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If ELLE DECOR A-List designer Rafael de Cárdenas is not quite a household name, it may be because four walls can’t contain the architect and designer’s prodigious talent. His is a name often dropped at cocktail parties—shorthand for design with a global perspective and studied sensuality. Since founding his eponymous firm in 2006 in Manhattan’s Chinatown, de Cárdenas has worked his magic on everything from yachts to villas, retail boutiques, and city apartments.
Today, de Cárdenas launches his first furniture collection with a capsule line for Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. With influences as disparate as 1940s French Art Deco and Demi Moore’s apartment in the 1985 film St. Elmo’s Fire, the collection lends itself to the idiosyncrasies of city life while appealing to this all-American, North Carolina–based brand’s loyal customer base.
“The foundation of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is celebrating individuals for being individuals,” says Allison O’Connor, MG+BW’s president and CEO. “That’s what I love about Rafael’s work. It helps consumers to see the brand in an innovative way. It feels lived-in and it feels personal, but it is modern and contemporary in the same light.”
De Cárdenas’s designs don’t break the mold so much as refine it; he worked with MG+BW’s artisans on the factory floor to finesse details such as piping and seat height. The goal was to “evoke the zeitgeist with a light touch,” he says. A headboard has optional wings, for instance, and versatile ottomans come in varying sizes and graphic patterns. “It was exciting to think about what feels true to the brand while finding a wider appeal,” de Cárdenas says. “The audience for this collection needs to see themselves in it.”
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