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9781580932592

Star Pieces : The Enduring Beauty of Spectacular Furniture

by
  • ISBN13:

    9781580932592

  • ISBN10:

    1580932592

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-11-17
  • Publisher: Random House Inc

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Summary

Furniture has star qualities unlike any other object: It is both functional and decorative, yet it can connect us to history and far-flung places around the globe in the same way a Renaissance painting sends us back in time or a photograph takes us to a beloved overseas locale. Furniture also appeals to four of our senses at once: we see the way it makes an otherwise dull room into a glamorous one; we touch its sleek modern lines and soft fabrics; we hear hinges creaking; we smell the rich scents of antique wood and leather. The authors, each of whom are experts on furniture, share their knowledge of its value and importance from an intellectual and emotional perspective, and describe how best to assess it from an aesthetic one, exploring styles, techniques and materials. They introduce twenty golden ages, from the ancient world to the twentieth century, by way of such rich moments as Ming in China, Italian and French Baroque, Chippendale in England, the designs of Newport and Philadelphia in America, Neoclassicism in France, Russia and Sweden, Biedermeier, Shaker and Art Deco. They also spotlight the most brilliant contemporary international designers, both those who see furniture as akin to fine art and those who simply enjoy the craft involved. They explain how your own star piece can enrich an interior with glamour, drama and personality and advise on how to commission a unique handmade piece and buy antique furniture. Two of the field's foremost experts David Linley, who rose to the head of his profession after founding his own firm in 1985, and Charles Cator, who holds special responsibility in furniture and decorative arts at Christie's International provide unsurpassable guidance, with their intimate understanding of the subject from both a commercial and enthusiast's perspective. Combined with Helen Chislett, who offers insightful comments from her experience as a writer on decorative arts, no group of authors is better suited to discuss these topics. Their illuminating text is supplemented by rich and varied illustrations details of carving, ornamentation and upholstery, views of different styles of furniture used in historic and contemporary interiors, original drawings, and spectacular pieces, both antique and contemporary.

Author Biography

David Linley is chairman of Christie’s UK and chairman of Linley, the bespoke furniture company.

Charles Cator, a respected furniture historian, is deputy chairman of Christie’s International.

Helen Chislett is a writer on interiors and decorative arts.

Excerpts

A Passion for Furniture
David Linley


When someone says to me, could you have chosen something to do other than furniture, I say no. Why? Because it is the most difficult world in the most difficult medium for the lowest amount of profit – in a nutshell, it appeals to my perverse nature. My personal motto is Always Do The Difficult Thing. What else could have given me so much pleasure by being so difficult?

Furniture also brings together two passions in my life: mechanics and materials. From the time when I was very young, I loved taking things apart – my Go Kart, bicycle, and, when I was older, my motorbike and MG sports car. Even now, I go on a motorbiking holiday each year with a group of friends from Parnham College, and instead of riding sleek, reliable, modern machines, we use a motley collection of vintage bikes. The point is that one at least is bound to break down and part of the fun is waiting to see which one it will be and then having the joy of taking it apart and putting it back together again. Of course this is probably not everyone's idea of a great holiday, but for us it becomes part of folklore.

My favourite visits as a boy were to the Science Museum in London, because everything from the power of steam locomotives to the finetuning of scientific instruments resonated with me. Inanimate objects over which you have full control, can find out how they work, how they were made and what they were made with, give huge pleasure. This pleasure is something I share with my father – a man who is known worldwide for his photography, but who is also a great maker of buildings, of objects and of furniture.

At school, Bedales, in Hampshire, there was no mechanics teacher, but I did have a fantastic form tutor, Mr Butcher, who was also a furniture designer. To begin with, I was interested purely in the making side – in effect taking principles of mechanics into a different material: wood. It was he who first taught me complicated joinery techniques, such as secret mitred dovetails. I was absolutely fascinated by the precision needed: if one-sixth of a joint is wrong, it will put out every other joint. The first object I made there, of which I was really proud, was a humidor – essentially a box for the storing of cigars – which had those same secret mitred dovetail joints.

If you looked inside, you could see only plain sides apparently held together by magic. I gave it to my grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, knowing she would appreciate the beauty of something that you cannot see, but know is there. Every day, that box was used at Clarence House to offer guests cigars, not because most people smoke cigars, but because she liked them to admire the technique. This was the also the piece I took with me for my interview at Parnham College (see p. 216). John Makepeace said to me, 'Why bother to make something that no-one else will ever see? They don't know how the box is constructed – they just have to take your word for it.' There was only one answer I could possibly give: 'Because I know it is there.' Thankfully, he seemed to like that and I was accepted to study at Parnham.

However, my love of furniture did not stop with the mechanics of it. Mastering those was one thing, but I also discovered within myself a real love of wood. It is such a warm material: emotional, characterful and tactile. I began to want to know more about it – what the various timbers were, where they came from, and how they could be engineered into furniture. I had always been taught to appreciate beautiful objects, but I took that appreciation to the engineering side of my brain and began to focus on how to achieve a beautiful object that has also been beautifully made. Whereas a love of mechanics is something that unites my father and me, my obsession with a piece being perfectly executed is not something I inherited from his side of the family. Like my great

Excerpted from Star Pieces: The Enduring Beauty of Spectacular Furniture by David Linley, Charles Cator, Helen Chislett
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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