Valet by David Rockwell 25.05.16

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Rockwell’s multifunctional Valet mirror was inspired by the idea of a personal butler. Now he’s extended the collection to 14 equally helpful pieces, shown this week at the Icon House of Culture

The near certainty that my credit card won’t stretch to the Valet collection fails to diminish its appeal. The materials employed, from brushed brass and American walnut to tooled saddle leather and blackened steel, are rich yet minimal – what its creator, the architect David Rockwell, with his interest in storytelling and stagecraft, calls a ‘mash-up of different, dissimilar ideas we hope will be both familiar and surprising’.

Two prototypes were unveiled early last year by the Shanghai-based firm Stellar Works to garner feedback. Both explored dual functions – the bench, with its in-built leather magazine rack, and the collection’s ur-piece, Valet, a standing mirror that manages to cram in a walnut shelf, a steel coat rack, brass hooks and a leather shoe bag. According to Rockwell, the concept for the latter piece drew on the idea of the personal butler of old, ‘easing that moment of transition when entering or leaving an office or home, going from or to the hustle and bustle of the street’.

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The mirror has an American walnut shelf and leather shoe bag

After a long and fruitful development process with Stellar Works’ creative directors Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, the collection was extended to 14 pieces, including a lounge chair, bar cart and coffee table, all in time to be launched at this year’s Salone in Milan. ‘They were great clients, encouraging us to create a full collection, pointing to what they thought was most interesting in our proposals. We’ve always admired their precise, almost Japanese, approach to one-off custom furniture, as well as their in-depth knowledge of high-end French furniture-making.’

The collection’s multifunctionality and material palette reflect the fluidity of contemporary living – Rockwell points out that the days when rooms served specific functions have now passed. To highlight this adaptability, Valet will be upholstered in two alternative materials for Milan: a tactile leather and a more neutral grey fabric. ‘We felt that a line of furniture that could make an impression in a very urban way, but also in a very handcrafted way, while dealing with notions of transition, comfort and flexibility, could find a unique and useful place in both residential and commercial environments. Certainly, we’ve been looking for that multifunctional aspect for our hospitality projects for a while now.’

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Lounge chair in leather

Rockwell is particularly proud of the bar cart, a typology that he’s long admired: ‘I’d already created them for Neue House in both New York and LA – I just think there’s something fascinating about how they facilitate the transition from day to night. And Stellar Works has been a patient partner, making sure the custom brass castors can move at 360 degrees so beautifully. We’re living in a world where things can be made the same everywhere, so having that sense of great craft and care has additional meaning.’

Rockwell has obviously relished the opportunity to shrink his focus to a furniture collection: ‘This is our first significant launch, so it has value for us. And these are such high-quality pieces, you can really imagine them lasting through many generations, being moved from home to home. I hope that they have a real joy to them.’ I guess I’d better start deciding which lucky relative will be getting my bar cart. And I’d better start saving.

The Valet collection is on display at the Icon House of Culture during Clerkenwell Design Week (24-26 May 2016)



John Jervis


Above: Bar cart in American walnut and leather with brass castors, Club chair in grey fabric, Valet mirror

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We’re living in a world where things can be made the same everywhere, so having that sense of great craft and care has additional meaning

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