Black & Key Update

This month I write not so much a blog, but more a newsletter to share some truly exciting updates with you all!

Christmas Offer

Take advantage of this fantastic and exclusive offer, for delivery in time for Christmas Day!

For the very first time, we are showcasing a special Christmas combination discount if you purchase both our Orson Mirror and Small Garbo Console.

Both items are from our showroom display and will make the perfect Christmas centrepiece. We can provide you with a guarantee that both these items will be with you in time for Christmas Day! Only one each of these remain so make sure you are the lucky individual to get your hands on this exclusive and unique offer!

New Finishes

We have been fortunate enough to work in collaboration with the incredibly talented Simon Orrell.

Simon Orrell Designs have been creating exquisite furniture since 2001 and has become the UK’s leading specialist in shagreen and parchment, whether it’s creating bespoke designs or renovating and recovering original 20th century furniture.

We welcome the following finishes to our very own range:

Parchment

Shagreen

Other Finishes

New Pieces

We have been working alongside a very talented young designer to create an item of furniture that is unique and quite distinctive to the existing Black & Key range.

We cannot wait to embark on its formal launch in the New Year.

Keep your eyes peeled across all our social media channels, on our website and email communications! It is not something to be missed!

There is plenty going on here at Black and Key HQ – We cannot wait to receive your orders!

Spotlight on Mother of Pearl

Some of the very best materials are produced by Mother Nature herself, and we could not be more grateful. This week, we highlight ‘Mother of Pearl’, a mesmerising material used in embellishment within some fundamental pieces of Black & Key furniture.

Black & Key Mother of Pearl Dazzle Handles

Nacre, or the more commonly known term ‘Mother of Pearl’ is an iridescent combination of minerals that are produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it also makes up the outer coating of pearls. It is both strong and resilient, making it the perfect material when used in architecture and carpentry, along with many other things!

Why is it called Mother of Pearl?

Quite simply, it is so named because the shells, with their nacre lining, are the ‘mother’ from which pearls are ‘born.’ Lovely isn’t it?!

How is Mother of Pearl Different from a Pearl?

The easiest way to distinguish Mother of Pearl from an ordinary pearl is that MoP will display an attractive iridescent quality, a distinctive multi-coloured effect with a simple yet stunning glow. Ordinary pearls are also made up of nacre, however this is deposited and built around a tiny particle, eventually forming a pearl over time. These will adopt a smoother appearance, solid in colour and form.

Why do we use Mother of Pearl here at Black & Key?

The attractive nacre coating of sea shells has been used for decorative purposes for thousands of years, in architecture, carpentry, clothing, musical instruments and jewellery.

This material is incredibly versatile, lending itself to be cut and manipulated into shapes of all kinds, creating an elaborate inlay against counterpart materials. Due to its unique iridescent quality, we believe Mother of Pearl creates a premium, high quality finish to any piece in our range.


The Savoy headboard is shown in Macassar, detailed with a mother-of-pearl inlay.
Radial Cabainet is shown in Macassar with radial veneer marquetry on the doors, mother-of-pearl inlay, and Noir feet. 

Design Trends for 2020

As each year passes, we seek to provide new inspiration for our home or amend existing details that will transform our environment, providing an ever-changing and on trend space where we feel most at peace.

When a new season approaches, decorators, designers and craftsmen show us the trends in interior fashion that they propose will reinvigorate and beautify our living spaces.

It is so hard to believe that we are already in October, just a mere couple of months away from a brand new year. It is during this time, where we can inform you of the key 5 trends we must look out for in 2020. Are you ready?

