A rather well-heeled crowd gathers on a rainy evening at Jordans Interiors in Vancouver. The guest list, comprised mainly of design and decor enthusiasts along with interior designers, is here to meet British luxury furniture designer Christopher Guy Harrison.
Harrison is the founder and chief designer of international furnishings brand Christopher Guy, which launched with a focus on decorative mirrors, and has since grown to an impressively deep collection of all things decor. Chicly dressed in a well-cut navy blue suit, Harrison commands the showroom with his confident yet soft-spoken style, like a fine gentleman of another era—and shares his vision with a captive audience and in a private interview.
“Building a brand is all about telling a story,” he says. “Mine is about an Englishman who went to Java with a beautiful Spanish girl in 1993 with a dream, and a belief.” Harrison is referring to his first foray into design, starting with the statement-making mirrors he knew could be created in Indonesia by talented craftsmen who reside there. He and the Spanish woman have long since split up, but by 1999 he had built a one-million-square-foot facility with a beautiful Moorish design that operates as headquarters for the artists and woodworkers behind his collections.
The brand has certainly morphed over the years, and the collection on display at Jordans, for instance, is “much different than what Milan or Los Angeles retailers carry,” he says. Harrison is admired for lavish, extraordinary, slightly tongue-in-cheek pieces, like the lacquered, swirling calla lily touches on the arms of a chaise lounge, or the delicate seashell back of a feminine armchair. “But, in addition to that, design has gone in a new direction: it’s cleaner, minimal,” he explains. “The younger market wants something that is less fussy.”
Throughout the years, Harrison has continued to check in with himself, and with his personal design mantra: “What would Coco Chanel’s apartment be like today if she was still alive?” He adds that his “comfort zone is not Provencal, or Rococo, but most people would call it ‘Hollywood glamour.’” Speaking of, the Christopher Guy Design Lounge in West Hollywood, boasting 10,000 square-feet of said glamour, is a masterful showpiece of his creativity and sensibility.
Harrison’s website and social media presence are certainly part of his branding message, with made-for-digital short films keeping his fans and clients up-to-date and inspired. One example? A video shot in Venice, Italy that features his patented Chris-X (pronounced Chris Cross) chair leg design. Inspired by the wasp waistline of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind and paired with the crossed legs of a ballerina, the look is quintessential Christopher Guy.
Harrison’s furniture has shared screen time with celebrities in numerous feature films, including Casino Royale, The Devil Wears Prada, and Ocean’s Thirteen, and is part of the decor at hotels such as The Savoy in London and some The Ritz-Carlton locations.
So, at this point in his own story, is there a design coup that has stood out? Perhaps most impressive is his undertaking of the renovation of iconic Harrods department store’s rooftop restaurant, The Georgian, in London. “It was so special to be asked,” he says of taking on the 1913-built restaurant that hasn’t been refurbished in some 25 years. “I used to do interior design years ago and rarely do it now. Just too much going on and no time to do it.” Harrison grew up having tea with his family at The Georgian on a regular basis, certainly not knowing as a boy that he would one day be part of the evolution of such an historic property.
To be tapped to tackle the redesign as one of Britain’s best in the business? “It was a dream come true for me.”