Having a conversation with Sheridan Coakley and Matthew Hilton about the beginnings of the Balzac armchair is a little like doing a jigsaw puzzle. We know what the final picture looks like; it’s a curvaceous club chair, usually seen in tan leather, that became something of a motif for SCP. Finding all the pieces to tell the story of how it was created, and more importantly, what the atmosphere was like at the time, is more tricky.
Sheridan explains. “The problem really is that it is thirty years ago. Okay, we weren’t that young, but we were young. We didn’t have the kind of backup people have now, where you have studios and assistants, and I would have a marketing team and a prototype department. Nothing was ever filed, we never made any notes, we just did stuff, and that is the difficulty trying to remember it, as there is no formal process that was ever written down.” These days, it’s all a formal process, and it’s all written down. Every new SCP product is discussed at length, rendered, photographed from endless angles, corrected, perfected and made with future proofing in mind. Everything now is done very much on purpose, but whether things have any more purpose, is another debate entirely.
Before undertaking this interview, as a small something to jog their memory, I sent Matthew and Sheridan a scan of an article from April 1991’s Blueprint Magazine, in which SCP and a first sketch of the Balzac armchair feature. Nigel Coates’ remarkable trousers, Jasper Morrison’s geography teacher inspired style and Matthew’s very own white trouser fleece combo are a good place to start our conversation.