Marque of Excellence
In an age of instant gratification, David Linley is a craftsman to whom time means little.
The entrepreneur grandson of Queen Elizabeth, Viscount Linley specialises in beautifully handcrafted bespoke furniture and desk items that could take months to complete. He operates out of chic London addresses in Belgravia and Mayfair, a testimony to success of a business that is regarded as one of the premier luxury furniture brands.
'What I am trying to do here is blend cabinet-makers with designers in a retail environment,' he says. He is making a traditional craft relevant to the modern consumer.
He sought out the best designers to make his furniture: chair-makers, cabinet-makers and a lady who creates remarkably fine marquetry - skills that are in danger of dying out, but Linley is determined to ensure they all have a future.
'What is so thrilling about today is that there is an appetite for excellence in a mass-manufactured world,' he says. 'It is about the use of materials, building things to last and crafting something that you can pass on to your children that will become part of our heritage.'
A Linley piece is instantly recognisable: his famous humidors, for example, are rooted in neo-classical design, featuring intricately inlaid wood motifs or pictures and an exciting and unusual mix of woods and materials. He has almost single-handedly revived and updated the use of marquetry (inlaid wood veneers), which he likens to painting with wood.
'We could put a marquetry person at work in our shop window here, and people would stay and watch for hours,' he says. 'There is a growing appreciation for good quality objects.'
Linley is also noted for his elegant furniture, which uses a blend of traditional and innovative techniques to create enduring pieces. There are sycamore desks riddled with secret drawers, burl wood dining tables and walnut games tables with inlays of Macassar ebony and aluminium.
It takes at least a week for the draughtsman to prepare the drawings before work can properly begin. The marquetry process requires the meticulous piecing together of delicate slices of paper-thin wood veneers.
Once the elaborate patterns or images have been completed, they are put through a press to seal them. All these veneer surfaces have to be finished before the carpentry can start, and using traditional skills of cutting, joinery and polishing, the piece of furniture begins to take shape.
CRAFT FOR HIRE
The Linley brand of craftsmanship expands beyond the borders of bespoke objects and domestic furniture. In recent years, his team has worked on projects such as the interior design of suites for Claridges in London and the Kempinski Baltschug Hotel in Moscow, always carefully tapping into the history and architecture of the buildings. They have designed home interiors for the clients such as Oprah Winfrey, Carolina Herrera and Jo Malone.
Recently, they collaborated with Bentley to design and make the interior wood panelling for 10 limited-edition Continental Flying Spurs (above right). They also worked with Ch?teau Haut-Brion to design and make 10 consoles to hold 20 bottles of their finest wines to celebrate the chateau's anniversary this year. And, not surprisingly given his expertise in this area, projects with cigar specialists Hunters & Frankau in London and Nat Sherman in New York to create special limited-edition humidors. 'The marquetry offers the opportunity to create something unique and enduring,' says Linley.