Chatsworth is a compelling place to reflect on design.

Wherever you look, at Chatsworth, the house looks back. At every step, you find yourself reflected. Silver-grey in an ancient mirror. A ghostly shape in polished wood. Distorted in the graceful curves of a silver coffeepot. Wobbling on the surface of a garden pool. 

Over the course of nearly 500 years, the house and its surroundings have been transformed many times over. Each generation of the Devonshire family has put their stamp on the property, in a constant pursuit of expression. You’ll see a tradition of innovation in each room, in displays of Old Master drawings, and in unique pieces of furniture. 

Our 2023 exhibition Mirror Mirror: Reflections on Design at Chatsworth continued this exploration and featured recent and commissioned works by sixteen international designers. Each responded to one of Chatsworth’s spaces, either indoors or outside in the garden.

They were chosen for the way that they reflected upon some of the key issues of our time: climate, sustainability, equality, and how we connect to each other. The installations responded to Chatsworth's history while adding new insight. 

The participating designers were a diverse group, from all over the world. Their creativity felt right at home at Chatsworth. It is both a historic house and an incomparable setting for the new. 

Learn more about the curation and design of the exhibition in this short film from our exhibition partner, Dezeen.

Running time: 4 minutes.

In this film, Chatsworth's senior curator of programme, Dr Alexandra Hodby, leads a tour of the Mirror Mirror exhibition, introducing each work and explaining how it connects with its historic setting. 

Running time: 16 minutes. 


Learn more about the sixteen international artists and designers who featured in the exhibition below.

Joris Laarman

Dutch designer Joris Laarman uses new technologies to create functional, mathematically complex pieces that pay attention to the natural world around them.

Works in Laarman’s Maker series are all fabricated using digital tools and blueprints for one of his chairs were released online so that anyone could create their own versions.

Two of Laarman’s Maker Benches, digitally fabricated in wood, were situated in the Painted Hall. The intricate patterns of the two benches - mirror images of each other - reflect the historic chequered floor.

Outside, stone quarried from the Chatsworth Estate and hand-carved by a local mason was used to make two new Symbio Benches by Laarman for the Salisbury Lawns in the garden. These works hosted their own microhabitats in carved channels where a special cement encourages plant growth. Moss and lichen will take hold in these spaces, patterning the stone with texture and colour in a continual evolution over time.

Chris Schanck

Detroit-based designer Chris Schanck makes furniture from scraps of wood, metal, and foam, which he wraps in metallic foil and a clear coat of resin.

His seemingly calcified designs are wonders of transformation, in which upcycled scrap materials are turned into crystalline forms rendered in bright hues.

Two works awere installed in the Grotto, their complex surfaces in harmony with the richly carved decoration.

The pieces connect with the historic features of the space - the watery surfaces refer to the nearby indoor fountain - and the crystalline forms resemble those of Chatsworth’s geological collections, a connection emphasised by the placement of mineral specimens inside Schanck’s cabinet, Cryo C Cabinet.

Faye Toogood

I felt like I was revealing something that had always been there—something almost prehistoric that had been lost to time, and it was my job to find it again.’ Faye Toogood

Faye Toogood is a British artist working in a diverse range of disciplines, from sculpture to furniture and fashion.

Her installation of sculptural furniture for the Chapel in stone was a continuation of her latest collection Assemblage 7, in which the objects appear to be carefully excavated, as if by an archaeologist.

The pieces for the Chapel are made of Purbeck Marble, a limestone from Dorset with dense deposits of snail shells often used in English cathedrals in the middle ages. But Toogood’s elemental forms look still further back, to Neolithic standing stones, drawing on the local history of stone circles around Chatsworth.

In acknowledgement of the spiritual setting, Toogood has also provided a bronze pew and two chairs. 

Andile Dyalvane

Widely considered one of South Africa’s foremost ceramic artists, Andile Dyalvane’s work is an acknowledgement and celebration of his ancestral past, his heritage and his community. His complex, large-scale ceramic artworks often feature symbolic pictograms and patterns, honouring the traditional practices of the Xhosa people.

At Chatsworth, Dyalvane has returned to the ideas he developed during a residency at Leach Pottery in St. Ives, when his vessels took on the shapes of crags overlooking the sea.

The transformative nature of clay to ceramic is celebrated in his works in the Chapel Corridor which are resonant with the symbolism of fire, water, and earth. They take their place in the rich history of ceramic collecting and commissioning over hundreds of years at Chatsworth – from historic Delftware to Edmund de Waal’s 2007 site-specific piece a sounding line that sits alongside Dyalvane’s work.

Ettore Sottsass

A seminal figure in 20th-century design, the Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass (1917–2007) created a vast body of work during his six-decade career, including works in polychromatic glass that stage a radical intervention into this quintessentially Italian craft.

Though he had great respect for traditional glass-blowing, Sottsass departed from its usual methods in surprising ways. He used adhesives and wire to put his pieces together and introduced striking angles. The resulting objects are abstract totems – spiritual, rather than functional, vessels.

