Modern Love- Design company BassamFellows’ furniture featured on “Billions”
When water from a broken sprinkler damaged much of the historically significant Philip Johnson building, there was considerable debate about what to do about it. Built in 1952, this was the first commercial structure designed by the post-modernist architect who is well known for his Glass House in New Canaan. The damage was extensive and restoration would be costly, but tearing it down would be wiping out a part of history.
Then in stepped architect Craig Bassam and creative director Scott Fellows. Their craftsman modern design company BassamFellows had already made their peers sit up and take notice when they were introduced at the Milan Furniture Show in 2003. Amid the sea of plastic known to dominate the modern-furniture world, BassamFellows introduced modern pieces shaped from traditional materials like glass, solid wood, and stone and were among the first to embrace the craft modern movement coming from the U.S.
Bassam and Fellows met while working together on the Bally project in Switzerland, which involved a redo of the brand and the store. Combining their backgrounds—Bassam’s in architecture, and Fellows’ in luxury branding and design—they created a company that they hoped would combine the sleek modern look they favored with materials that were classic and timeless. Their furnishings including their wood frame lounge chair, salon club chair, and circular coffee table are all featured in the current season of “Billions.”
Bassam and Fellows live in the Hodgson—a Philip Johnson designed house on the National Registry that they restored. They had heard that he had that his first commercial building was somewhere in Connecticut, but could not find out where. They believe the secrecy surrounding the building’s location had to do with the high-security research work done there by Schlumberger.
It was Fellows’ family that finally solved the mystery while touring the Lounsbury House. A chance comment about their son’s home led the guide to tell them about the Philip Johnson building. The two immediately tried to drive up the driveway to get a glimpse of the building, but were turned away by guards.
Later, when the property went up for sale, they inquired into buying the building, but Schlumberger did not want to break up the property. When the town purchased the property they kept in touch with First Select-man Rudy Marconi.
When the building was all but destroyed, Bassam and Fellows struck a deal with the town to restore it, preserving as much of the original structure as possible, in exchange for $1-per-year rent. The town would get to save the historic building, reap the tax benefits, and still control what would happen on the property. The two would get the ideal world headquarters for BassamFellows.
They could immediately see the potential of the extensively damaged building. The original one-story, steel, brick, and glass structure had offices organized around a central atrium and open concept meeting areas. They were amazed at how well much of the building withstood the water damage. After extensive cleaning, they were able to save the magnetic chalkboard walls found in every office, now a great place to hang design storyboards. The original iron-spot glazed brick found throughout was cleaned and now offers a pristine and glistening focal point throughout.
Original oak doors had to be stripped numerous times and then whitewashed for an airy, timeless look. Original skylights lining the perimeter of the building were preserved as was the original lighting—replacing the bulbs with LEDs for more efficiency. The effect is nothing short of dazzling.
Bassam and Fellows paid as much attention to functionality and comfort as they did to design. Desks can be raised and lowered to offer a sitting or standing option. Handsome sink-into leather chairs, carpets thick enough to nap on, and exquisite tables—all furnishings designed by BassamFellows to represent their philosophy that furniture should be beautiful, comfortable, and timeless. The renovation took 18 months and is a testament to the consideration they give to their projects. Their high-end designs and furnishings can be seen worldwide in private residences as well as in commercial spaces.
For BassamFellows, it was about “making something beautiful for the long term.”
“This building is so important for us—we could see this as being new, contemporary, and highly relevant,” says Scott Fellows. “We love and embrace its historic aspects, as well. We believe furnish- ings should last generations,” adds Craig Bassam.