Meta at Design Miami 03.12.08

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“Glissade writing desk in bog oak, by Wales & Wales

words William Wiles

Meta, the British limited-edition furniture manufacturer, has unveiled four new pieces for Design Miami. The pieces, by Barber Osgerby, Patrick Blanchard and Wales & Wales, continue in the Meta model of combining contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship and unusual materials.

Perhaps the most unusual is Wales & Wales’ new edition of the Glissade desk. Glissade was the highlight of this year’s Meta offering at Milan, and possibly the best piece of furniture at the fair. The Miami edition is similar, but uses “bog oak” in place of ripped ash. Bog oak is 5000-year-old wood that has been preserved in a peat bog.

“When it rains in large quantities, the displacement of the water in this peat-bog brings to the surface these sunken oak trees,” says Giles Hutchinson-Smith, managing director of antiques firm Mallett of Bond Street, which runs Meta. Once they’ve been recovered from the bog, the petrified trees are slow-dried in a kiln to stop them disintegrating. “It gives this extraordinarily beautiful staining to the oak,” says Hutchinson-Smith. “It’s incredibly heavy, but very beautiful.” The material is so rare that only three of the desks have been made. The red pen tray on the ash edition has been replaced by a lacquered version in a shade of yellow used by the Qing dynasty emperors of China until the 19th century.

Patrick Blanchard has reprised the carving skills he exhibited on Tord Boontje’s extraordinary Milan wardrobe with the Acanthus lights. These twin lights are topped by a cluster of leaves carved out of limewood, and so thin that they’re translucent. The wood is, says Hutchinson-Smith, “incredibly difficult to carve”, but ten pairs of lights will be produced. A bronze version is also planned, possibly for next year’s Milan fair.

The two Barber Osgerby pieces are also remixes of Milan offerings. The Cupola reading table was originally going to be manufactured in a series of different colours, which makes this sober monochromatic version something of a surprise. Barber Osgerby’s Cidade candelabra has also undergone a colour change – less surprisingly, from silver to gold. The gilt is applied, of course, by a traditional process that can achieve a layer only six microns thick.

“When all the candles are lit, the way it dances with a sort of golden light is very different,” says Hutchinson-Smith. “[There is] a sort of sensuousness about it, which is very appealing. We had a dinner party last night and lit it as the centrepiece of the table, and it looks fantastic when it’s lit with the light bouncing off the gold surfaces.”

top image Glissade writing desk in bog oak, by Wales & Wales

Acanthus lights, by Patrick Blanchard Acanthus lights, by Patrick Blanchard

Cupola reading table in monochromatic glass, by Barber Osgerby Cupola reading table in monochromatic glass, by Barber Osgerby

Cidade candelabra in gilt, by Barber Osgerby Cidade candelabra in gilt, by Barber Osgerby

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