Design

Iconic French furniture store from “before Abraham Lincoln” – Ligne Roset – opens in Ottawa

Oh what a covetable collection of home furnishings — from the iconic Togo sofa (so comfy!) to the wonderfully whacky Lines bookshelf. Legendary French furniture house Ligne Roset now has a dedicated shop in Old Ottawa South filled with furniture, lighting, and accessories by top designers from around Europe and beyond.

Inside the new Ligne Roset store in Old Ottawa South (1165 Bank St.)
Inside the new Ligne Roset store in Old Ottawa South (1165 Bank St.)

Exciting times for Alteriors owners Monika Durczak and Jake Visutskie, who now own two furniture stores: Ligne Roset (1165 Bank St.) and, just across the road, Alteriors (158 Bank St.).

Inside the new Ligne Roset store in Old Ottawa South (1165 Bank St.)
Inside the new Ligne Roset store in Old Ottawa South (1165 Bank St.)

On June 8, Antoine Roset, executive vice-president of Ligne Roset USA, came to town for the official launch party for Ligne Roset’s newest store. OM sat down for a tête-à-tête with the great-great grandson of the founder just ahead of the festivities.

Inside the new Ligne Roset store in Old Ottawa South (1165 Bank St.)
Inside the new Ligne Roset store in Old Ottawa South (1165 Bank St.)

How did Ligne Roset come to form a partnership with Jake [Visutskie] and Monika [Durczak]?

Jake: Ligne Roset was one of our top three best-selling brands already and it has such a history and brand recognition. We knew if we could show more pieces, people would be really excited.

Monika: Jake and I decided that by having two stores we could dedicate one to Ligne Roset and give it the visibility it deserves.

Antoine: We have a really large selection and the more space you have to show it off, the easier it is for clients to understand the collection, feel the quality, and to choose their favourites. And they can sit on each of the sofas! The more you can see and try, the better.

Executive vice president Antoine Roset travelled to Ottawa for the store launch. Photo credit: Aude Adrien
Executive vice president Antoine Roset travelled to Ottawa for the store launch. Photo credit: Aude Adrien

So you want people to sit down and get comfy.

Antoine: Yes, of course. People have no problem test-driving a car before they buy it. The more chairs and sofas you can sit on, the better it is.

Why do you think the Ligne Roset name remains iconic?

We’re still a family business, which is very rare among big European companies. We own 100 percent of Ligne Roset so it’s really only four people — my father, my uncle, my cousin, and I making the big decisions about the future of the company. We don’t have to compromise. The DNA that we’ve had for more than 150 years is still the same — we’re anti-conformist, we control the entire process, and we can take design risks.

Comfy and stylish, Togo, introduced in the early 1970s, is Ligne Roset's best-selling design
Comfy and stylish, Togo, introduced in the early 1970s, is Ligne Roset’s best-selling design

Can you give me an example of a design risk that has paid off?

So if you go back to the early 1970s, that’s when we introduced the Togo sofa — 40 years later it is still our bestselling sofa. It was breaking all the rules. In Europe at the time, everyone had either Scandinavian- or French-style furniture — everything had a frame and legs.

And then designer Michel Ducaroy comes up with a sofa that doesn’t have much structure and has no legs. It’s just made of pieces foam glued together. When we took it to the furniture fair in Paris, the experts said to my grandfather, “We can see the innovation, but you’re missing the frame and legs!” It took 2-3 years before it actually began to sell. Fortunately my grandfather was confident, so he kept it in production and continued to push. Today, it’s our best-seller.

It’s proof for us that you must always be innovating. You have to push for designs you believe in.

Ploum was an immediate success despite being launched during the recession of the late 2000s
Ploum was an immediate success despite being launched during the recession of the late 2000s

It’s strange to think that Ligne Roset was pushing design boundaries before the founding of Canada.

When I tell people that we created our company just before Abraham Lincoln became the president of the US, they can’t believe it!

That history must influence so much of how you design.

It does. We have such a long timeline of cultural reference, which is hard to describe but very much influences European ideas and design.

How many designers does Ligne Roset work with now?

We have a portfolio of over 100 designers worldwide working freelance. The idea of the Ligne Roset brand is to have different designers and styles that work together in a collection.

We’re working with quite a few young designers right now. Young designers like to push — to take chances.

What’s it like growing up as part of a storied ‘brand’?

It’s definitely in my blood. The brand is part of me. I grew up in the factory, jumping on the foam and getting into trouble. The family is part of the company and the company is part of the family.

The Ruché line got its name from the sewing technique in which fabric is gathered and pleated
The Ruché line got its name from the sewing technique in which fabric is gathered and pleated

Just out of curiosity — which sofa do you have in your own home?

The Togo. I moved recently, so it’s still new for me. In my last home I had the Ploum sofa. Before that, I had the Facett.

You’ve been in New York for a decade now. Is it still a thrill to open a new retail store?

Antoine: Always. Each new store is a new human relationship; a new family — we gain the trust of the market and people get to understand our brand. It’s also an opportunity to offer more and better services.