The transformation of the British Army barracks in Chelsea into luxury apartments has been one of London’s most exciting residential developments. Now, Albion Nord, the team behind the space’s exquisite interior design, has created a homeware collection inspired by the Barracks. One of the designers, Camilla Clarke, talks us through creating the pieces and how they took their cues from the history and heritage of the iconic London building.
How did your work with Chelsea Barracks come about?
“We specialise in residential properties across the UK that draw on the rich history and origins of a site. So when we were invited to put forward a proposal for the interior design of the townhouses, it felt like the perfect fit.”
What was the starting point for the design process?
“We knew that we wanted to create pieces that told a story. So we started by looking at taking inspiration from either the history of Chelsea Barracks, Chelsea and the surrounding area, or from classical Georgian design. We also knew that we wanted to celebrate British craftsmanship and materiality. This formed a great starting point for us and helped us create a unique character for every piece.”
Talk us through the collection – are there any favourite pieces?
“It’s so difficult to pick favourites, but we think that the Wellington desk is particularly special. It tells a wonderful story that harks back the military history of the Barracks. Based on the old military campaign desk, it was made in three parts including the body and two legs. This was because it could then be transported easily from post to post. We took this concept and combined it with the incredible craftsmanship of Stride & Co and Collier Webb to create something totally unique. The desk really does evoke the sheer skill and level of craftsmanship that goes into the carpentry and metalwork. It is a celebration of British timber, made from a single piece of beautiful pippy Oak. The top is inset with embossed leather and each of the drawers are lockable with their own cast key featuring the Chelsea Barracks rose mark. It is probably one of the most detailed pieces, and for that it really does stand out.”
How do you make new pieces feel like heirlooms?
“We are always hugely led by antiques and their implicit narratives and histories. We felt that each of the products needed to embody British heritage and the Barracks more specifically. For example, the Westminster glassware is inspired by the Georgian glassmaking boom in that we drew on designs from this period and it takes its name from the Duke of Westminster, whose subsidiary title, Viscount Belgrave, was the rationale for naming the borough of Belgravia. Allusions to provenance in this way were helpful in steering our artisans towards the creation of a collection comprising future heirlooms.”
What has been the importance for you of championing British craftspeople?
“We really wanted to celebrate British craftsmanship in the Chelsea Barracks Collection. They know their materials so well and are masters in their traditional making methods, which is why it was so important, as we want these pieces to last a lifetime. Its also wonderful to know that each piece is made lovingly by hand, meaning that each feels totally unique.
“The Westminster glassware collection was created with Stewart Hearn London glassworks, a glassmaking studio specialising in bespoke hand-blown glass. The studio is run by the master glassmaker Stewart Hearn, a highly respected and award-winning craftsman and designer. He has established a professional practice of 30 years, developed through his experience of working with some of Britain’s most well-known glassmakers.
“Our fabrics are produced by Marina Mill, a family business based in an old Victorian mill on the banks of the river Medway in Kent that specialises in designing and producing exclusive furnishing fabrics. Stride & Co, with whom we create much of the timber furniture in the collection, is a furniture-manufacturing studio in Sussex established in 2017 by Rory Stride. The studio produces furniture for interior designers and individual clients, as well as an extensive and ever-changing range of their own furniture. Collier Webb has been manufacturing brass, bronze aluminium and silver castings for almost 40 years. By perfecting the traditional techniques of lost wax and sand casting, they have been able to produce a huge range of architectural hardware, furniture and lighting products, which have been specially designed to assist restorers, architects and interior designers with their projects.
“For our Belgravia lamp and the Morgan pendant, we worked with David Turner, who began his career as an assistant to his uncle Philip Turner, a skilled chandelier-maker and antiques dealer. He then started his own business as an antiques dealer and restorer in 1984, and gradually moved towards restoration and manufacturing, relocating to the current workshop in Dalston in 1994. Sally Marien is the potter we worked with for the Radnor tableware – she trained at Goldsmiths College London in the 1970s, where she developed her interest and passion for clay and ceramics. The Athena chair was crafted by Paul Reed and Peter Rackstraw, who make up Reed & Rackstraw. Together, they have more than 50 years experience of making, carving, and hand-polishing quality English chairs.”
What are you most proud of in the collection and in the design of the barracks?
“We are incredibly proud to have turned the spotlight on so many incredible British artisans. Each of them is so uniquely specialised. Working so closely with them has been such a pleasure and feels an entirely natural extension of our work as a studio for individual clients. Prioritising skill and craft is hugely important in our modern age, so it seemed only fitting to celebrate British craft for a collection inspired by the prestigious British institution of the Chelsea Barracks.”
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