The 2019 Champagne Chair Contest is in the books with five winners this year, including one who captured the inaugural Pommery Prize, named for the contest’s champagne sponsor.
First place in the best original design category went to Mark McPhee for his OL’ CHAMPagne Chair; second place was awarded to Jason Costanzo for his Flint Chair; and third place was given to Stacey Franchina for her Slug Chair. Jung Soo Park won in the best likeness category for his nod to the Eames Elephant (1945), and Melissa Mohring won the Pommery Prize.
According to the rules of the contest, which was in its 15th year this time around, designers are allowed to use only the wire, cork, foil and label from no more than two bottles of champagne or sparkling wine to construct their chairs. Nothing, however, requires them to use all of those materials. Pommery Prize competitors followed the same rules but were required to use material from that brand’s bottles to be eligible. The two top winners took home $1,500 DWR gift cards, and second and third place finishers received $750 and $500 cards, respectively. Winners were selected by a panel of design experts at a judging and celebration held January 31 at the DWR SoHo Studio.
For McPhee, of Redmond, Washington, it was the second first-place finish in a row, and the second time he drew inspiration from children’s seating. Last year’s winner, Champagne Playground, was inspired by the cast-metal animals found in parks and mounted on springs; this year, a rocking horse was his model.
Costanzo, a visual artist and “maker of sorts” from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, drew inspiration from a combination of the Bubble Chair by Eero Aarnio and the papasan chair. “I was also inspired by Derek Flint, played by James Coburn,” Costanzo says, referring to the 1960s espionage-film series that began with In Like Flint. “I feel like my chair would be one an international spy would want to sit in. So from now on it will be known as the Flint Chair.” He took a purist approach and forwent the use of adhesives, laser cutters, cheese graters and CAD software, and he came away with a pro tip: “Sandpaper is your best friend,” he says.
Third-place finisher Stacey Franchina of Brooklyn was inspired by 1970s cane furniture. “But I think the piece ended up looking more like something out of the movie Beetlejuice.” A professional jewelry designer, Franchina used a jeweler’s saw, rotary tools, files and sandpaper to sculpt the cork seat, and parallel pliers to straighten the wire. “My initial sketch outlined a more rigid chair,” she says, “but once I started to carve into the cork, I saw an organic shape take hold that I decided to run with.” Franchina is a fan of filmmaker Wes Anderson and a “sucker for anything tufted.”
Park, winner of the best likeness prize, challenged himself to abandon cork and wire altogether. “I originally set out to build the Eames Elephant with just the gold foil, but I noticed that a lot of underside is also very exposed,” says Park, a graduate of Pratt Institute and an industrial designer by trade. “Instead of leaving the underside bare, I thought of using the bright orange label as a pop color to make it more playful. It worked out great as the label still had the tacky residue after I took it off the bottle, and it was ready to be adhered to the foil without any added glue.” Park naturally cites Charles and Ray Eames among his admired designers. “But Jaime Hayon is my favorite,” he says. “His Monkey Side Table is perfectly whimsical and functional at the same time.”