n old bed of mine always drew comments. It looked comfortable and roomy enough for Madonna, her entourage, and me. You could almost hear it whisper "orgy." But under the covers, there was a world of pain. Instead of a mattress, it had "cushions," (which I later found were filled with straw) and a board running down the center, which I called "the speed bump." At the least quiver, the whole thing creaked like a tram rounding a corner.
In the furnished-flat rental market, this is an all-too familiar story, with a thousand grey or garish variations: apartments littered with a long-dead babicka's knickknacks, entire rooms furnished in various shades of orange, and chairs designed to break the will, as well as the back, of all comers.
Out of this upholstered wasteland, like a Laz-E-Boy's dream of aesthetic tranquility and total ease, arises Ligne Roset.
The 134-year-old French furniture company still owned and operated by the Roset family, has brought its finely designed furnishings and its style de vie to Prague. Their current catalogue reads more like a religious tract than a sales pitch, paying homage to the Holy Trinity of comfort, quality, and design: "We need now to coddle ourselves; home is a refuge. We seek to surround ourselves with things we like. When we please ourselves, we can be sure we'll please all those who come to call as well."
Storeowner Doris Delmas claims that in the three years the firm has been in Prague, the percentage of Czech customers has jumped from 50 to 80 percent, even though a single piece of furniture can cost well over twice the Czech average yearly income.
One look in the showroom will tell you that if you have to ask the price, you're in the wrong store. You won't find any stylishly spine-warping chairs or sofas, any office furniture, kitchen cabinets, or plastic. Nor anything inexpensive. If furniture can be art, the Ligne Roset showroom is a gallery.
What you will find is well-designed, flawlessly executed, and remarkably comfortable furniture, cabinets, lamps, and carpets for the home. Some of these pieces are so elegant, you feel underdressed standing next to them. One set of shelves has such clean lines; you would hesitate to put anything on it.
Ligne Roset maintains no stock apart from floor models, and each piece is custom made in France according to the customer's specifications for materials, so prices for individual pieces vary. They are grouped into separate designer collections, but with customers making their own modifications, the pieces can be harmoniously mixed.
The Ligne Roset catalogue likens renowned French designer Pascal Mourge's "Calin" chair to "a gentle embrace, much like that of a baby's tender, loving hug or a kind of sweet, warm, and soft caress."
It's not. It is, however, dangerously cozy. Deceptively simple, it resembles a huge pillow bent at a 45-degree angle, resting on a steel frame with a satiny, brushed aluminum finish. Paired with a matching ottoman, the chair could easily become a vortex from which the overly relaxed occupant might never escape. The base price for this pleasure throne is 31,768 Kc. Six of Mourge's designs are in Paris' prestigious Musee des Arts Decoratifs, and he is a sculptor and poet as well.
Another standout in the sloth-inducing category is the Maly Bed (starting at 145,547 Kc) by German designer Peter Maly, featuring self-supporting, movable cushions resting on a low frame that juts out on the sides, to form a platform (available with optional swiveling tray tables). The overall effect, like most of Maly's designs in the collection, is sleek and simple, without being stark or cold. Considering the average person spends 22 years of his life in bed, the per-night cost of the Maly seems almost negotiable. All you would need then is Madonna and her entourage. But if you can afford these prices, she's probably too cheap for you.
Ligne Roset, Jetna 15, 120 00 Praha 2 Tel. 02/294 367, Tel/Fax. 02/298 477. Delivery takes an average of eight weeks.