Parisian designer Victoria Wilmotte chose the name 'Edgar' for her contemporary take on a hotel reception bell because it seemed to her that it sounded like the kind of name you associate with a discreetly powerful hotel servant. ‘Edgar’ would be the concierge who gets you a late reservation in a popular restaurant, or tickets for a sold-out show.

It would be a tough name to live up to for most humble, tinkle-toned reception bells, but humble is not the word you would use for the brass behemoth created by Wilmotte and the Belgian metalwork artists of Maison Vervloet.

‘The makers actually came back and said, “We want to make it thicker”,’ explains Wilmotte. ‘It helped with the production process to make it thicker, but it also helped to make it even more of a statement bell – a real thing of luxury because of its solidity. And because I had in mind a very technical aesthetic, the additional thickness emphasised the feeling that it is like a gear mechanism or some other piece of engineering.’

Wilmotte is known for her solid, sculptural designs, such as stone light fittings, concrete room dividers and great geometric tables. Even her ceiling light shades look like they could be made of stone. ‘I wanted to make the technical nature of the bell completely apparent by giving it a much more complex form.’

Born in Paris, Wilmotte studied for an MA in product design at London’s Royal College of Art, graduating in 2008 and returning to her home town to open her studio. Her collaborations include objects for ToolsGalerie in Paris, and a solo exhibition in Brussels at the Pierre Bergé et Associés gallery. She has also created furniture for Piasa, Coedition and ClassiCon.

Maison Vervloet, of Molenbeek, Brussels, has been making decorative hardware – fine door handles, hinges and window fittings – since 1905. Its expertise is in things that fit the hand perfectly. It makes to order for architects and building restorers, but its offering is increasingly being updated with contemporary ranges, including one designed by India Mahdavi.

‘Much of what we do is sand-casting with handmade finishing, so it was interesting to work on something using a state-of-the-art five-axis CNC milling machine,’ says Maison Vervloet’s technical advisor Mario Loyo. ‘The bell was cut from a solid block of brass to match Victoria’s drawings [but thicker]. And then we collaborated to perfect the bell mechanism on the inside of the shell.’

‘I really enjoyed visiting such an old-school factory to work on the prototypes,’ says Wilmotte. ‘They have classical machinery and a wealth of really skilled hand-finishing experts.’ As befits a company making art for the hands – and for the Handmade Hotel. 

As originally featured in the August 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*209)

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