Roche Bobois Mah Jong Sofa in Hiro composition upholstery by Kenzo TakadaThe 1970s was my favorite decade for interior design, because designers really pushed the limits. One undeniable success: The Roche Bobois Mah Jong sofa, a modular sofa design created by Hans Hopfer and launched in 1971. The Mah Jong sofa was originally designed with more subdued upholstery, but Roche Bobois has kept this sculptural design alive and relevant all these years by partnering with haute couture fashion designers to create instantly recognizable, pattern-rich compositions. Above: The Mah Jong Hiro composition with upholstery designed by Kenzo Takada.

Roche Bobois Mah Jong sofa Kenzo Takada Yoru composition
Kenzo Takada Yoru composition

Roche Bobois products are not inexpensive.

detail of mah jong sofa upholsteryBut, a girl can dream, right? The sofas are entirely hand made in Italy.

detail of handmade construction of roche bobois mah jong sofa

Hans Hopfer and the design of the Mah Jong

The responsive PR team for Roche Bobois sent me all these photos stat, along with a brochure with lots of info about the Mah Jong. Looking quickly through all the yummy photographs, I jotted down all these adjectives: Avante garde, bohemian, sexy, counter culture, high fashion. Yes: The 1970s were known for their… love pits.

But digging into the history, it seems that in the early 1970s, Hans Hopfer’s design perspective was very much influenced by the birth of his daughter. As a result, he designed the Mah Jong with family living in mind. Relatedly, look at the Roche Bobois materials online (links below), and circa 1971 you will see — beige upholstery — sueded leather, I’m guessing. The haute couture interpretations worthy today of the Olsen Twins came later.

hans hopfer designer of the roche bobois mah jong sofa
Hans Hopfer; ROCHE/2.

Here’s what Roche Bobois says about the design’s birth on their page about the Mah Jong:

Painter, sculptor, designer… Hans Hopfer designed sofas that are, for many, the indisputable “signature” of Roche Bobois’ collections. 

In the 1970s, Hopfer’s innovative and informal approach to comfort had a profound influence on the way people furnished and arranged their living space. 

In 1971, he created the Mah Jong, a sofa based on the total freedom of function and form. Starting with three basic elements that can be combined or stacked, the Mah Jong allows limitless options of composition…. 

Roche Bobois launched as company in 1950. And even though the Mah Jong is instantly recognized as the company’s signature piece, it has many other products:

Roche Bobois Mah Jong compositions by Kenzo Takada:

Roche Bobois today features Mah Jong sofa collections with upholstery created by Kenzo Takada, Missoni Home, and Jean Paul Gaultier. There are also beds. And, put a sheet of glass on a cushion and you have a coffee table!

Kenzo Takada upholstery for Roche Bobois Mah Jong sofa in a room setting
Kenzo Takada’s Yoru design in a room setting with rice paper screens — oh my!
Roche Bobois Mah Jong sofa Kenzo Takada Asa composition
Kenzo Takada Asa composition

Mah Jong compositions by Missoni Home:

roche bobois mah jong sofa with upholstery by missoni
Missoni Home Mah Jong composition
missoni home mah jong sofa for roche bobois
You can put the Mah Jong pieces together in all kinds of ways
Missoni mah jong sofa for roche bobois
Room shot: Missoni Mah Jong in a Paris apartment… mai oui!

Mah Jong compositions by Jean Paul Gaultier:

Jean Paul Gaultier Mah Jong sofa for Roche Bobois
Jean Paul Gaultier Composition Couture Mah Jong sofa
jean paul gaultier mah jong sofa matelot composition for roche bobois
Jean Paul Gaultier Matelot Mah Jong composition

Manufacturing the Mah Jong sofa:

Beautiful! Is anyone else reminded of the pillows on the sunken Alexander Girard sofa in the history Miller House? Patterns, when combined well, can be both comforting — and energizing!

mah jong sofa composition by kenzo takadaI think I’d go for the Kenzo Takada Hiro composition (above). Give me those 1970s technicolor pinks and oranges! How about you?

Thanks to Roche Bobois for all the wonderful images!

Repeating some of the key link love:

  1. Christine W says:

    Wow – I love these cheerful sofa combos. It might be pretty hard getting out of them after a few drinks though – but I guess you could just roll off into the floor.

  2. Ms. Vel-Vida says:

    These are so beautiful and innovative. It’s so hard to decide which is my favorite. If I had to pick one, just one, it would probably be the Kenzo Takada Yoru composition, I really dig the cool tones. Also, am I the only one going gaga over the black lacquered floor in the Jean Paul Gaultier Composition Couture picture? The photographer has a great eye for contrast, the sofa and hanging light in the Paris apartment picture are an irreverent slap of delicious style to their old regime surroundings, love it!

  3. Tarquin says:

    Last year on Retro Renovation, I learned about the Biba era. These couches are just what you need for that look. I LOVE them to the MAX. My favorite is blue & avocado. I love that combo, because I’m never quite sure if it clashes or matches.

  4. Karin says:

    I’ve sighed over these couches in the brochures for years. The brilliant colours and patterns are indeed iconic. They’re perfect for lounging on while wearing your Moroccan caftan!

  5. lynda says:

    I would not want one of these sofas, but they are so pretty and fun to look at. We had a Roche Bobois’ store in the local mall and it was always a treat to go into the store. Beautifully designed and the colors and fabrics are just perfect.

  6. Jay says:

    Yoru with its blues and greens. I remember back in the day when NYT used to have Home & Living sections that included large ads from RB, I figured it top drawer quality items.

  7. Marie Gamalski says:

    I’ve been decorating several “fantasy” houses in my head for years…this couch will now have a prominent place in the fantasy Palm Springs abode….atop a shag rug on the original terrazzo floors…

  8. Wendellyn Plummer says:

    Oh my gosh! With my bad knees and age, I would never be able to get up! LOL But, they are beautiful works of art in furniture!

  9. Christa says:

    These are soooo beautiful but they require a palatial room, young healthy backs and knees, and a housekeeper to sweep and vacuum daily.

  10. Laurie C says:

    A few years ago, my mother got it into her head to try to find the Roche Bobois sofa she and my dad didn’t buy in the ’70s. What was available wasn’t quite up to the visions in her mind, but we sure had a fun time looking– and drooling!

  11. meb says:

    Gorgeous. For someone who prefers a chaise, or lounge furniture, & sitting on the floor, this is almost perfect. Not a fan of separate seat cushions, but understand the necessity with modular furniture.

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