Within the wondrous realm of well-appointed interior design, what is the foremost denominator connecting the words heirloom, handcrafted, quintessential, and timeless? What if I added to the mix, the words hallmark, artistry, and heritage, and then surrounded these words with adjectives like unparalleled, extraordinary, remarkable, and inimitable?
In Raven Vanguard’s eccentric universe, there are no doubt many incredible creators, craftspersons, and makers pervading this rarefied firmament, but for us, for today, and our singular vision ahead, there is but one design house at the forefront of it all, that being, George Smith Limited, headquartered in the northeast of England, in Cramlington, Northumberland.
George Smith is at the apex of uncompromising, tailor-made, bespoke, and couture furniture-making that still utilizes time-honored traditions of handcrafting, hand-tooling, hand-fastening, hand-stitching, hand-tying, hand-joinery, and hand-finishing.
So, this begs the question of what if anything does a revered British furniture maker in the UK have to do with Raven Vanguard's newly designed Music Room? Well, for starters, George Smith is a major point of embarkation. However, to explain this to you in a fashion that makes sense holistically in the overall context of our Room’s new design, I need to take ten steps back and refocus my thoughts and explanation.
And to fully comprehend the all-around import of this introduction, you’ll need to understand us better as designers. Since its conception, Raven Vanguard has been about the exploration of, and absolute attainment of the purest and most complete realizations imaginable of beauty, sensation, and experience in the artistic design of interior spaces.
Same as George Smith, Raven Vanguard understands the many nuances of elegance completely. And, exactly like George Smith, we strip it entirely of the pretense and artifice of ostentation and flamboyance in pursuance of distinction, beauty, timelessness, and subtlety.
Perhaps more than any other designed environment, a dedicated music room provides an accomplished designer with a multifaceted opportunity for creative experimentation across the entire range of the human sensory experience. Because in a music room, the perceived euphonic attributes of music as a function of the process of listening are dramatically affected and shaped by the coalescence of what one also simultaneously sees, touches, smells, and tastes. Yet, and this comes as a complete surprise to most people, our sense of hearing is not the most predominant sensation in this context. Instead, it is the primacy of our visual awareness and perception, and sense of sight that most profoundly of all influence the overall consciousness-expanding qualities of our music listening experience. Consequently, if the pursuit of auditory sonic perfection is the only reason you listen to music, and you live to hear music only rather than experience it fully, you are sacrificing a golden opportunity to be swept away by a truly mind-blowing, multi-sensory, and immersive music listening experience by tapping into all your senses at the same time.
When all was said and done, our creative concept for the newest embodiment of our Music Room springs out of a Raven-styled minds-eye exploration of the fascinating arts and aesthetic experience of the European Salon counter-culture that flourished from the 16th Century until the close of the 19th Century. Hence, we aspired to create the ultimate showpiece for our collective imagination by exploring and interpreting the mysteries surrounding various obscure and enigmatic concepts and ideas like purgatorial transcendence; femininity, fragility, and vice; opium den-like shadowplay; sensuality, intimacy, and ecstasy; otherworldly spirituality, mysticism, and encounters with the divine; and the sacredness of ritual and ceremony. We cross-pollinated our vision with the often-conflicting notions found within the 19th Century Symbolism movement together with the provocative elegance that was all the rage during the reign of Napoleon III and throughout the Victorian era.
The redesign of our Music Room started from a relatively simple premise – the idea of human connection. More precisely, given the personal disconnectedness in today’s society, the need to reconnect with our own true selves and to reawaken our relationships with one another. We have now spent far too long adrift without purpose in the devolution of cyberspace, virtual technology, and in our own heads. Thus, our desire to restore essence to our interpersonal relationships, and sanctuary to our homes. Meaning, you won’t find a television or any form of video playback in our Music Room (and check your phone at the door, please).
When redesigning this space we consider hallowed, we made a collective judgment at the outset that every decision, choice, and selection had to be representationally, thematically, compositionally, and aesthetically faultless with no allowance whatsoever for errors, misjudgments, or hindsight. More importantly, every decision made had to do justice to the utterly unique nature of our Brand.
With this in mind, we decided that the starting point for executing our design vision would be an unconventional, albeit functional, objet d’art, one that would surely be the subject of much conversation, but also in keeping with our original concept. To many of you, our selection of a Borne Settee may be an anachronism, though not to us, not by any stretch of our wild imagination. A Borne Settee is not only extraordinary in its design, but it is also the quintessential conversation starter.
So, what is a Borne Settee, also known as a confident/confidant, love seat, indiscreet, vis-à-vis, terminal, tet-a-tet, conversational, courting chair, or boudeuse? Is it a sofa, a chair, or, in fact, a settee? Or, is it just an artifact of old world opulence? No one knows for sure. With no intention of disregarding historical accuracy, it is difficult, if not impossible, to precisely determine the origin of this unique furnishing. Some examples were traceable back to the reign of Louis XVI where it was used as seating in the boudoir. The Borne later reached its peak of popularity during the reign of Napoleon III in France and under the rule of Victoria in England.
Most often, the Borne featured three to four distinct and compartmentalized seats arranged in a circular configuration around a central terminus, or terminal point, doubling as a backrest. This seating arrangement permitted conversation in a way that didn’t overburden the occupants with forced familiarity or intimacy. No matter its exact history, the Borne is one incredibly sexy piece of furniture any way you look at it; one with a storied background and one that itself over time will tell stories of intimacy and shared experience for generations to come.
