Furniture
Julian Chichester
An eclectic collection of furniture, beautifully handcrafted with specialist finishes

In 1987 Julian Chichester left his job as a market trader in the City and went travelling through Thailand with the idea of buying furniture. ‘In the early days it was very low-key and relaxed: I had a motorbike with a sidecar to put pieces in,’ recalls the designer, who began selling his eclectic selection of furniture and decorative homeware (fourposter beds, teak sculptures, ikat silks) from a shop on Portobello Road. Later he started designing teak garden furniture himself, followed, in 1995, by his first interior collection of five pieces, all in black with gilt detail, which launched to great acclaim at Decorex in Chicago.

 

Julian’s eponymous business grew organically; today his furniture is showcased in hotels around the world, including London’s Berkeley hotel, the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town and the Astoria in St Petersburg. He has a handful of showrooms in London and New York and has just opened another in Atlanta. ‘The very nice thing about what I do is that I have never felt as if I had to have a certain look or repeatedly use the same materials,’ he says, discussing the breadth of his furniture collection. ‘Our pieces are always completely fresh, made to different styles and with a variety of finishes all going into the mix.’

I have never felt as if I had to have a certain look or repeatedly use the same materials. Our pieces are always completely fresh, made to different styles, with a variety of finishes

Inspired by classic English furniture making and mostly 20th-century shapes, that he alters in innovative ways to make his own, Julian Chichester is renowned for quality craftsmanship and original design. He adds around 30 to 40 new pieces each year, which are manufactured in factories in the UK and Vietnam. ‘I’ve worked with highly-skilled craftsmen in Vietnam for around 25 years and I consider myself lucky to do so,’ he continues. This spring, new pieces include an 18th-century style oak bedside table with a blackened brass drawer; a 1950s Italian wing armchair (he’s recently been incorporating more upholstery) and a sculptural dining table with a prismic, bronze-coated base and brass-wrap finish, which is moulded and beaten by hand.

 

It is specialist finishes such as these – others include faux-shagreen in cobalt blue, honed white granite, zinc on linen and fine-stitched leather – plus handcrafted decoration and intricate detailing, that really set the company apart. ‘We have anything from pieces coated with brass and bronze to gesso and our beloved goatskin, which we often return to. We’ve also been using lots of bleached, pared-back oak lately. It’s an incredibly difficult finish to get right but after a couple of years of trying, finally we’ve cracked it,’ says Julian, who is constantly conjuring up new ideas. Designs can be customised to suit individual needs, from adapting the finish and size to making larger, more distinctive alterations. Whether a client is looking for a traditional chest of drawers, a mid-century leather dining chair or a contemporary floor light, the joy of Julian Chichester is that it’s very likely to be part of his brilliantly diverse offering.

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