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Swedish design duo Jimmie Martin enthrone Madonna and turn photographer Terry O'Neill's iconic images into couture furniture
An ISBN Exclusive Interview
Prior Jimmie Martin’s collaboration with Madonna, ISBN spoke to the brand’s Creative Director Jimmie Karlsson at the end of last year about sausage dogs, Philippe Starck and the business of the interior.

Tell us more about commissions you’re working on…

Tell us more about commissions you're working on.
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Furniture orders for clients in Hong Kong, New York, Chicago, Miami, Austria, the UK and Sweden. We’re also doing floor lamps for Hong Kong, the UK and Thailand. Then with our interior design firm Jimmie Martin & McCoy we are working on three residential properties in Kensington, a big circus-themed night club in Soho, London, and a big 11,000 square-foot house in Kent, England.

What's your best-selling product?…

What’s your best-selling product?
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It goes in waves, but an item that sells all the time is the two chairs with the sausage dog artwork. They are very popular. Our Imperfection graffiti range is also very popular.

Why and when did the sausage dog idea happen?…

Why and when did the sausage dog idea happen?
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We did the first sausage dog chairs six years ago, and they have been such a big hit that we decided to make them into cushions which are easier for people to buy, and cheaper as well.

What’s the biggest change in home furnishing since you started your business eight years ago?…

What’s the biggest change in home furnishing since you started your business eight years ago?
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When we started it was all about beige, brown and minimalist. We introduced something different and made people understand that it’s okay to mix and match different shapes, colours, materials and styles. The mix and match idea is still hugely popular.

Where do you source materials?

Where do you source materials?
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It’s a mixture of old antique frames that we buy in antique fairs and auctions as well as newly made frames.

Would you consider a Jimmie Martin diffusion line?…

Would you consider a Jimmie Martin diffusion line?
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If you’re talking about mass orders then it’s possible as our designs don’t have to be hand-painted artwork on each piece. We could print the design should a big hotel want them for example. And the design could then be exclusive for the client.

Which product would you take to a desert island? …

Which product would you take to a desert island?
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I would probably take our 22-carat art bed. As much as it’s nice to lie on a sandy beach, after a couple of hours it is all a bit uncomfortable, so a nice big bed would be my choice.

Which iconic interior item do you wish you’d designed?…

Which iconic interior item do you wish you’d designed?
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Probably the Philippe Starck ghost chair, as everyone around the world has got one it seems.

Have you ever bought anything from H&M Home?…

Have you ever bought anything from H&M Home?
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Funnily enough, I just bought a bunch of H&M cushions for my sofa at home.

- Interview by Stephen Short.

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When the ‘Queen of Pop’ Madonna needed to stage an entrance worthy of American football’s Super Bowl XLVI half-time show at Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis and its 110 million worldwide viewers, she turned to award-winning London-based luxury furniture brand Jimmie Martin. The Kensington Church Street boutique has acquired cult status since opening in 2004 and numbers Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Liam Gallagher, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and Pete Townshend among its celebrity inventory. Outside London, the niche brand sells at Maison 24 on Park Avenue, New York, P&S Interior in San Pedro de Alcantara, Spain, and most recently at Green Furniture in Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Street. Set up by Swedish duo Jimmie Karlsson and Martin Nihimar, the firm produces custom-made furniture with hand-painted artwork, including cushions, wallpaper, busts and floor lamps for hotels and private residences.
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But not thrones, or at least, not until the savvy Material Girl got them to design one that doubled as chariot-cum-Cleopatran diva seat and shrine. Featuring black polished walkway and gilded poles raised above a brace of sphinx dripping black Swarovski crystals, this one-of-a-kind work of art bore the initials M.D.N.A (the title and feature track of Madonna’s next album) front and back, scrawled in Jimmie Martin’s inimitable graffiti script. Says Creative Director Karlsson: “We were thrilled to be contacted by Madonna’s team asking us to work with her on what is arguably the most highly televised sporting event in the United States, if not worldwide. From being a fan growing up in Sweden and now seeing our piece on stage with Madonna has been incredibly surreal.” An apt description for much of Jimmie Martin’s work; spoofy sausage dog chairs and cushions, snazzy graffiti wallpaper, painted Greek busts, and sado-masochistic barbed wire beds are just some of the quirk that has captured interior eyes. Much like American pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, much of Jimmie Martin's luxuriant work puts a smile on your face.
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Their portfolio stands to get another glamorous shot in the arm with the brand's next project in March. Fusing pop with photography, Sleeping with the Stars, brings together Visual Couture, an art and design concept boutique, Jimmie Martin and legendary Swinging Sixties British photographer Terry O’Neill, promising to bring the stars into your home. Jimmie Martin will use a selection of O’Neill’s iconic images – both familiar and previously unseen – to make postmodern pieces. The faces of Al Pacino, Audrey Hepburn, David Bowie, Brigitte Bardot, Raquel Welch, Mick Jagger, Mia Farrow and three others, will adorn sofas, beds, chairs and armoires. The 10 functional works of art will be displayed at London’s Rook & Raven Gallery for a limited time. O’Neill was onto the project like a shot: “I’m always excited to work with talented people and fresh ideas and this collaboration ticks all the right boxes. The idea of turning my images into bespoke couture furniture handcrafted by Jimmie Martin as one-off pieces of art is an unmissable opportunity and I can’t wait to see what they produce." Jimmie Martin has sourced vintage furniture and is applying the chosen O’Neill image, finishing each piece with hand-painted artwork. Selected items will incorporate 22-carat gold-leaf finish. Buyers get to own a collectible piece of pop culture history in a work of art signed by O’Neill and Jimmie Martin. While the duo are yet to finish one of their pop/art possessions, Visual Couture kindly agreed to give ISBN an exclusive first look at four of Jimmie Martin's design drawings: Al Pacino, Brigitte Bardot, Mick Jagger and Raquel Welch.
Cue Swedish retailer H&M Home poised to knock on Jimmie Martin’s baroque, urbane door, asking for a little collaborative action - from one set of Swedes to another - especially given the retailer’s plan to debut its homeware online in the States this spring. Or as Madge might intone, or lip sync from the throne: “Open Your Hearth to Me”.
Sketches: Artists Impressions, Courtesy Visual Couture
Product images: © Jimmie Martin & McCoy Ltd