There’s a buzz around the bespoke approach in the design world. Once the exclusive domain of the super-rich and elite, in recent years tailor-made pieces have become accessible for everyone. As consumer trends in both interiors and fashion move towards sustainable products, alongside buying less and buying better, concerns about the impact of throwaway, cheap goods on our planet have spawned a growing movement towards creating what we really want and restoring what we already have.
The bespoke market is incredibly varied in how you can use it. Some clients have a new, blank space that needs careful planning to make it work. Others need one cupboard to complement an existing scheme. Some want to commission a unique piece for a room, while others want to update an heirloom to enjoy it once more. The joy of the bespoke approach is that you can do as much or as little as you want, with no boundaries.
“We would love everyone to have the thrill of commissioning a one-off piece of furniture but it isn’t always possible,” says Roger Wates of E & A Wates, interiors specialists. “But you can create something from what you already have.” Whether it’s a sofa bought five years ago that needs updating or a 19th-century chaise passed down through multiple generations, via reupholstery, studding, cushions and reconfiguration, you can create and reinvent a piece of furniture. “We have over 2,000 fabric books in our showroom; some people think of us as a mini Chelsea Harbour!”
Working with what you have is a great place to start with bespoke commissions, especially when refreshing kitchens. When Stanza Interior Design was commissioned to improve an existing kitchen, they designed a large, complementary, fitted unit. “The unit is built around and hides a chimney breast, which they didn’t want to remove,” explains director Thea Ingram. “At each of the deeper ends of the unit there is a fridge and a built-in desk, and the central cupboards are shallower.” There are discreet touches which really bring this scheme together in a way that only a bespoke design can – the fluted glass on the cupboard doors echoes the fluted vintage wall lights opposite. To blend in with the existing units, the entire kitchen was resprayed in a tailor-made shade that matches the owner’s tiles from Spain, laid in the connecting hallway and utility room. “The cupboards are dark blue, the island is black and we replaced the worktop and splash back with composite stone, which has a marble effect and reflects the white in the tile design.”
The opportunity to get involved in the design process is very important to some clients, and an item as simple as a headboard is a good place to start. “Commission your own unique design and create something truly personal for your bedroom,” Roger Wates explains. “Do away with conventional shapes, take it higher, wider or deeper. Decorate with studding, buttoning or luxurious velvet or, if that’s not you, specify uber-sleek!”
Gary Worth of GW Cabinetry spends a lot of time working through ideas with his clients, making sure his designs can accommodate their needs. “I want to make something nice, that’s pleasing to make, where the whole home looks better because of what I’ve built,” says Gary, who won Excellence in Custom-Designed Furniture SW London at Build 2019 Homes & Garden Awards. “Media cabinets are very popular and I can incorporate lighting, art and display elements, as well as the screen – a black section hides a TV screen nicely.”
a lot of time working through ideas with his clients, making sure his designs can accommodate their needs. “I want to make something nice, that’s pleasing to make, where the whole home looks better because of what I’ve built,” says Gary, who won Excellence in Custom-Designed Furniture SW London at Build 2019 Homes & Garden Awards. “Media cabinets are very popular and I can incorporate lighting, art and display elements, as well as the screen – a black section hides a TV screen nicely.”
Alongside media units, another popular commission is walk-in wardrobes.
Alcove cupboards are standard in many south-west London Victorian and Edwardian homes, but for the Carrie Bradshaws among us, we want more. “Many owners choose to carve up an existing room to create a walk-in wardrobe,” explains John Osborn, one of the most inventive designers around. “Recently I used the shop-fit system along a whole wall – we didn’t need doors, everything was on display and easy to find. Bespoke is best for storage,” he adds
“I’ve made some wall dividers recently where one side backs on to the kitchen and houses tea and coffee facilities, and the other side is a media unit for the lounge. It keeps the space partially open while creating zones and allowing privacy.”
Awkward-shaped loft rooms, which are often kids bedrooms, benefit from bespoke storage but make sure they are future proof, advises John. “I’ve increased the size and usability of rooms where sloping ceilings make free-standing furniture impossible to use. It doesn’t have to be expensive,” explains John. “You can use MDF, cut it to any shape and spray paint it.” Kids rooms are full of design promise, giving the opportunity to have some fun when you get stuck in to the process. Rory Gordon of Good London Builders created a boat step ladder to access the balcony level above. “It’s a wonderful twist on the typical mezzanine/stepladder design, beautifully finished with brass handles.”
When designing anything, it’s freeing to be able to incorporate different styles. On a recent project Bellevue Bespoke designed Art Deco-style Shaker doors for a vanity unit because the owner wanted to combine his love of that era with his Italian heritage. Another commission required a built-in desk against where a radiator sits, because it would allow a window view for the child to study at, so a special grill was designed within the desk to achieve the perfect study area bathed a natural light.
Creating beautiful kitchens around people’s needs is another area of excellence for Bellevue Bespoke. “Our Shaker-style kitchens are popular with people who want to invest in a high-quality, handmade kitchen to reflect the quality of their house,” says John Tookey, manager at Bellevue Bespoke. “There are no filler panels, every unit is made to measure and built to order. You can choose the finish inside your drawers, the paint you want (or even create your own unique shade), nothing is standard.” In some cases you can even save money: “We recently built a pantry around a fireplace which saved the owners thousands as they didn’t have to take down the ceiling to remove it.”
Viki Lander at Ensoul, a specialist in luxury interior design and architecture, also believes bespoke kitchens can be purse-friendly. “You aren’t paying for a kitchen brand so it can sometimes be cheaper! You get custom-sized, bespoke carcasses, particularly good for awkward dimensions or narrow spaces, you choose your exact finish in terms of colour, texture, handles, door design from whatever you want, not just an edited choice, and you can get your appliances from any brand (some kitchen companies partner with specific makes).”
A bespoke kitchen gives a sense of balance to a space too, as shown in this meticulously designed Empire Build one on page 84, where symmetry and planning leaves no space unused.
Bespoke schemes give designers and owners creative freedom, whatever the budget. In a basement project, Viki Lander was asked to create a design that incorporated kid-friendly spaces, such as bunk beds, with adult elements including a bar and banquette. The result is a fun, successful, chill-out space for all ages. (See previous page). That sense of fun and originality can be found elsewhere in her work. “We recently designed a bookcase that’s also a staircase,” she says.
WHY RESTORING YOUR FAVOURITE FURNITURE MAKES SENSE
You can create a wonderful bespoke item and enjoy the thrill of seeing a much loved piece transformed.
Build to Last
Your furniture may be decades old but with the right care it will last many more.
Not too late
However poorly the condition of your sofa, dining set or chest, in the hands of experts there are lots of options to restore it to life.
You can get a full assessment from an expert before making a decision to repair.
With the huge range of fabrics, paints and accessories available, you have creative options that new furniture doesn’t have.
Think green, avoid landfill, champion craft skills and keep the soul in your home.
Source: E & A Wates