fenton house's please sit invites six designers to reinterpret the chair

fenton house's please sit invites six designers to reinterpret the chair

explore the history and heritage of fenton house, a 17th century merchant home in hampstead, by sitting on a series of characterful contemporary seats designed by leading creatives, including gitta gschwendtner and nina tolstrup of studio mama. called ‘please sit’, the installations inhabit the home’s rooms and grounds starting from london design festival 2019 and continuing through to spring 2020.

frith kerr’s seat in the blue porcelain room (main image also)
all images credit oskar proctor



the national trust commissioned designer gitta gschwendtner to host an engaging project that highlighted the rich heritage of fenton house. then the designer – alongside michael marriott, nina tolstrup, carl clerkin, frith kerr and maisie broadhead – selected and responded to a particular detail of their chosen room. inspiration ranged from a feature of its interior, existing furniture or the artefacts it contains. the interpretations all formed new seats, with each one visualizing a unique collision of past and present to encourage visitors to pause, sit, and reflect upon the history of the home.

gitta gschwendtner’s chair in the gardens



diverse in background and creative styles but united by a curiosity of fenton house, the designers of ‘please sit’ each found a personal way to interrupt their chosen space and reflect a story from history. inspired by a silk piece called ‘jacob’s dream’ in the rockingham room, gitta gschwendtner translated the idea of jacob’s ladder into a chair with a back that climbs from earth to heaven. the ladders, coated in either brass or gray, were also placed across the home’s gardens and orchard. nina tolstrup created a sculptural bench in solid wood, its form mimicking that of the shudi broadwood harpsichord in the dining room. the structure offers a place to sit and listen for visitors. then, in the blue porcelain room that was once a bedroom, frith kerr‘s pools of cushioning shape a highly contrasting yet comfortable bed and wall hanging installation.

gitta gschwendtner’s chair in the rockingham room



also responding to the house’s harpsichords, carl clerkin created a wingback chair integrated with speakers that talks tales of imaginary past inhabitants. maisie broadhead‘s chair is consumed by the surrounding carpet, trapping the furniture into the home. it delves into the story of fenton house’s last private owner, lady binning, a reclusive widow who mourned for her husband long after convention would demand. lastly, for the oriental room where a former occupant stored an extensive range of 43 snuff boxes and perfume bottles, michael marriott fashioned a oversized, geometric plywood chair that caters for two sitters to view the collection in privacy. each seat of interpretation not only offered new perspectives of the rooms they were situated in but also its collections and even former residents.

maisie broadhead’s chair


nina tolstrup’s chair in the dining room


carl clerkin’s seat


michael marriott’s chair in the oriental room



project info:


name: please sit

designers: maisie broadhead, carl clerkin, gitta gschwendtner, frith kerr, michael marriott, and nina tolstrup

commissioner: the national trust

dates: september 12 2019 – may 4 2020

location: fenton house, hampstead, london, UK

photography: oskar proctor

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