We’d never given our door handles much thought, beyond their basic function. But, talking to Marie-Veronique Swannell, whose designer door knobs are inspired by high fashion and jewellery trends, has opened the door to a new design obsession.
It’s a pretty niche market, how did you get into it?
When I was decorating my first home I became aware of a gap in the market – you have to remember that back in 1994 the market for luxury contemporary handles basically didn’t exist. Having a truly innovative product we had a lot of press when the Haute Deco showroom first opened. It was pretty much an overnight success.
Which are your most popular designs?
Our signature door handles have become a design classic for contemporary interiors. We first launched the collection in 2004 with new designs and finishes added over the years. The collection continues to be a bestseller ten years later. Encapsulating bronze elements in translucent cristalle resin is a unique concept perfected over time, the collection plays on the reflection of light on polished or satin metal, refracted in a sensational blend of radiance and translucency.
What’s your inspiration?
I am inspired by textures in all walks of life, whether in the wild or on the Kings Road. It’s the texture that differentiates our handles – in fact, I would say that quality of texture is what defines the majority of interior products, be it furniture, fabric or wall coverings. I am always aware of how textures might translate into handles.
I’m influenced by trends in fashion and jewellery. I often find that I have been contemplating how to translate a fabric or material into a handle for a long time and, when I see it used on the catwalk, it acts as a trigger, compelling me to finalise a concept. For example, a couple of years ago I designed a collection replicating lace motifs in bronze and last season I was inspired to create fur textures in bronze. Contemporary jewellery is another source of inspiration, especially semi-precious gemstones as used by designers such as Cassandra Goad.
What style of interior do your most outrageous designs work with?
The more spectacular handles tend to work either with the simplest furniture, or with the most lavish.
How are they manufactured?
We opened our dedicated workshop in Hampshire back in 1998, long before it became fashionable to produce in the UK. We are proud to continue our development in this country.
Do you have matching door handles at home or do you mix and match?
There are definitely two schools here, personally I belong to the mix-and-match. First of all there are too many handles that I love to restrict myself to just one! In a multi-story house, you have the opportunity to create a different look and atmosphere on each floor. In our house, the reception floor is more formal, our floor is more contemporary and the children’s is more playful. Handles reflect each floor’s style. If the accommodation is on a single story, the need for continuity is greater and I would favour the same handle throughout – but there is always scope for variety on furniture and wardrobes.
What’s on your bedroom door?
A bijou lever handle in polished nickel. It’s elegant and sophisticated.
… and your front door?
An Art Deco inspired knocker.
What would you say to people who don’t consider handles when designing a space? Many people have no idea that a door handle can be used to add a sense of style and personality. It’s only when they see arresting handles in situ that they realise the potential. People come into direct contact with door handles more often than any other architectural detail. Comparatively speaking, they offer a straight-forward and cost-effective way to add character to interiors.
What factors do you take into consideration when designing a handle?
How it interacts with on-trend materials, how it feels in your hand, whether we’re going for thatWOW factor or a more subtle handle, whether we can physically make it – some designs are stunning but a nightmare to produce.
Is your home as luxurious as your door handles?
I suspect my home is as much a reflection of my personality as the handles I create, so the answer is probably yes.
What other finishing touches would you recommend?
A few select pieces that reflect your tastes and interests. Personally I love glass, it could be a Lalique vase or some beautifully-coloured Vitriini boxes by Iittala. And, to add a splash of colour, I am fond of Monkeybiz’s quirky beaded animal creations.