Power group of Charlotte designers join talents in new line
CINDY SMITH BEGAN to get bored. After years of working with on-trend neutral designs, the designer was looking for more options. “I wanted to express a little more versatility out there,” says Smith, who co-owns two Circa Interiors locations—one in Charlotte, the other in Birmingham—with Jane Schwab. “Not everything has to be so basic.” To create exactly what she had in mind, she envisioned a collaboration of designers whose work she loved and respected. After reaching out to good friend and architect Bobby McAlpine, Smith began coordinating a round table with other architects and designers to brainstorm a collection of pieces—sofas, chaises, dining chairs, and more—that exemplified the bold and luxurious take on classic pieces Smith wanted to achieve.
This spring, Catbird Collection—a high-end take on traditional staples—debuted with 18 pieces, each designed by Smith and her colleagues, all manufactured in High Point. Here, Smith and architect Ken Pursley of Pursley Dixon Architecture, one of the designers behind Catbird Collection, dish on the design process and more.
How did Catbird Collection come about?
Cindy Smith: The idea came to me to have a collaboration with people who are very creative and inspire me and have them create something—a chair, a sofa—something you could design a room around. It’s that starting piece that gives the room some personality and spark.
What was your first step to starting the collaboration?
CS: I called some of my favorites, [architect Bobby McAlpine of McAlpine Tankersley Architecture, Ken Pursley of Pursley Dixon Architecture, Emily Bourgeoisie of Bourgeoisie Inc., Jeremy Corkern and Paul Bates of Bates Corkern Studio, Susan Ferrier of McAlpine Booth Ferrier Interiors, and designer Jane Schwab, also with Circa Interiors], and they were ecstatic.
Most of them knew of each other and knew it would be a very enjoyable process to collaborate with one another and brainstorm ideas back and forth. All of these designers have their own credible following and businesses, so it’s wonderful they would take the time to do this.
Ken, what was your first thought when Cindy approached you about working on this collection?
Ken Pursley: I considered it an honor. Cindy is so well-regarded in the design industry that I jumped at the opportunity to work with her. She is a rare combination of grace, vision, and drive.
What was it like collaborating with this group of designers and architects?
KP: It is a talented and supportive group. During our design charrettes, it was exciting to watch ideas and comments build on one another. There is also such an intertwined history between all the members. [It was] also nice to use this as an opportunity to reconnect on a personal level.
How would you describe Catbird Collection’s aesthetic?
KP: That beauty does not have to be at the expense of comfort, and vice versa. Each piece is thoughtfully proportioned and detailed to be interesting, whether seen as an object in space or a resting place to enjoy a cocktail. I think all the members of the Catbird team share this common perspective.
CS: It’s very sophisticated. It’s very practical and thoughtful. Even though they’re elegant pieces, they’re based on tradition—they all have a traditional element but an up-to-date, modern edge.
Why do you think people will be drawn to this line? What makes it stand apart from other higher-end furniture lines?
KP: I think the degree of design integrity that goes into each piece makes it unique. By having each designer start with one piece and refine it, we are avoiding the mass production mentality so prevalent in the industry. I also think it is unique in that it is a design collaborative. Other furniture lines commission individual designers to design individual pieces, but this is the only furniture line I know of resulting from the coming together of leading thinkers in the design industry to produce products.
What can someone expect from the line in terms of fabrics and color palette?
CS: All of the fabrics are luxurious—silk, linen, mohair, velvet. They offer people something outside of something basic.
The color palette consists of very rich, strong colors: charcoal, olive green, and mustard gold. There are plenty of pieces that already exist in the marketplace that are neutral and versatile. I’m trying to reach out and say there are other options and other ways to express yourself.
What is your favorite piece from the collection?
CS: They’re all so unique, that’s like picking one of your children. I can honestly say, even the one I designed is beautiful, but it’s not one I’d pick above the others. I have no favorites. KP: It is hard to pick one. I like them all for different reasons. I think that is what makes this line of furniture so special.