With ‘customisation’ and ‘craftsmanship’ two of the biggest drivers in luxury furniture design, Decorus delivers both with considerable know-how. Its furniture, lighting and accessories – all made in the UK – can be bought almost off the shelf from a capsule collection (an unusual offering in the high-end furniture industry), or be tweaked to be custom-made from a huge variety of finishes and materials. One-off bespoke designs for very special projects, including royal residences in the Middle East and London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel (main image), round off its highly comprehensive service. Stuart Sharpless, who co-directs the company with Richard Hart, imparts some of his insights into today’s luxury furniture market.
Can you explain what Decorus does – and what distinguishes it from other furniture companies?
At Decorus we are passionate about design and the intrinsic beauty of materials. We design high-end furniture, accessories and lighting, all of which are manufactured in our Hertfordshire workshop. We have a skilled team of designers, artisans and craftsmen who are known for the outstanding quality of their work and the originality of their designs.
We like to work with top-end designers that are forward thinking with an appreciation of our approach to design. We love to be pushed to the point of impossibility and ignore the limitation of materials and production methods!
Your collection for autumn 2016 takes its cues from mid-century modern – how does that translate into the forms and materials you’re using?
The appeal of the mid-century modern style lies in the simplicity of its shapes, its well-balanced proportions, its principle of ‘truth to materials’ and the attention to detail – whether that’s tapered legs or skilfully curved upholstery.
Designs from that era are timeless and add sophistication and flair to contemporary high-end interiors: we reinterpret them, giving them streamlined shapes and subtle detailing in distressed bronze and antique brass. We’re known for our original finishes and our inventive use of materials – this is what makes our interpretation of mid-century modern stand out.
Your innovative use of materials includes ‘liquid metal’ finishes – can you explain what they are?
This particular innovation starts with metals such as bronze, copper, zinc and white gold being ground into a fine powder and combined with fluids to achieve a liquid that’s easy to apply and shape. It can be applied on to almost any surface – console table tops, cabinet doors and even accessories such as mirror frames. Liquid metal can also be poured into bespoke moulds to create unusual textures and visual effects.
Once the material has been applied on to a surface or poured into the mould, the fluids evaporate, bringing the metal back to its solid form. It can then be polished, patinated, pitted or treated to create the desired effect. Metals can be layered and mixed to create an infinite palette, and bespoke textures can be developed to suit clients’ specific requirements.
Working with liquid metal is incredibly rewarding as it offers a plethora of handcrafted finishes, many of which wouldn’t be achievable with traditional metalwork techniques. It can be used inside and out and adds very little weight to the finished product, making it ideal for sectors like superyacht design.
Do materials and finishes go in cycles of fashion?
There are certain materials and finishes that come and go, like the recently ever-present copper. However, it’s that timeless look that our clients crave – the reinterpretation of classical and 20th-century pieces for contemporary luxury. The high-end interiors industry thrives on (and craves more and more!) craftsmanship, attention to detail, fine materials and unusual finishes, and places an emphasis on companies that design and manufacture in the UK. It’s that honesty and true craftsmanship that’s en vogue. We hope that attitude is here to stay.
How and where is your furniture made?
All our furniture is made in our Hertfordshire workshop, and this summer (2016) is a very exciting time for us as we are moving to a bigger workshop space. It’s hugely important to us to employ artisans who are masters of a particular trade: for example there are three spray-booths for hand-applied specialist paint finishing and liquid metal application, a gilding area and a metal hand-polishing and fabrication department.
Is mixing materials within a single piece popular? What materials and finishes do you think look especially good together?
Mixing the individual textures and colours of different materials can transform a piece. All our designs are available in a choice of finishes, which allows our clients to select materials that particularly resonate with their taste. Our Albany Drum is a great example of combining different materials – it uses dark smoked oak, distressed bronze and an antique mirror surface to striking effect. My personal favourite is one our latest designs, the Bradley Desk, which combines leather with nickel – it’s an outstanding piece. We’ll be seeing more leather and metal combinations in the years to come.
How important to your clients is being able to customise a piece?
Clients are often working to very specific interiors schemes or have personal preferences for particular materials and we’re always happy to customise our furniture. Our typical lead-time is about six weeks for customised pieces and 12 weeks for a bespoke design.
At the same time, we’ve come to know our audience very well, so we’ve also created our Momentum collection – pieces that suit high-end homes, hospitality spaces and yachts just as they are, without the need for customisation, delivered in 3-5 days. Extremely useful when a project deadline is looming!
Have you undertaken any memorable bespoke commissions?
Yes, a few. One of our favorites is the bespoke champagne bar for The Rosebery Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. Our brief was to produce a fluid piece with shape and form, featuring striking metal finishes.
The lower section of the bar was hand-shaped to ensure we achieved exactly the right silhouette; it was then finished with a smooth polished and patinated resin-applied bronze metal. The rear of the bar, for serving and storage, features concave curved doors, which are clad in seamlessly welded and mirror polished stainless steel, with dark smoked oak veneered internal compartments. Finally, the top of the bar was finished with a smooth polished resin-applied zinc coating. It’s a beautiful showpiece.