Randy (Ransom) Culler
Randy Culler has been in his family’s furniture manufacturing business in High Point since he was 12. A background in manufacturing has produced a pragmatic designer who only creates what manufacturers can make. “There are few designers who understand the manufacturing process,” he said. “Anyone can draw a picture, but you have to know what the factory can do and you need to fit in with the price niche.”
Culler and his staff of nine designed 216 pieces for seven manufacturers including Braxton Culler (his brothers firm), Thayer Coggin, and Carter. He designs for al segments of the industry from low to high end.
“Designing for the low end is more difficult because of constraints in price points and manufacturers capability,” said Culler. “If you are looking at a $300 sofa, it kind of stifles your creativity because you know what you can and can’t do. For example, all curves are expensive to do and not every manufacturer can do them.”
At the high end, Culler doesn’t slow down around curves. His loose, double pillowed sectional for Thayer Coggin, a contemporary design leader, shows what a curve can do for a piece of furniture. “The focus of contemporary design has shifted away from the spare minimalism and geometric lines of the past few years,” said Culler.
“Shapes are inspired by 18th and 19th century designs, the full rounded silhouettes associated with the Art Deco movement and Hollywood in its heyday. Contemporary upholstery is designed to appeal to an increasingly sophisticated, quality conscious, discerning customer who expects his or her furniture to express their personalities and values. My ultimate goal is to create furniture today that will be regarded as classics in the future and that will possibly serve as inspiration for another generation of designers.”
Culler designs for European and American companies and he sees American design having an effect on European Designers, instead of the other way around as was true a few years ago. “For the first time there is a lot of design influence from this side of the world going back to the other.” he said.
He predicts that American furniture making will be greatly influenced by automation in the next decade, just as European plants have been. “I think by the year 2000, plants will be totally automated,” Culler said. “In Europe today, you can go into large factories and see them operated by computers with maybe only 20 people in a plant.”
Old-fashioned romance is back in style and so, too, the tete-a-tete, or love seat, to help inspire it. The Victorians preferred the two-seaters presumably to promote proper, yet coy, conversation. But a similar design can also be found in King Tutankhamen’s inventory of furniture.
Often called courting couches, they also go by the name vis-a-vis in England. In Francethis quirky back-to-back sofa is called “Siamoise” after Siamese Twins. In the Victorian tradition, many of the seats were made in wicker, but the style is generally upholstered with a frame shaped like an “s.” The two curves allow the seated pair to face each other rather than sit side by side.
There is nothing old-fashioned, however, about Thayer Coggin’s newfangled version of this unusual shape. Randy (Ransom) Culler’s updated design features free-floating arms that rotate 360-degrees, giving his sofa versatility. After the courting is over and vows have been exchanged, the frame can be shifted into two other positions to create a traditional two-person sofa or a chaise lounge.
“I think my version is more practical but it’s also more comfortable than the Victorian styles, which featured lots of mahogany gingerbread tassles,” said Culler, a North Carolina-based furniture designer. “Most of the 19th century versions were pretty uncomfortable and of course their shape was fixed.” Introduced recently at an international furniture exposition, Culler’s unique design i patent-pending.