GRR

How car designers work from home

26th April 2020
erin_baker_headshot.jpg Erin Baker

If you’re working from home during this lockdown period, the interior design of your new office probably hasn’t troubled you over much, beyond tidying up the bookshelf backdrop for your Zoom calls. But spare a thought for luxury car designers. Those for whom daily inspiration for the new interior of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley is hard to come by when restricted to their own four walls.

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Where do colour and trim experts get their ideas from now? And what will signal luxury when we come out the other side of this? Will the bright hues and striking materials of overt capitalism be replaced by something more subdued, more sustainable, and calmer perhaps?

Goodwood Road and Racing spoke to Sina Eggl, the colour and trim design boss of Rolls-Royce, and Maria Mulder, her counterpart at Bentley, while they sit it out at home, on the future of British luxury.

Unsurprisingly, the homes of both women have come in for close attention lately; while most of us get introspective about our relationships, these two question the existence of various pieces of furniture and art, and the choices they made along the way. The sunshine that has dominated April has also played a part in the new appreciation for various materials dotted around each designer’s home.

Sina Eggl, colour and trim designer, Rolls-Royce

Sina Eggl, colour and trim designer, Rolls-Royce

“Looking around me at home, my deep love for wood in all its natural forms and colours is clear”, says Mulder. “From my father’s well-used partner desk, to the warm oaks and dark teaks of furniture I’ve collected over time. With sunlight streaming in and reflecting off the surface this helps me to envisage the creative possibilities with wood veneers in a Bentley… koa wood is my favourite option to play with.”

Eggl, too, has been captivated by the light glancing off various materials. “I particularly love the thickness of my Theresienthal vase glass, which is referred to as “ice” among glass makers… Inside the glass are carefully crafted thin strips of various intense colours which reflect magically when flooded by sunlight. It’s a great inspiration when brainstorming new colours and colour combinations.”

Eggl’s apartment is dominated by the ethos of simplicity, an idea that was starting to dominate the new luxury aesthetic in cars before coronavirus took hold. “The key for me is reduction,” she says. "I surround myself with a small number of items, but that requires each item to work harder – they must be restrained, beautiful, timeless, of exceptional quality and they must stand up to daily scrutiny.”

Key pieces of furniture and decor in Eggl’s apartment include a Flexform Evergreen daybed by Antonino Citterio and a Georg Jensen bar set, complete with Champagne bowl and cocktail shaker. She also has two big monogrammed notebooks wrapped in navy blue boxgrain leather  - a hardwearing leather designed to age well, that used to adorn Twenties luggage sets and now covers the fascia of the Cullinan SUV.

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Mulder, meanwhile, has a gloriously eclectic set of objects that translate into Bentley customer options. “I have blue and white Chinese ginger jars and kimchee pots, a hand-beaded bird of paradise sculpture stem jutting from an old glass vase, a smoked glass jug of carnations in reddish hues, a collection of 1920s tea cups, ethereal Spin ceramics from Shanghai and blue and white KLM Dutch houses… These form electric yet wonderful stories which I can easily translate into Bentley car interiors when I present ideas for customers. A Crown Ducal 1930s cup with its soft creamy background contrasting with a graphic black orange tree pattern and hand printed oranges could be a ‘Porcelain’ Bentley exterior paint, with a body kit and grills in black, a ‘Beluga’ linen interior with a Bentley Mulliner ‘Mandarin’ bespoke contrast stitch.”

Which leads on to new visions of a future we all feel uncertain about, although what is clear is that the entire human population looks set to emerge from this with a simpler appreciation for the natural world, and for a quieter, calmer look at luxury perhaps.

“We are already on a path to a sustainable future”, says Mulder. “We are seeing new colour directions emerge from these times of quiet and reflection - colours that both calm and invigorate us. I expect to see materials which will re-engage our senses.”

Eggl agrees. “Prior to this there was movement to minimalism. True luxury is a lot finer, more simple, more to do with materials and finishes. The aesthetic pre Covid-19 was the idea of materiality beyond bling - the idea of not festooning stuff with stuff. We are now facing post-opulence design language. We are looking into calmer colours; beautiful, elegant colours that will last for ever.”

There will, of course, still be room for the madness of the Black Badge sub-edition of Rolls-Royce models for the younger, more extrovert clients out there (“fun, cool colour ways will continue”), but overall things are calming down.

Good news, too, for enthusiasts; the designers are not without their automotive inspirations at home. On one wall of Eggl’s apartment hangs a print of Sir Stirling Moss [the racing legend was still alive when we spoke]. “I bought this timeless print during my first year at Rolls-Royce, at the Goodwood Revival festival”, says Eggl. Near it hangs a vintage black and white photograph of a racing car at the Revival (Eggl isn’t sure which car it is). “I admired the aesthetic of this stunning vintage racing car’s iconic styling”, she says. Which will come as a relief to car lovers who don’t want design to stray too far from its automotive heritage.

  • Rolls-Royce

  • Bentley

  • Cullinan

  • Design

  • Luxury

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