It was her training as a fine artist that inspired Susan Hable to start a textile company with her business-minded sister Katharine 18 years ago. “I thought, ‘Oh, I can paint, and then translate that into a pattern and sell the fabric,’” she says. Her instinct was a good one: Hable Construction quickly became a design world darling, partnering with the likes of Barneys New York and Garnet Hill. Her recent foray into furniture was just as intuitive. In 2009, when Hable moved down south and started looking for local collaborators, she was immediately drawn to the century-old Hickory Chair Furniture Company, based in North Carolina and known for its dedication to craftsmanship and classic, antique-inspired pieces.
From left: a 1920s-inspired occasional chair, a geometric cocktail table and a three-legged side table made of white agate from her furniture line with Hickory Chair.CreditFrom left: Rich Gilligan; Hickory Chair (2).
Hable started off designing Hickory’s first-ever exclusive textile line. Then, in 2012, when Hickory had an opening for a new furniture collection, she jumped at the chance to try her hand. She had always planned to move beyond a single medium, emulating the wide-ranging, multidisciplinary careers of the midcentury designers she most admires, from Gio Ponti to Jean Prouvé. Moreover, she is an avid furniture collector who’s designed her home around spectacular finds: “Hickory’s creative director, Skip Rumley, came to my house once and said, ‘Yeah, this makes complete sense.’” Hable’s first collection was a bold move into the future for the traditionalist company. With her second, out this spring, she’s pushing things even further, mixing striking sculptural details borrowed from Italian and Scandinavian design with understated Shaker construction. “Those kinds of quirky pieces add balance to the very simplified ones,” she says, “like friends in a room at a party. And thank goodness everybody has different personalities, because it makes things more interesting.”