At your service: David Rockwell offers furniture as home help
Be it a personal butler or an attendant who takes parking the car off your hands, a valet is synonymous with notions of luxury, decorum and personal attentiveness. In furniture form, a valet stand exudes efficiency of a similar vein, discreetly offering a way to cast off the day that is steeped in old world charm.
Both these notions come in to play in the first complete furniture collection from celebrated American architect and designer David Rockwell, on show in Milan at the Wallpaper* Arcade, via San Gregorio. Entitled ‘Valet’, the 14-strong range – from a valet incorporating a mirror, a clothing rack, a leather holder for shoes and a shelf for odds and ends, to a sleek walnut coffee table with a leather pocket for remote controls and other devices – caters to the demands of modern living with discreet, added functionalities.
‘The word “valet” has a historical resonance,’ explains Rockwell. ‘I thought we could reinterpret it for the 21st century, but imbue it with a crafted point of view. I feel like we’re living in a time when so many things are blended – our work time, play time and living time – so there is a new typology emerging that we could create furniture for.’
The range also includes seating (a love seat, an armchair and a club chair, all framed in blackened steel and brass detailing); space-saving designs, such as a leaning secretaire and a compact shelf unit accompanied by saddle leather bins to reduce clutter; plus a couple of showstoppers – a bar cart and its wall-mounted sibling, the mixology center.
The cart, a refined two-tier piece made from walnut, features an elegant work surface on top, while supplies of alcohol can be stored below. A leather-sling wine rack allows bottles to be neatly displayed, while a leather bag conceals the mixologist’s tools. Finished with custom brass casters and leather-wrapped handlebars, the cart also has a bottle opener, attached by a leather cord for easy access.
‘The word “valet” also implies someone being of service, it’s not just hardware. A valet can be help, so it’s one of the reasons many of these pieces have multiple functions,’ says Rockwell. ‘We started the collection with the valet piece, which in a very simple way leans against the wall. I think it addresses [the idea of] transition, so when you come into a room, [in a] house or hotel, there’s that moment when you want to put down your keys, your phone, pick up a newspaper. That moment of transition, and creating a piece of furniture that helps choreograph that, was where [the collection] emerged.’
The collection’s modernity is emphasised by its elevated material palette. American walnut, blackened steel, grey upholstery, brass accents and cognac leather elements inspired by old-fashioned postman’s bags are refined, yet invitingly tactile.
Production is by manufacturer Stellar Works. Known for utilising French, Japanese and Chinese craft and production expertise to bring its collections to life, the brand has collaborated with design practices such as Neri & Hu and Yabu Pushelberg.
Rockwell couldn’t be more pleased with the results. ‘I’d always been impressed with Stellar Works’ ability to bridge the gap between craftsmanship and manufacturing, and I was intrigued by their East meets West capability,’ he recalls. ‘They kept pushing us to go further and create more iterations, which I found interesting, and I think their ethos of cross-cultural sampling and mixing of design elements was a way to push us. While the furniture is largely made in Shanghai, they do have the ability to craft and finish wood at the high end of French furniture making.’
He continues, ‘For 30 years, we’ve done a lot of custom furniture as one-offs. We haven’t done lines of furniture, partly because of all of our diverse interests. What I look for in a client is someone who is both inspiring and welcomes our participation, so everyone feels like they’re growing and being challenged. Given how great this experience has been, I’m now more interested in furniture than I was before.’
As featured in the May 2016 edition of Wallpaper* (W*206)