“People now see interiors as an extension of fashion,” says Theo Mance, exclusive dealer for Cavalli furniture in London and whose new showroom, Kings of Chelsea, opens tomorrow. An art historian who trained at the V&A and has a strong background in antiques, Mance has been a buyer for Liberty, a consultant to Harrods and has helped several other international brands set up shops in the capital. He certainly knows his furniture, and believes that London has become an international centre for fashion and design.
“We are not simply selling a label,” he explains. “Cavalli furniture is an intrinsic part of the fashion brand, not an add-on. The furniture features the same exclusive prints at the same time as, or even before, its fashion launch.”
These prints are the stars of the show. For example, a luscious, large-scale red rose fabric is stretched across cupboard doors and sealed under a layer of clear glitter resin. Handles are jewelled and fashioned from brass and platinum. Cabinet interiors of shiny lacquer or leopard print sport bronze glass shelves. More red roses — in giant single flower heads — are scattered over huge sofas made for lounging at leisure. For those of fainter heart, the roses also come in grey. More restrained, but equally dramatic, is an abstract pattern of jagged shards in a kaleidoscopic effect, again in grey or pink.
“Londoners are aspirational,” says Mance, “and if they see quality and exclusivity, they are prepared to pay.”
Sofas and headboards feature frames of twisted leather, while chair backs are pleated like a dress, with studding as a “belt”. White leather for a cocktail bar is quilted like a handbag, and table tops in clear bevelled glass reveal sculptural supports — chunky columns or ribbon twists of nickel-plated metal.
London has already seen Cavalli homeware, with printed bed linen, snake-textured gold cutlery and towels in a safari of animal prints, but these latest pieces elevate the brand.
At Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, fashion maestro Giorgio Armani continues to celebrate his 40th anniversary this year. He opened homeware shop Armani Casa in New Bond Street in 2006, but decamped to Chelsea in 2011. Compared to Cavalli, his style for furniture is restrained and understated.
“This season it is the East that enchants me,” he says, introducing cabinets and tables in pared-down shapes in stained dark timbers, with flashes of crimson and jade. Sophisticated Venetian fabric house Rubelli — also showcased at the Harbour — has worked with Armani for 10 years, and its latest collaboration takes up the oriental theme, with interlacing patterns derived from Japanese armour that seem almost etched into quilted silks and wool.
Both Cavalli and Armani are exploiting the glittering heritage of Venetian Murano glass in Italy, where a master glassmaker and his two assistants use their skills to make Cavalli’s opulent chandeliers and Armani’s table lamps in bronze with dove-grey glass shades.
Glamour is a rite of passage in Hollywood, Miami and Beverly Hills, where labels such as Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg and Ted Baker have moved seamlessly into homeware. But Ralph Lauren is unquestionably the king. His homeware brand offers a timeless layered look, which mixes lacquer and vintage leather with tweed, tartan, cashmere, herringbone and animal prints. Browse an inspirational set of room settings in New Bond Street for a glamour fix.
In Mayfair, Russian-born Anna Grace-Davidson has a showcase shop, Anna Casa, offering more Italian glam-luxe including Baxter, famous for fine leather Italian craftsmanship married with cutting-edge design.
Its particular protégés are design duo Draga & Aurel, who both studied art in Florence before turning to furniture. One fabulous piece can upgrade a room, so try the couch in white Mongolian sheepskin by Paola Navone, Italian design doyenne.