So, why a Borne for our Music Room? To add softness, contrast, and balance to the imposing rectilinear nature of our Music Room’s architecture and to make it the Room’s visually sensuous and tactile centerpiece and sculptural focal point.
So, why did we choose George Smith to create our Borne? We wanted the best, and after lots of research, and firsthand experience, we believed that we had found the finest in George Smith. And, in the domain of Raven Vanguard, the words luxury and luxuriousness are not naughty, forbidden words.
In the end, we narrowed our selections for a commissioned Borne Settee in our Music Room to George Smith and the workshops of Maison Brazet in Paris. Like George Smith, Maison Brazet represents the epitome of prestigious furniture making and restoration. If you’ve seen their artistry on display in the Château de Fontainebleau outside Paris, in particular, Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish Boudoir, or if you’ve had the opportunity to see their incredible work at the Marble House in Newport, Rhode Island, then I need not say anything more.
Although we couldn't go wrong with either choice, when it came down to making a final selection, a choice of just one, for us, and our cherished Music Room, it could only have been George Smith. The artistry of upholstery and furniture making have been perfecting themselves over many centuries. However, in George Smith’s world of handcrafted furnishings little has changed since the invention of springs in the 19th Century. Those makers at the pinnacle of this craft have not sacrificed those traditions that have been passed down through generations or their artisanal tools of handcrafting in favor of cheaper materials or the expediency of today’s modern commercial assembly-line production techniques.
Another reason we selected George Smith, we always like the added enhancement offered by a backstory. George Smith, the person, the namesake, was an extraordinary late 18th, early 19th Century English designer, cabinet and furniture maker, upholsterer, draftsman, and author of furniture pattern books. George Smith, the namesake, wrote and published the well-regarded The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide in 1826; this publication influenced many 19th Century furniture makers in the United States.
Side note: in all our background research on the European history of the Borne Settee, and of George Smith, the designer, we could not find any George Smith penned archival plates, drawings, engravings, illustrations, or records detailing the fact that he personally ever designed a variant of the Borne Settee. Nevertheless, his artistic talents and designer’s ethos still influence how George Smith Limited respectfully and passionately handcrafts its furnishings to this very day.
Let’s get back to our discussion of present-day George Smith and its exceptional variant of the Borne Settee, known fittingly as the Conversation Piece. What an incredible objet d’art to build an entire music room around, especially our Music Room.
Our bespoke Conversation Piece, which was made at George Smith’s workshop in Northern England, is depicted in the artwork accompanying this Raving. The construction of our piece involved the use of traditional know-how and artisanal tools that haven’t changed for ages, such as nail punches, webbing stretchers, both straight and curved-point needles, rubber mallets, tack hammers, regulators, skewers, fabric stretchers and tucking tools, and the like.
Our Conversation Piece is constructed of raw materials from renewable sources, such as beech and birch from sustainable forests, as well as jute vegetable fibers, and upholstered with nature-made innards like cotton, feathers, and boar bristle.
The custom-made frame for our Piece is constructed of kiln-dried woods that were hand-jointed and dowelled to precise measurements for added strength and stability. The internal construction includes heavy steel-coiled springs that were eight-way hand-tied and interwoven into the frame connected by broad bands of jute webbing. The frame is fitted with custom-made hand-turned legs made of ash stained black and capped with antique brass casters.
With the springs finally tied down, the seating platform is then covered in hessian fabric and stitched in place to create the necessary support for the padding of cotton stuffing and boar bristle. Once the stuffing and padding are shaped, a layer of natural muslin fabric was applied in preparation for the application of thirteen yards of our specially ordered velvet fabric in Imperial Marine from Verel de Belval that we had procured through Creations Metaphores of Paris. Our velvet fabric was pattern matched, cut and hand stitched into position, and then finished with hand-tied deep buttoning, and the meticulous gathering, or ruching, of the fabric along the perimeter of the base of the seat, and along the arm-joinery of the seat. Our Conversation Piece was then finished with the hand-tacking of nailheads around and along the bottom of the ruched fabric.
So, there you have it, this is the one-off Piece that virtually started the ball rolling on the redesign of our Music Room. Not only is this furnishing beautiful and luxurious, its timeless appeal, magnificent handcrafted construction, and impeccable attention to detail, essentially guarantee that not only is it an investment worth making, but it is an unexampled heirloom that will pass from generation-to-generation in our Raven Vanguard Family across this Century and into the next as a priceless antique of the future.
Moreover, if George Smith is the go-to choice for someone as talented as llse Crawford, then who are we to argue.
Lastly, a word of sincere thanks to the good people at George Smith like Claudie Gvertz and Gabrielle Vergottini who decided it was worth their while to work with a small-sized Design Studio like ours; thank you for taking the time to help make our choice the right one.
Other bespoke pieces, some of these from George Smith, will be delivered to our Studio between now and early-June, all in anticipation of our Grand Reopening blowout for our Music Room sometime later in June. Make sure you visit the Music Room page on our Website and fill out the questionnaire if you are interested in participating in the random drawing for a chance to attend this invitation-only event.
At some point in time, after you finish reading today’s Raving, please go back and revisit our first Raving explaining the hows, whats, and whys of our Music Room journey.