Market Talent: The Man Behind the Myth
Karen D. Singh, Alexia Brue, and Sheila Kim-Jamet -- Interior Design, 9/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Finding out there is no real-life personality behind Kirk Brummel is a little like realizing the truth about Santa Claus: Neither exists, yet both deliver the goods. The myth began when Richard Kirkham and Michael Brummel founded a company to make hand-printed fabric and wallpaper in 1966. Wovens were introduced in the 1970's, and the name and distribution rights were acquired in 2004 by Brunschwig & Fils, which named Brummel director of design. (Kirkham had been bought out in the mid-90's.)
A Michigan native, Brummel was naturally familiar with Charles and Ray Eames, T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, George Nelson, Gilbert Rohde, and other designers working in the state. Brummel aug mented this native education with European excursions, which introduced him to the Wiener Werkstätte and art moderne. Settling in the 1950's in New York, he developed an appetite for graphic patterns, abstract forms, and bravura color. Velvet jacquard Feuillagi features an abstract pattern from 1930, while the cut-velvet Zoe replicates a French pattern from 1932. His trademark blending of hand-printing and lavish patterning can be seen in the five-toed dragon of Manchu. And Avatar was inspired by the abstract paintings of Lawrence Chvotzkin, an artist who also designed rugs for Edward Fields. Despite surface differences between Brummel's collections, they harmonize across the years. Designed in the 1970's and '80's, gray-and-white Illusion Fret, chartreuse-and-black Staccato, and orange-and-white Shawnee all work with black flocked Satellite, introduced in 2008.
"The industry has changed since I entered it," he says. "Many hand-print companies either merged or were absorbed by large ones, partly due to escalating real-estate costs. The increasing accessibility and demand for goods from Asia has also influenced the domestic and European market." Brummel, however, remains unflappable in the face of such change. He can have confidence that his devotees, like those of St. Nick, will keep the faith. 800-538-1880; brunschwig.com. circle 426