Once the spatial and structural elements have been resolved, the house confident within its landscape and all materials chosen, then we can begin to think more about the furnishings – the pieces that will together make this place into a home.
We look for a mix of old and new, for depth and resilience, and for tension – the energy of the contemporary alongside the mellow age of the vernacular keeps it revitalised and forward moving.
Most of the pieces we find are unique, hand crafted in one form or another. They may be pure, untouched since their creation, or mixed – the surviving material or section of one thing married to that of another. We like to find or commission new pieces from contemporary craftsmen, artists, makers and creators at every level – pieces that when designed and made with deep roots will become the antiques of tomorrow.
Our pieces come from craft fairs and exhibitions, antiques fairs and bric a brac stalls, from other clients, from market stalls and junk shops – we’re not fussy about the place, just the piece.
Monetary value is for collectors. Integrity is for homes. When a piece is right for the space it has nothing to do with it’s cost – in fact the right pieces are very often less costly then the wrong ones. Less showy, more able to take the back seat if that is mostly required.
What each piece has in common is a particular strength and presence, by which it can make a real difference to the space it becomes a part of – neither overpowering nor becoming subsumed by it, simply complementing.
Here is snapshot of some of the pieces we’ve found for, or with, our clients – some new, some old, each hand worked by a craftsman.
We needed a capacious cupboard to house sporting gear – tennis rackets and balls, pool paraphernalia and games. The idea was to have something free standing, self contained with deep shelves, that looked good in its own right. So we tracked this one down on the Kings Road. It was during the recession and the dealer had had enough, was selling up and we did well with this piece and a few others.
The Painted Chest
It’s lovely to have old pieces; the character, resonance and patina of time brings a particular depth that would be impossible to ask of a new piece, however well made or artificially aged. Just as middle class white boy can never really sing the blues.
Yet we also like to have drawers that glide effortlessly, clean lines, forward looking pieces. This is one that we’ve had made for us – bespoke in size, shape, depth of drawers, finish, built around a specific ideal.
The French Sofa
The first criteria for a sofa is, without doubt, comfort. We have to ask who the sofa is really for and how long will they actually sit in it. A drawing room or bedroom sofa has a different criteria of course to those in the television rooms and family dens. And then we spend many hours deciding how it should fit the space, the length, the depth, the rake, the seat height and the arm height, the arm length and the seat spring, then the cushion filling for the seat and for the back. All before we choose the fabric or the finish detail.
A Tale of Two Chimneys
This room was newly built, to extend the kitchen into a family room across a courtyard, joining the stable cottages. The space was perfect with it’s brilliant ceiling, French windows to the garden on one side and pivot ones to the entrance courtyard on the other, but no provision had been made for a real log fire, and if a room ever needed one this was it. A big space like this depends on a real crackling fire. Not so much for a focal point, as for life and energy – the sounds, smells, atmosphere that fire attracts, the magnetism that invites people to ad-hoc groupings and conversations.
When you’re looking for antiques, especially structural pieces it’s always an adventure, one that can be a bit hair raising at times. It’s really pot luck whether the thing you find will fit the space you’ve designed, and whether you’ll even find it in time.
And so it was for this. The door and frame were such an unbelievable find that we just had to use them – both the client and I fell in love with them immediately for this space.
They look vintage – and can of course be vintage, but this one was new, made to order by an Italian company to the design ideals of Mariano Fortuny. We love them because they embody many cultural influences within each design; they look wonderful in very different locations and with virtually every style of furnishing and design. The light that comes through them and from them is gentle and subtle, nuanced. Lamp light is diffused softly and beautifully through stretched opaline silk, which has been carefully painted with just the right delicacy of hand and pattern.
The Knole Sofa
Essentially this sofa is a pretty straightforward, but at the time highly imaginative, development of the standard upholstered bench, adding back and sides. Not to lounge around in but to hold court from. This was perhaps the first – or if not then one of the first – sofas, or settees, to be made. Upholstery as we know it today was a new idea, but one that soon caught on, becoming sought – after and enviable. It precipitated major and far reaching changes to how people lived and communed – for the first time furniture could be brought into the room, no longer reliant on the walls to supply the back cushion and support.