It’s a fine art constructing furniture with a personality of its own, but one mastered by Caracole. It’s their mission as a design house. Rather than shying away in a space, the young American brand knows how to craft luxurious furniture that is teeming with character.
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There are a number of ingredients at play in creating these characterful designs. Firstly, Caracole’s manufacturing process is steeped in care and consideration, matching rich materials with expert craftsmanship. Simultaneously, their wares seek to deliver a ‘wow’ moment, softening high-end with a sense of playfulness. Finally, the all American brand puts a twist on the classics, lending traditional design tropes a contemporary edge.
Caracole’s ‘old meets new’ aesthetic runs deep; it’s the inspiration behind the brand name. In the competitive world of equestrian dressage, ‘caracole’ is the term used to describe the moment the horse and rider deliver a half turn. This pivot is echoed in Caracole’s design ethos. ‘To us, Caracole represents taking your home in a beautiful new direction,’ the brand explains. It signifies a turning tide in luxury furniture design, where the sentiments of the classics are reinterpreted for a modern consumer.
Perhaps this affinity with classical design stems from Caracole’s pedigree. Behind the brand is the American furniture manufacturer Schnadig, whose foundations in the industry date back to the 19th century. Intended as a contemporary offshoot of the trusted home furnishing company, Caracole was established in North Carolina in 2009. ‘When we were starting to create the concept of what Caracole would be, we thought about the things that would make us unique and different from the other 18,000 furniture brands out there in the world,’ says Melanie Dunn, Caracole’s Product Design Specialist.
The team is based in the city of Greensboro, which is known for its textile industry. There, the designers pool ideas, pulling inspiration from sources high and low. Furniture designer Christopher Sandomenico first started designing for Schnadig in 2002, before joining Caracole in its founding years. He is drawn to exquisite antiques, architecture and furniture movements as a basis for his sketches. Dunn, meanwhile, often finds herself going back to her roots. ‘I was born and raised in Florida, and water, I have noticed, has become a very prevalent element that I’ve incorporated into a lot of designs here at Caracole.’
The brand has a global market, selling in 40 countries around the world, so it may come as no surprise that the design team frequently turns to the globe itself as a means of inspiration. ’Travelling is the quintessential way of gathering inspiration. That inspiration then translates into a piece of furniture,’ Dunn explains. Look closely at their distinguished designs and discover beautiful references to the histories and cultures of the world. Latticed frameworks hint at the magnificent facades of Gothic and Renaissance churches. Elsewhere you’ll spot whispers of art deco or a gilded nod to Chinoiserie.
These ideas start to grow wings when the designers and upholstery team come together, collaborating and comparing sketches and themes. Next comes the manufacturing, selecting the materials and finishes that will breathe life into their sketches. ‘We start playing with all these fun materials, it's like having a treasure chest of materials,’ Dunn says. Rich mahogany and creamy pinewood are cut down and sanded to a smooth finish. Glass, both tempered and mirrored, adds a flash here, while there, blocks of marble or granite lend a coolness. The softness of touch is crucial. goose down, silks and supple velvet are introduced to designs across the Caracole range.
Down to the finish, each design is enveloped in luxury, with the likes or patinas and hand-painting elevating a bombe chest or a table to a work of art. The introduction of Caracole Couture was another turning point in these refined design finishes, giving clients the opportunity to choose between hundreds of fabrics and put their signature on the Caracole silhouette. ‘We feel like every piece of Caracole furniture has its own special, unique personality,’ says Dunn.
Each piece is given a playful name, reflecting the joie de vivre at the essence of the brand. The Bomb-Shell Sideboard has an exterior coated in pearlescent stacked shells. A silkscreen technique is used to create a delicate pattern of intertwining foliage on the A New Leaf drinks cabinet. Swarovski crystals wink as you walk past the Awesome Blossom chest of drawers, the gems set against a painterly stretch of gold leaf.
Inevitably, the relatively young brand has earned accolades aplenty. Sandomenico received Pinnacle Awards in 2013 and 2018. The Caracole Black Beauty Chair was presented the top award in the Stationary Upholstery category, thanks to its clever reinterpretation of classic Windsor styling.
Similarly, the Pop Your Collar Chair was awarded in the same category. Judges fawned over the application of chocolate plum satin to the chair’s sculpted frame, which was inspired by the glamour of the Hollywood Regency era.
Visit high-end spaces internationally—beautiful hotels and resorts, as well as guest rooms, suites and public spaces—and you'll see Caracole’s wares. The small screen also hosts Caracole’s designs, with the herringbone-patterned Ice Breaker chair embellishing the set of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.
Charismatic to the core, Caracole’s approach to furniture design is one of valour and verve. As Dunn says: "We started Caracole just over 10 years ago, and our goal in creating a new brand was to do something really out of the box, breaking all of the rules and the boundaries that we have typically adhered to." Without a doubt, their mission has been accomplished.