Sitting Pretty: Frank Ocean Has Expert-Level Taste in Sofas

A Pierre Paulin statement couch like this one is meant to be noticed.

by Tyler Watamanuk
Aug 5 2019, 3:20pm

Over the weekend, the GQ Magazine Instagram account posted a photo of a faceless man lounging on a sprawling teal couch in a sun-drenched living room. The source photo was attributed to @blonded, the personal account of the elusive musician and overall tastemaker Frank Ocean. The image, posted initially by Ocean in October of last year, is alluring for several reasons. It gives fans a rare glimpse inside the home of the secretive singer, from the artfully cluttered bookshelves in the background to the fact that Ocean owns a ridiculously colossal couch.

A large, statement couch like this one isn’t something intended to fly under the radar. (Especially not on the Internet, where the majority of comments on the post are not regarding the singer, but rather his couch.) It’s the work of Pierre Paulin, an innovative French designer who passed away in 2009 at the age of 81. He was trained as a ceramist and a stone-carver in hopes of becoming a professional sculptor, but a fight left him with a paralyzed hand. Around this time, Paulin had developed a passionate interest in Scandinavian and Japanese design as well as the functional furniture of American mid-century design. This blending of styles is evident in his work: eye-catching chairs and sofas produced in unconventional shapes without sacrificing function or comfort. Paulin’s designs are held in such high regard that they are displayed in collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Today, Benjamin Paulin, Pierre’s son, oversees his father’s archive and helps produce classic and previously unreleased pieces.

The Pierre sofa that captured the attention of Frank Ocean is really not a sofa at all. (Ocean is not alone here either, other Paulin devotees include Tom Ford, Kanye West, and Virgil Abloh.) Initially designed in 1970, Pierre’s “Dune” collection features four different seating modules (from $5,400 to $8,220 per module) which are moveable and interchangeable, so the individual can create their own unique environment. Each module has enough design prowess to stand on its own, but when combined with others, the visual effect seems greater than its total sum. Even in 2019, there is something magical about how mountain-esque accent chairs and flat-seat ottomans come together to form a sofa that feels flashy and futuristic. This quality is indicative of how Paulin viewed modernity as something that could also be sumptuous and wonderful.

Pieces from the “Dune” collection feel equally inspired by science fiction and geometric glee. It’s the work of a designer who happily pushed against the orderly restraint of midcentury design. Outside of music, Frank Ocean has earned a reputation as a bit of an aesthete. He’s dabbled in carpentry and zine-making, and his sartorial choices always feel thoughtful and considered. If you needed any further proof that Ocean is a man with an appreciation of art and beauty, then the fact that he owns a Paulin couch is it.

Frank Ocean
pierre paulin