Carol O’Callaghan meets the Powers, owners of Roche Bobois and finds that sofas remain the biggest seller in the Sandyford.

Do you remember the reaction back in January when Lionel Messi’s partner posted photos on Instagram of the FC Barcelona player and their children at home? The one with their outsize dog prone on a floor height sofa?

It was followed swiftly and inevitably by thousands of comments from the public, but less of the billing and cooing variety one might expect about a sweet vignette of a celebrity family with little children petting the giant pooch, and, instead, an all-out furore about the sofa having no legs. 

Why, they asked, could the multi-millionaire footballer not afford to get himself a proper sofa?

The legless sofa turned out to be the avant-garde, Mah Jong, a piece of information which a line-up of its defenders swiftly confirmed, made by French brand Roche Bobois to a design that just a few years ago was given a makeover by French design tour de force Jean Paul Gaultier. 

And the fabric was by another iconic fashion label, Italy’s Missoni which has also made the transition from fashion to furniture.

The Urban sofa by Sasha Lakic for Roche Bobois has a streamlined finish inspired by aerodynamic principles Lakic has applied to motorbike designs (€6,000 for a corner sofa).
The Urban sofa by Sasha Lakic for Roche Bobois has a streamlined finish inspired by aerodynamic principles Lakic has applied to motorbike designs (€6,000 for a corner sofa).

But they’re not the original designers. Let’s say that as fashion trend-setters they re-dressed it, with the design accolade going to Hans Hopfer who 40 years ago made this informal way of furnishing a living space with modules which can be configured to multiple options.

If you fancy what Hans Hopfer described as a “seating landscape”, a little pocket change retrieved from down the back of your existing sofa won’t do much to defray the cost which can peak at €25,000, depending on how many components you want in your configuration.

But not everything costs those sorts of prices at Roche Bobois at the chic French brand’s Irish outlet in the Beacon South Quarter in Dublin’s Sandyford, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Check out conversation pieces like the Quadrille chair which takes the traditional rocking chair and reinvents it to appeal to the eye of modern design aficionados. 

The Quadrille rocking armchair was designed for Roche Bobois by Alnoor, a man responsible for perfume bottle design at Yves St Laurent (chair €2,400).
The Quadrille rocking armchair was designed for Roche Bobois by Alnoor, a man responsible for perfume bottle design at Yves St Laurent (chair €2,400).

Same goes for the Coin table designed to create an optical illusion, suggesting the surface slopes when it’s actually a sloping rim responsible for tricking the eye, a feature which makes it a singular but practical purchase to create a wow in your space.

Dublin native Dorothy Power and her Limerick-born husband John, own the Dublin branch of Roche Bobois, where they’ve weathered recession nicely, despite having it hit not long after they opened. They’re selling a range of furniture pieces that, according to Dorothy, appeals largely to the 30 to 60 age group. 

“It’s younger people trading up, and older people trading down”, she explains.

This group, though, is far from confined to the Dublin area, with the shop attracting buyers from around the country, helping to re-establish the notion of the destination shop, many of which didn’t make it through the dark years of economic down turn.

For the couple, opening the furniture store was a big career change. Dorothy had a computing background, and John worked in banking which saw them based in Warsaw for a number of years, although Dorothy spent some time studying interior design and has also been involved with John in a tiling business.

The Coin occasional table is made from sheet metal with a lacquer finish and also available in coffee and cocktail table versions (occasional table €700).
The Coin occasional table is made from sheet metal with a lacquer finish and also available in coffee and cocktail table versions (occasional table €700).

“When we came back to Ireland in 2001, I noticed the lack of nice furniture in Dublin,” she says. A friend of mine in Paris had loved Roche Bobois and that’s how I knew about it. I loved interiors, so John and I set up a franchise here.”

Sofas remain their biggest seller, with a few Mah Jongs having been picked up over the last 10 years, although Irish tastes and, maybe, pockets, have erred on the side of other choices.

“The most important thing for Irish customers is comfort,” Dorothy points out.

One such comfortable offering being snapped up is the Urban sofa which is proving to be the most popular in the shop, checking out at the till at €6,100 for a corner version. 

Plain and minimal compared to the colour, pattern and eclecticism of Mah Jong, it’s designed by another Frenchman, Sasha Lakic, who has, among other things, designed motorbikes from which he borrows principles of aerodynamics to inspire his streamlined sofa finishes.

Now, that’s not quite up there with the Messi story for some social media lionising, but definitely it’s one to wheel out for dinner party conversation when you’re showing off your new sofa purchase.


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