Servant class: the making of David Chipperfield Architects, E15 and AHEC’s ‘Butler’ stand

The making of Hotel Wallpaper’s ’Butler’ stand, created by David Chipperfield Architects
We go behind the scenes on the making of Hotel Wallpaper’s ’Butler’ stand, created by David Chipperfield Architects, E15 and AHEC.
(Image credit: Carl Kleiner)

You can’t truly enjoy a hotel if you don’t treat it like a home. Often, we spend our time in spectacular places in a half-unpacked limbo, items scattered across bed, suitcase, bathroom and desk. Given Handmade’s hospitality focus, we set out to commission the perfect piece of hotel furniture. Hotel Wallpaper* wouldn’t be complete without its ‘Butler’, a piece that blends the architecture skills of David Chipperfield, the craft and design knowledge of E15, and fine materials and wood expertise from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC).

The ‘Butler’ is a modern interpretation of several items of largely redundant hotel furniture: from the bag stand to the dressing table and the neglected chest of drawers. Chipperfield and his team have drawn together functional influences to create a piece that manages to be practical, elegant and quirky, inviting engagement the minute you enter your suite.

‘Unpacking in a hotel is never enjoyable,’ says Chipperfield. ‘I always find hotels have badly designed wardrobes and cupboards you don’t really want to use. The ‘Butler’ is a different approach, a combination of dressing table, valet stand and storage that brings all these things together to make unpacking more of a joy than a chore.’

Chipperfield’s chosen collaborator was E15, an accomplished furniture design studio originally founded in the eponymous London postcode by German architect Philipp Mainzer and Iranian designer and art director Farah Ebrahimi. E15 previously collaborated with Chipperfield on the ‘Fayland’ table and ‘Fawley’ bench, bespoke pieces for a modern country house, as well as the ‘Leighton’ coffee table and ‘Drayton’ sideboard. The studio’s way with solid, seamlessly jointed wood aligns closely with the English architect’s aesthetic and a shared interest in domestic scale design.

The collaboration with AHEC also has precedents. David Venables, its European director, has overseen the organisation’s many forays into designer collaborations over the years. The long-running partnership with Wallpaper* is especially valued. ‘This year marks our fifth collaboration with Wallpaper* Handmade,’ says Venables. ‘It’s proved to be a brilliant platform for us to experiment with our various timbers through partnerships with some great designers. It was a real honour to team up with a world-class architect such as David. Together we were able to explore willow, which is a relatively unknown American hardwood, and create a beautiful object that was one of the centrepieces of the Handmade exhibition [in Milan earlier this year]. It has been a really rewarding and exciting process.’

The ‘Butler’ is a compact, freestanding piece, with a sculptural presence that evokes an architectural composition. The luxurious material palette includes American willow, brushed brass, light vegetable-tanned leather and a square of thin Bianco Carrara marble. Filling the four capacious drawers or hanging clothes on the sleek brass rails is designed to be a delight, while the light and mirror ensure you take a closer look.

The prototype shown in Milan was handmade in Frankfurt by one of E15’s trusted carpenter collaborators. Every joint and junction was given careful attention. The E15 team describes American willow as being much softer and more malleable than the European-sourced oak it usually works with. It not only has a fine texture but can be polished to a near-perfect surface, with concealed gaps to accommodate any dimensional changes as the piece ages.

The ‘Butler’ creates a focal point, giving our fantasy space a touch of truly sybaritic enjoyment without compromising function. Chipperfield, E15 and AHEC brought clarity and class to the travel experience.

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

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The surface treatment of a drawer front with mineral white oil before assembly with American willow with Carrara marble and leather

(Image credit: Ramon Haindl)

Pictured left: the surface treatment of a drawer front with mineral white oil before assembly. Right: the partially built prototype, in American willow with Carrara marble and leather, in a carpentry studio in Frankfurt. The brass fitting is for a light in the finished version, set before a mirror

The milling of a drawer front on a five-axis milling machine

Pictured: the milling of a drawer front on a five-axis milling machine.

(Image credit: Ramon Haindl)


For more information, visit the David Chipperfield website, E15 website and AHEC website

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.