from her.
“It’s great to invest in objects that have a lasting value, things that won’t be thrown away next year or are trashy or trendy,” she says. “Buy things that have a long life.”
Inspired by Nika's style? Click here for poetic and elegant pieces your home needs now.
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of ELLE Canada.