Elysee Palace, Delano Hotel, and the renowned Asahi Beer Hall are just some of the renowned venues that showcase designer Philippe Starck’s trademark designs. Starck’s design aesthetic is not only beautiful, but centers a sense of play in material and function.

Yet Starck does not limit himself to working on architectural endeavors. In more recent years, his design scope widened to include furniture and objects, culminating in one of his most identifiable and influential designs: The Ghost Chair.

Photo by Michael Sinclair for House & Garden

Historically Inspired, Modern Made

Beginning his career designing Parisian nightclubs in the early 1980s, Philippe Starck’s influence on design has since spread to various everyday and luxury objects that most people may take for granted. Working across a variety of companies and inspirations, ranging from watches with Fossil to luggage with Samsonite, Starck’s signature has always been a fantastical reimagining of classic design.

Taking cues from contemporaries Cini Boeri and Tomu Katyanagi’s Ghost Lounge chair, Philippe Starck played with a similar concept in reinterpreting a landmark furniture design in the Louis XVI lounge chair. Collaborating with Kartell, Starck began work on what would be a series of single-piece plastic molded ghost chairs, with the intention that the Kartell Louis Ghost Chair would be the standout piece of the collection.

With the 2002 collection technically starting from the first Kartell Ghost Chair known as La Marie, Starck’s design on the Louis Ghost chair remains one of his most popular due to its baroque silhouette, flexibility, and overall simplicity in both indoor and outdoor settings. Starck’s blend of modern design techniques with classical inspiration would echo in the years to come.

Photo via Kartell

Sustainability in Practice

A key feature of his collaboration with Kartell furniture was Starck’s room to explore practices of sustainability. While many of his like-minded contemporaries focused on natural materials like corks and fibers, Starck wanted to keep his designs grounded in affordability and practicality.

Within this understanding of sustainability, Philippe Starck endeavored to create a product that would be easier to develop versus the contemporary requirement to cut down wood or treat animal hide. As such, Starck made the Louis Ghost Chair out of a single piece of molded plastic, requiring no additional joints or hinges to preserve structural integrity and shape.

Despite being made out of a synthetic material like lucite, it was Starck’s idea that this usage of a transparent and sturdy plexiglass material would allow the Louis Ghost Chair to maintain usability in various scenarios, like indoor or outdoor staging, or thematic design for the room. Years later, the same technique is still proven popular with mainstream retailers offering productions such as IKEA’s Stein Chair.

Photo by Courtney Apple, featuring the home of Lance DeWalt and Quoc Nguyen

Flexible Design and Usage

Philippe Starck developed The Louis Ghost Chair in his vision for standard, daily items remixed with concern for fun, form, and function within an individual’s life. While the original Louis Ghost Chair was developed in transparent lucite, newer editions of the Louis Ghost Chair come in a range of colors. Today’s Louis Ghost Chair has gone beyond a simple phantasmal addition to your home, to one with a bold effect on the room that still meshes with the existing decoration.

Still, what makes the original Louis Ghost Chair a timeless piece of furniture is its ability to blend with a number of surroundings. The clear lucite design molded in Victorian fashion is in harmony with haute, classic designs as well as residential settings, in dining rooms and studies. Indeed, the Louis Ghost Chair remains one of the safest ways to introduce a contemporary air within your home without detracting from the overall motif.

But its decorative qualities outdoors elevate the Louis Ghost Chair to a special arena in furniture design, as the clear molded frame allows ambient light to shine through it to stunning effect. The Louis Ghost Chair has a knack for making staple, outdoor furniture items pop while dispersing dramatic light around a patio or lanai. The durable plexiglass also allows it to be used in various external conditions, as you won’t need to worry about heat or cold affecting any loose joints and bolts.

I didnʼt really have to design the ‘Louis Ghost’ chair, because it is part of our western shared memory. It basically designed itself. Itʼs a Ê»Louis somethingʼ, we donʼt know what, but everyone recognises it and it looks familiar. Itʼs here when you want to see it, and you can mix it if you want to be discrete.

— Philippe Starck

The Ghost Chair Remains

It’s highly likely you’ve passed by the Philipe Starck-Kartell Ghost Chair without realizing its impact on design and furniture functionality. Despite its creation 20 years ago, the Louis Ghost Chair and its sister pieces like the Victoria Ghost Chairs and baby Lou Lou Ghost Chairs remain the most imitated and sought-after pieces for those looking for flexibility and charm. Keep an eye out for these chairs as well as their accompanying complimentary furniture series when thinking about your next room design.

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