Riding The Wave: Meet Switzerland’s Most Outrageous Design House

They are the furniture equivalent of brutalism: bold, sculptural designs that only get more beautiful with age. Snoop Dogg loves them. And so does Beyoncé. But it’s not just star-power driving the popularity of this Swiss atelier. De Sede designs happen to be some of the comfiest around. The kind of lounger you can’t wait to come home to. And find yourself defending to any minimalist acquaintances.


So how does one style these brutalist beauties? And what, pray tell, is their story?

The Era of The Enfant Terrible

DS-1025 Sofa

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Like most enfant terribles, de Sede was born in the sixties. A decade that saw the status quo dismantled. And Swiss saddle maker, Ernst Lüthy, escape the family trade to become a modernist furniture designer.


It was an unusual route into the world of design. But it did lend a couple of advantages. The first was Lüthy’s unparalleled understanding of leather — it’s strengths, beauty and possibilities. The second was their unique outsider status.


de Sede didn’t see the world as other legacy design houses did. They didn’t subscribe to the notion that form had to follow function. And they weren’t interested in contributing just another sofa, either.

 Instead, they focused on creating new landscapes for living. Ones that captured something of the culture in which they were designed. And presented design lovers to the world.


It’s a philosophy that really found it’s footing in the DS-600 collection: a smooth, snake of a sofa that immortalised in leather an ancient bit of Swiss folklore. 


Half-cat, half-serpent, the Tatzelwurm was rumoured to grow to extraordinary lengths. The alpine equivalent of the Loch Ness monster. And every bit as voracious.

While the modern DS-600 didn’t snack on its sitters, it did take them by surprise. Usurping the Guinness World Record for the longest sofa and worming its way into the living rooms of Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and New York’s Studio 54.


Infinite and adaptable, its supple leather sectionals sought to free design lovers from any kind of physical constraints. Allowing them to really experience their homes in new, relaxing ways.


A Cult Classic

The Tatzelwurm Sofa was followed by a flurry of statement styles, each of which became a cultural milestone in their own right. In 1978 there was the DS-2878. A human sized boxing glove that sought to capture the skill, strength and style of Muhammad Ali in his heyday. Then came Terrazza. A winding, meandering style that reimagined the art of seating along the lines of a Swiss vineyard.

DS-1025 Sofa

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Today, we’ve found that you don’t need much of de Sede’s iconic modular sofas to make an impact. Tiny nooks can be brought to life with just a couple of Tatzelwurm segments. And they can even be used to help connect indoor and outdoor spaces.

Movers & Shakers

If the 60s and 70s were all about rebellion, the early noughties were defined by the pursuit of happiness. In large part due to our Scandi friends up north. But also because of the serendipitous de Sede styles that started to pop up at the dawn of the new millennium.


Indeed, well before the notions of flexi-work or broken plan living were a thing, de Sede was already in discussion with Dutch designer Hugo de Ruiter about a piece of furniture that could shapeshift indefinitely.

After much experimentation, they struck on the idea of a completely moveable backrest. One that would trundle around the perimeter of the sofa like a train on a track.


The DS-164 sofa soon followed. A shapeshifting yet elegant lounger for which every seat is a window seat. So well-received was it, that the mechanism was quickly adapted to fit a series of new beds and sofas. Each a little bit more magic than the last.

Taken together, they established movement as a key pillar of the contemporary home. And helped restore a sense of playfulness to homes that had grown solemn under the influence of mid-century modern design.

A New School of Sculptures

The new school of de Sede sculptures are every bit as compelling as you might hope. Novelties like the DS-707 see designer Philippe Malouin trace out a new phenology of seating — easily as powerful and curvaceous as the iconic DS-600. There are also pop-up poufs and foldable side tables – nifty little designs that work hard to earn their place in the daily dance of domesticity. 


Latent among all releases though, is one key question: what shape will the future take? 

If the gurus at de Sede have got it right, it will be sculptural yet curvy. A space of idiosyncrasy and relaxed, effortless living.


We’d also bet big on comfort. On styles that can support lifestyles that are increasingly screen based. It’s something that Professor Stefan Heiliger has been giving a lot of thought to. In fact, for the last 30 years, he’s thought of nothing but sitting.

His creation, the DS-266, is consequently not a place to sit or lie – but a hybrid style that permits both in one. Shaped to resembled a clenched when upright and an open palm when reclined, it responds to slight shifts in bodyweight, encouraging sitters to find their own definition of comfort.


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Of all their many qualities, this is perhaps the most exciting thing about de Sede designs. It isn’t maximalism for the sake of maximalism. And there are no ergonomic compromises. Rather, each style can be read as a deep-rooted attempt to get to the heart of what it means to live well with those we love most; exploring new shapes that help us come together in ways that other traditional designs can’t fathom. 


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