Abask founders Tom-Chapman-and-Nicolas-Pickaerts.jpg

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Tom Chapman and Nicolas Pickaerts

How luxury interior retailer ABASK is democratising design

8 May 2024

Online platform ABASK is curating the best interior items online, discovers Pip Rich. And best of all? They’ll ship anywhere in the world.

It’s hard to remember a time before, say, 2012-ish, when you didn’t have an opinion on what colour your ceiling should be, or the exact placement of your bouclé sofa in relation to your rug. But before the social media revolution, and the onslaught of interiors imagery, inspiration and information, it was left to the professionals to know about such intricacies.

Instagram and Pinterest changed everything, demystifying decor and giving everyone who used them the confidence to make design decisions. Fast forward to 2024 and another smaller – but no less important – revolution is happening, as disruptor ABASK has launched online and managed to democratise design even further.

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As an online retailer focusing on decor, ABASK has taken the well-worn path of luxury fashion brands such as Net-A-Porter and brought that sense of curation and immediacy into the upmarket homeware world for the first time. It concentrates on what you might think of as “finishing touches” – the vases, the glassware, the charming gold and silver pepper mills in the shape of laughing elephants – except co-founder Tom Chapman calls them “smalls”.

“We see them as an integral detail in the design scheme,” Chapman says. “We have very much established our objects as hero pieces that are every bit as important a consideration in a home as the sofa or the skirting boards.” As for the revolution part: “What makes us unique is that we carry the stock and can ship to 160 countries in four days, so no waiting for months, as has been the status quo,” Chapman says. Whereas once it was just the imagery you could get in a flash, now it’s your decor, too, solving a problem that has faced an ever-clamouring consumer for years.

ABASK went live in the autumn of 2022, and its timing couldn’t have been better. The inspiration overload was reaching saturation point, with no outlet for it to go. “This awareness has raised people’s expectations regarding design quality and costs,” says Mike Fisher, founder of Studio Indigo. “But it can also result in confusion with a seemingly endless amount of choices.”

Jim Dixon, creative director of yachts and aviation at Winch Design, agrees. “We live in a very visual and design-literate world now – we’re bombarded every time we pick up our phone,” he says. “[It has created] huge amounts of visual stimulus online.”

He says that it has led to a greater demand for specifics, and people who like luxury are more likely to know exactly what they want, a contrast to when designers were there to tell their clients what they were probably going to want. “Younger clients in particular often come to us with specific ideas of spaces they like,” he says. “This may be inspiration from their favourite hotel, or interiors they have come across on their travels. This could be a certain style, a specific piece of furniture or distinct types of materials and textures.”

Focusing on stocking smaller makers and high-end ateliers, ABASK is perfectly positioned to deal with specificity. “People seem to be gravitating towards the unique and special objects we sell – from the wonderful wooden serving boards hand carved in Provence by Lucas Castex to the hand-painted ocean-hued ceramic plates by Ceramica Pinto that are perfect for a casual lunch on the boat,” Chapman says. “Our exclusive archive re-editions have also been a resounding hit, such as our selection of 28 glasses from the NasonMoretti museum collection dating from 1928 to 1988 that they have revived for us and, of course, our reissued collection of Venini’s iconic Fazzoletto vases.”

Chapman’s background is in the fashion industry, and it’s that heritage that imbues ABASK with its sense of refinement. He was a co-founder of Matches Fashion, and fellow co-founder Nicolas Pickaerts came from the same site. (That ABASK deliveries arrive in boxes designed by artist Sarah Martinon – a package that feels like it could hold a Chanel scarf – is no coincidence.)

Their mission statement was to shine a light on the world’s most exceptional design and craftsmanship. “And we feel passionately that the connection between maker and customer is facilitated and celebrated,” Chapman says.

“This relationship is not only vital to retailing luxury interior items, but also in preserving exceptional artisanal craft around the world. We are seeing this being realised in a more widespread way. In this sense, there is an increasing emphasis being placed on the items that we surround ourselves with in our homes, which are taking on beloved heirloom status.”

And this is just the start of what Chapman has planned. “We are excited to be launching our boat edit soon,” he says. “It will feature Casa Adams’ gorgeous aquatic plates, Cora Cora’s placemats, Table Love’s wicker condiment holders that keep everything put and some special extras, including Objet Luxe’s silver octopus and prawn servewear that will bring the ABASK wink to special on-deck dining.”

Further collaborations and launches are in the pipeline. “The next one is with Pam Shamshiri, the amazing AD100 designer, who we worked with on our family home,” Chapman says. “Pam has designed incredible cashmere cushions and blankets – not throws, but three- by two-metre striped blankets crafted from the finest reversible cashmere and trimmed in silk suede.

They are utterly unique, having been woven in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains by masters of their craft. It’s our first ever collaboration in creating luxury products in the home-design space.”

All this activity only makes it easier to create a space to live in that you love, sidestepping lead times, professional intervention and offering just the right amount of choice. As Chapman puts it, “Inviting people into your home [or on board your boat] is an intimate expression of who you are.”

And who you are is almost certainly someone who will enjoy shopping on ABASK. abask.com

First published in the May 2024 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

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