He wrote that, unlike a paper cup, a crystal goblet ‘has no taste and is fragile, so you know from the beginning that your relationship with this object will have a ritualistic aspect.’

Displayed on historic furniture in the Great Chamber, the pieces connected to the abundant glass in the space and exemplify the inventive approach that many contemporary designers have taken to historic crafts.


Formafantasma – an Italian design studio led by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin – respond to the challenge of climate change by researching old technologies, which may have something to teach us.

Formafantasma’s Charcoal series draws on the tension between the negative image of charcoal – its connections to pollution and destruction – and its positive potential in contexts like water filtration.

Made in collaboration with Swiss charcoal burner Doris Wicki – one of the last individuals dedicated to the tradition of producing charcoal by the slow burning of wood – along with glass blowers and wood carvers, the series features carbon filter variations and glass vessels.

The works were presented in the Green Satin Room alongside paintings of historic views of Chatsworth, where charcoal was once an important fuel source. This juxtaposition drew parallels across moments in the landscape and the materials and tools that can be wrought from it.

Max Lamb

British designer Max Lamb is deeply concerned with the transformation of materials and known for creating beautifully crafted pieces that have traditional processes at their core.

The contemporary chairs at Chatsworth were each made from a single piece of cedar, measuring six by eight inches in cross-section. Lamb cut the beams on a band saw and put them together again like a puzzle ensuring no wood was wasted in the process.
His new work for the State Drawing Room was driven by research into the woodcarving in the room: lime wood trophies by Samuel Watson, and two coronation thrones by Catherine Naish, one of few female master carvers known from the eighteenth century.

Lamb offers ‘a polite nod of respect’ to these precursors. Instead of skilful ornamentation, though, he emphasises the potential contained in every piece of wood. 

Jay Sae Jung Oh

Jay Sae Jung Oh is a Seattle-based designer from South Korea, who explores the intersection of art and design with distinctive and intricately made objects. She makes her work mostly from found, discarded materials, building these objects into elaborate assemblages, which she wraps tightly with cord.

For Chatsworth’s State Music Room, Oh created a new work within her long-running series of furniture made by wrapping found objects with leather cord.

The decorations in the room include Jan Van Der Baard’s trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye) of a violin, painted directly onto the rear door of the room in 1723. In response, Oh has made a throne containing a number of broken musical instruments at its core, including a French horn, a snare drum, and an electric guitar.

Like Van Der Vaardt’s illusory violin, these instruments are mere impressions, forever silent. 

Fernando Laposse

Fernando Laposse, who divides his time between London and Mexico, specialises in transforming humble natural materials into refined design pieces, working with overlooked plant fibres such as sisal, loofah, and corn leaves.

His cabinet and armchair with long fibres of agave, presented in the State Bedchamber, brought a powerful animacy to the opulent surroundings, creating a presence almost like that of living creatures.

The works directly reference local people and cultures from which these materials originate and draw attention to the cultural, social and political mechanisms that underpin material economies.

Laposse creates them in a Mexican village called Tonahuixtla, which has been devastated by climate change. The primary material is sisal, the fibre of the agave plant – a type of succulent used in the production of tequila. Laposse has pioneered the innovative use of this material in the region, where he is also organising an extensive planting of agave, with the goal of restoring the community’s economy.

Ndidi Ekubia

British artist Ndidi Ekubia creates visually stimulating yet functional silverware that pushes the craft of metal-raising to its limits.

Inspired by the idea of the flow of metals, her abstract vessels feature an all-over texture of hammered marks that create a rippling effect as if the metal were caught in liquid form.

For the exhibition, Ekubia created a custom suite of objects, with the graduated sizes of a garniture - a set of ceramics you sometimes see on historic mantelpieces.

Their reflective surfaces play off those of two large pier glasses (mirrors supplied to Chatsworth by John Gumley in 1703), and an impressive silver chandelier in the style of Daniel Marot.

In this stately company, Ekubia’s gleaming vessels introduce a note of vitality into the intimate space of the State Closet and enter into dialogue more broadly with the history of baroque ornamentation, in which material is given life through consummate craftsmanship.

Joseph Walsh

The innovative furniture of self-taught Irish furniture maker, artist, and designer Joseph Walsh is organic and sinuous.

His studio on the family farm in County Cork is near to Lismore Castle, the Irish home of the Devonshire family, and Walsh had already completed several major works for Chatsworth before this exhibition was conceived.

The pieces on display at Chatsworth in the South Sketch Galleries were largely made using steam-bent wood. The gravity-defying wall brackets are sculptures that also serve as supports for other objects, echoing the functional furniture used to display collected material throughout the galleries. Each sinuous shape is built up from many thin layers of wood, which are then carved by hand. The process is ancient – it was once used to make bows – but Walsh adapts it to create contemporary shapes. The brackets were custom-made for the Galleries to display ceramics from the collection. 

The Enignum VIII Bed, arguably the most spectacular of Walsh’s creations for Chatsworth, was relocated to the Sabine Room for the exhibition to create a new dialogue with the surrounding wall and ceiling paintings by Sir James Thornhill from 1707. 

