The seed of Khouri Guzman Bunce Lininger was planted in 1999, when designer Christiaan Bunce met David Khouri in the buildup to Bunce’s first ICFF presentation. “Following ICFF,” he says, “I began working with David’s former company Comma on furniture pieces, as well as interiors.” With Roberto Guzman, in 2008 they became Khouri Guzman Bunce Limited, officially launching a furniture line in a 3,500-square-foot West Chelsea gallery space two years later.
Taking its place alongside other lyrical and meticulously crafted brands like BassamFellows or Ralph Pucci and paving the way for younger entities like Egg Collective, accolades for KGB’s furniture collection began rolling in immediately. Yet it was 2011—again at ICFF—when the new company really gelled. There the group met Ford Lininger and, Bunce says, “we recognized that he was the missing link to completing KGB as a truly national and potentially international company.” Lininger became a partner in May 2014; redubbed KGBL and closing in on showroom openings in Dallas, San Francisco, and Toronto, it is poised to realize that more global vision. Here, Bunce describes the quartet’s philosophical and day-to-day approach to the growing business.
Name: Christiaan Bunce
Title: Principal of Khouri Guzman Bunce Lininger (KGBL)
Location: New York
How much of the studio’s time today is devoted to its architecture and interiors commissions, versus designing, manufacturing, and distributing furniture?
Ford works almost exclusively on the furniture, while the architecture and interiors command most of the time for the rest of us. As architects know, the detail required to properly put together a set of construction documents requires an inordinate amount of time. I oversee the actual construction portion of the architectural work as well as production of the furniture. Honestly, it can feel like working two full-time jobs, but there is great satisfaction in the end product.
Klaus end table
Our goal is to further develop the furniture line and ultimately grow that division of our business. While design dialogue and critique of both the architecture and furniture are vetted collectively, I think we would all like to work on the furniture more.
If you were to synopsize KGBL’s approach — its key guiding principle, for instance — what would it be?
I would say it is to offer a superior level of design, experience, and execution. Design has to be fresh and exuberant; experience tempers exuberance and offers depth within conceptualization; execution is the critical component in accurately communicating design intent.
I wonder whether your customers have the same worldview?
I think our clients all intuitively appreciate what we are trying to convey. We do our best to explain the lineage of our concepts, too. Currently our bestsellers are the Gavilan barstool and the Duran coffee table. These two pieces are formally well grounded, with subtle juxtapositions of luxurious materials. They are also straightforward from a utilitarian sense. I think those qualities are attractive to our clientele.
Overlin sofa table in bronze
The furniture builds upon a historic design vocabulary, wouldn’t you say?
I would agree with that to a point. We definitely attempt to use materials that have specific historical reference points, but I would not say that is our inspiration. Personally, I draw inspiration from the art world, and specifically artists who have mastered their craft. Hans Holbein, Charles Ray, Gerhardt Richter, James Turrell, Eva Hess, Jeff Koons. These artists personify concept, experience, and execution. I love the feeling of being in awe of others’ efforts, and these folks fit the bill for me every time.
Johansson side table
Is the KGBL furniture line adapted from one-offs created for architecture or interiors projects?
Only to a small degree. The joy of designing the KGBL line is to do it outside the bounds or constraints of architecture. Simply designing a piece that can stand on its own merits without need of being defined by its immediate surroundings or architectural programming is what we are trying to get after. That is not to say that a one-off wouldn’t creep into our showroom. It’s definitely happened, but the main thrust is to design furniture conceived purely through our individual inspirations.
Can you describe the “constraints of architecture” further?
For example, one-offs often require proportioning that doesn’t meet the standards of the KGBL line. The KGBL line tends to be distilled exclusively according to our principles.
What are your thoughts about the recent renaissance in American design and making, and where do you fit in to this phenomenon?
I have fairly strong feelings on this subject. Obviously, I have a love for well-designed objects and furniture; I’ve spent my entire adult life pursuing it. It’s great that good design gets attention in the modern media environment, but I do feel that the ubiquity of new design and designers is not necessarily a positive.
Blackburn coffee table
I believe in the formalism of education, and I personally draw deeply on the instruction in fundamental formal design that I received early on. Additionally, I believe the discipline of craft is in serious jeopardy. Age-old techniques and processes that used to be passed down are not being taught as they were, and are in jeopardy of becoming extinct. Much of this is due to modern production techniques, as well as media propagating the idea that “everyone can be a designer.”
KGBL offers its clients an extremely concise vision that is well conceived, informed, and shows commitment. We are preservationists of traditional practice, while at the same moment indulging fresh concepts toward the future. That is our niche — where we fit in. I'm proud that I have made a career out of being a designer and I support colleagues who have done the same, even if our visions might be opposite.