Nicole Marion tells NaughtOne how prairie skies and marshmallows inspired Percy, a chair that doesn’t wait to make an impression
Doctors’ waiting rooms can be a place of boredom or trepidation for many. But for Nicole Marion, one such room and its 1970s furniture became a source of inspiration.
“What I noticed about this one chair was the tubing,” the furniture designer and Studio Marion founder explains from her home in Winnipeg, Canada. “Thin metal tubing, following a continuous path around most of the chair. I really liked the simplicity of it.”
Follow that line of tubing through Nicole’s distinct design sensibility and you’ll arrive at Percy, NaughtOne’s new lounge chair. Bold yet playful, Percy blends function, comfort and versatility in one deceptively simple form.
Studio Marion was established in 2018, drawing upon Nicole’s extensive experience in furniture design and product development that included roles at EQ3 in Winnipeg and Gus Modern in Toronto. She credits the geographical isolation and harsh winters of her home city with fostering a thriving community of local artists and designers. “Maybe this leads to a simplicity or calmness, a streamlining of materials, a lack of decoration. It gets into your soul somehow,” Nicole reflects.
Nicole namechecks the light-filled architecture of California’s mid-century Eichler houses and the colourful textiles and paper sculptures of Stockholm designer Clara von Zweigbergk as influential to her aesthetic. Yet she is equally inspired by everyday interactions with her friends and her two children. “I think about them bumping their heads on things, especially when they were younger,” she says. “Sharp edges on tables can be very impractical.”
You won’t find any sharp edges on the Percy chair. Initially developed as a self-initiated project, an early version was awarded Best Prototype at Toronto’s Interior Design Show in 2020. Confident and unfussy, the chair’s steel frame offers an eye-catching contrast with its invitingly supportive cushions. Yet the sturdy powder-coated tubing also hints at playground climbing adventures, while the front legs seem poised and ready to burst into life. Nicole remembers the reaction at design shows to the chair’s tactile qualities: “People immediately walk up to it and either firmly grab those arms, or gently run their hands along them.”
Function may come first, but doesn’t rule out fun. “It’s about doing slightly unexpected or exaggerated things. With Percy, nothing is there that doesn’t need to be. All of the lines, the metal bar that goes around the frame: there’s nothing extra. The playfulness comes from the diameter of the tube, the puffiness of the upholstery and the rounded leg bottoms.”
Nicole worked with NaughtOne to refine the Percy prototype, adjusting the seating to a more relaxed angle and softening the cushions which, she says, were already inspired by “marshmallows and cotton candy”. With a shared ethos of sustainability, the chair’s internal frame is made from fast-growing Baltic birch and the steel tubing can be repaired or repainted if needed. Nicole also enjoyed rendering the design in some of the myriad colour combinations NaughtOne offers. While she is mostly drawn to the tone-on-tone pairings such as pink on pink – “It just looks like a candy that I want to eat” – the possibilities of contrasting ones excite her too. “The blue frame with the white upholstery looks amazing. It will be really interesting to see what colour combinations people gravitate towards.”
Maybe one day, Nicole ponders, the Percy will itself provide a comfortable seat in a doctor’s waiting room. But she feels that it will make itself at home anywhere. “What I hear people saying about the chair is, ‘It’s so simple. It’s almost as though this chair always existed.’ I feel that’s a really good sign.”