Michael Anastassiades

Michael Anastassiades is a London-based designer, known for his lithe yet commanding lighting structures.

It was during his childhood spent on the island of Cyprus that he first fell in love with light – ever present in that part of the world – and with ancient cultures.

His installation of light in the Library illuminated the room in depth. It is an indoor grove of bamboo, the stems carefully hand-finished according to a traditional Japanese method.

The bases were made of poured pewter, pooled around the bamboo to form fitted stands. Illuminated bulbs were attached with waxed linen thread.

Ini Archibong

Ini Archibong grew up in California and is now based in Switzerland. In 2016, he began collaborating with skilled glassblowers there to make monumental chandeliers.

Archibong’s chandelier Dark Vernus I (meaning Dark Spring), is a suspended gathering of vessel-like forms with a powerful spiritual presence. It hung in the Vestibule, a small space with a complex function.

Allowing passage between the Great Dining Room and Sculpture Gallery, the Vestibule also houses a musicians’ gallery, which Archibong brought back to life with his own custom-composed sound piece.

This vestibule also displays two nineteenth-century bronze busts of an African man and woman, by the French artist Charles-Henri Cordier. The depictions are arrestingly beautiful, but also exoticised. Archibong chose not to address these problematic representations directly, instead, his work literally rises above them.

Samuel Ross

The purpose-built 19th-century Sculpture Gallery at Chatsworth contains two important reclining sculptures: Filippo Albacini’s ‘Achilles’ (1825) and Antonio Canova’s ‘Endymion’ (1819 – 22).

British artist, designer, and multidisciplinary creative director Samuel Ross responds to these lively-seeming but inert bodies, with works in stone and steel that are related to his biographical experience. He grew up in modernist housing estates in Brixton and the East Midlands, and remains fascinated by the utopian promise of these buildings, but also their blind spots, which he tries to illuminate.
They were made partly of marble, like the classical sculptures around them, and partly of steel, powder-coated in bright orange, which reflects Ross’ interest in modernism.

In modernism, there was a preference for the industrial over the antique and the abstract over the figurative. At Chatsworth, the priorities are the other way around. Ross embraces it all, creating a hybrid style that is vividly new.

Wendell Castle

The "father of the art furniture movement", Rochester Institute of Technology.

Wendell Castle (1932 – 2018) was arguably the leading American furniture designer of his generation, but he mostly thought of himself as a sculptor. Instead of using traditional joinery techniques, he created monumental and organic forms that are totally free from the logic of conventional furniture.

At Chatsworth, a trio of Castle’s works gathered at the edge of a pool. All three-person seats cast in bronze but with varying compositions.

In A New Seeing, the seats are cut through at odd angles, while in Illusion-Reality-Truth, they rest on vertical finger-like forms. Temptation has a single long seat, riding like a boat over waves.

Castle’s bronze seats echoed the forms of the yew trees surrounding the historic Ring Pond, providing welcome spaces to sit while also entering into a dialogue with the herms and stone stools, originally designed by William Kent for the garden at Chiswick – a connection across time to the origins of design as we understand it today.

Najla El Zein

Beirut-born Amsterdam-based designer Najla El Zein’s work explores the psychological potential of abstract form. Her abstract seating sculptures convey the emotional complexity of human relationships.

The formality of the Rose Garden – its geometric planting and arrangement of columns and sculpture – provided an intriguing setting for El Zein’s Seduction, Pair 06, a seating sculpture hand-carved in Iranian red travertine that conveys the sense of two bodies conjoined.

Seduction, Pair 06, offered visitors the chance to interact with the work by sitting on it and feeling its shapes and expressions.

David Roentgen

Mahogany oval writing table, 1780-85
Mahogany dressing table, 1780-85

David Roentgen (1743-1807)

David Roentgen and his father, Abraham, were innovative in every aspect of their business. They employed skilled artisans, used modern manufacturing methods, and travelled throughout Europe to advertise their work. 

At the time that the 5th Duke of Devonshire bought these two tables, they would have been at the height of fashion. The 5th Duke and his wife, Duchess Georgiana, would have seen Roentgen pieces like these at the French court of Louise XVI and Marie Antoinette and it’s likely that they bought these pieces as a result. 

Perhaps the most inventive and surprising aspect of these pieces are the mechanical devices they hide.

Take a look at the videos below that bring them to life. 

All works courtesy Friedman Benda, New York, and the artists; apart from works by Max Lamb and Jay Sae Jung Oh courtesy of the artists and Salon 94 Design, New York; and Ndidi Ekubia courtesy of Adrian Sassoon, London.

Joseph Walsh works, Joris Laarman Maker Bench (Hexagon), and historic works are from the Devonshire Collections.

Mirror Mirror was produced in collaboration with Friedman Benda with support from Salon 94 Design and Adrian Sassoon. The exhibition was co-curated by Glenn Adamson, previously Director of the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, and Head of Research at the V&A, London.

Our official media partner was Dezeen. Our headline arts sponsor was Sotheby’s.

All imagery copyright of Chatsworth House Trust/ Devonshire Collections

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