Chris Connell <em>Altar</em> 2021; stainless steel frame, aerospace aluminium honeycomb substrate, porcelain tiles, under glaze stain, under glaze pencil. Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2022<br/>
© Chris Connell. Photo: Earl Carter

Chris Connell

Chris Connell
(b. 1955, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Chris Connell’s multidisciplinary design practice includes architecture, interiors, furniture and objects. In a career spanning more than forty years, Connell’s designs have become renowned for their simplicity, functionality and attention to detail. He has been the director of Chris Connell Design and co-founder of MAP International Furniture since 1988.

Connell’s table Altar, designed in 2021 and manufactured in 2022, was created in response to Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdowns. When Melburnians could not leave their homes, tables were required to perform multiple functions: ‘I came to the table to eat, design, entertain, dream, discuss, cry and even pray’, explains Connell. Supported by a stainless-steel and aluminium frame, Altar’s porcelain surface is constructed with tiles that the designer painted by hand. For Connell, these symbols represent moments of seeking refuge, retreat and reflection. A loaf of bread, bottle of wine, plate of fish and bowl of fruit show the table as a site for gathering, feasting and communing with loved ones. Connell adds illustrations of the primary tools in his creative and professional practices – a mobile phone, laptop, sketchbook and pen – which during lockdowns were conducted in the same place where he ate and entertained. This everyday item of furniture is transformed into a still life that captures our search for stability and connection during a time of great uncertainty.

Connell has designed some of Melbourne’s most loved hospitality spaces, including Caffe e Cucina in South Yarra, Mr Wolf in St Kilda, and Il Bacaro, Dukes and ACMI’s Hero in the CBD. Altar was shortlisted for the 2022 Australian Furniture Design Award. The same year, Chris Connell Design received an honourable mention in The Design Studio category at the INDE.Awards and won The Social Space category for the ACMI Hero project in 2021, which was also commended in that year’s Australian Interior Design Awards. Connell has been inducted into the Eat Drink Design Awards Hall of Fame for Il Bacaro (2016), won Designer of the Year at Denfair (2015) and received the Interior Design Excellence Awards’ Gold Medal (2014). His Pepe chair, designed for MAP in 1992, is held in the permanent collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art.