  • The separation of environments and use of natural materials For many years, we have yearned for open spaces where movement and communication is free and easy. However, this is likely to change in 2020 as designers look for divisions within environments, to provide a greater sense of privacy and intimacy from within each space. We love this notion!
Image source: DTDA pty ltd
  • Colour trends – Grey You may have thought the love affair with grey interiors would have waned by now, yet it shows no sign of stopping. Simple, clean, elegant and versatile in its colour, grey enables you to set a relaxing and cosy atmosphere within any environment. In 2020, look at how grey is used in a bolder way, combining its subtly with vibrant companion colours. This also applies to furniture decoration, carpets and textiles.
Photo Credit – Shutterstock
  • Trending Material – Dark Wood Unlike previous years in which lighter wood was favoured, 2020 will see the immersion of darker tones, providing the home with greater elegance and luxury.
  • Metal and metal colours as materials to decorate Metals are a force to be reckoned with in 2020. Arriving in all shapes, sizes and variants, from those of industrial aesthetics such as steel or those of oxidized aspect, to gold, silver and brass, metals of all kinds will be incorporated throughout our decor with tables, lamps, lighting alongside various other accessories, features and decorative pieces.
  • Pictures of all kinds to embellish bare walls Pictures are a way to invoke colour, personality and emotion to our living spaces. They are an important decorative feature and can enhance the look and feel of an environment. Combine colours, styles and sizes to create your own artistic mural.
Black and Key bespoke tub chair, with 3 decorative, abstract paintings.

So, what do you think?

You may ask why trends matter so much to us here at Black and Key. Well, they matter enormously. We like to keep our eye on the latest movements and innovations in interior design so that we can better help you, our customers, when it comes to seeking the perfect design and creation for your home. We hope you have taken inspiration from this week’s blog and we look forward to discussing your ideas with you over the next couple of months!

Product Focus – Hepburn headboard and bed frame

This glamorous bed-frame in Raven walnut oozes luxuriance and glamour. I can only imagine it’s name was inspired by the most bewitching Hollywood actress of all time, Audrey Hepburn. Both emanate class, majesty and opulence.

The unique nature of what we do, allows you to customise both the headboard and bed frame in fabric of your choosing, allowing you to match this item with your existing decor and furniture. We can, of course, also supply an appropriate fabric after an initial consultation where we would look to discuss the outcome you wish to achieve.

The Hepburn is shown here in a blue satin with French natural antique brass upholstery nails. You can get this very look by pairing with gorgeous neutral soft furnishings, providing an added layer of luxury.

Hepburn headboard and bedframe in situ
Close up of Hepburn headboard

High quality divans and mattress sets, made by a renowned British supplier, are also available for our beds. Please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss the many options we can deliver. Please do note however that divans and mattresses are sold separately.

The Hepburn can be made to any size required, allowing you to fit this beautiful piece into any desired space.

Visual of bed frame and sideboard

Just look at the exquisite detail along the lower panelling of the bed frame. Where else would you witness such precise and divine finery on such an item?

Bed frame detailing

Most veneers and finishes from our collection are available for this piece. To take a look at what we have available, click here and follow the link to our website.

For more information on this any or any of our pieces, please contact us on mail@blackandkey.co.uk or give us a call on (0)20 7351 7989

The Last Straw – Straw Marquetry

If you are yet to witness the incredibly art form that is straw marquetry, please do let me introduce you to this highly skilled, and much desired decorative feature.

Petite Lombard mirror

Just take a moment to analyse our Petite Lombard Mirror. On first glance, it may not seem like much, but this piece has undergone painstaking work to look this good.

Straw marquetry is a craft and intricate art form that is similar to that of wood marquetry in terms of its appearance and the methods in which are used. This method was first thought to have been practised in the East, with first examples brought to England during the 17th century.

Personally, I find this art form totally and utterly mesmerising. The sheer time, patience and skill it takes to make something look so impressive and flawless is inspiring. Flat slithers of natural cured straw has their stems split, flattened and softened. This is then moulded and scraped into a flat ribbon. It is then placed, inlaid and secured edge to edge on a surface of either wood, plastic or paper until the area is completely covered.

The entire process of producing an item made with straw marquetry is handmade in our very own Black and Key workshop. Such technique requires practice, skill, patience and a well-developed sense of colour and tone.

To enquire about straw marquetry or any of the finishes we use, please do not hesitate to contact our showroom.

The Meaning of Luxury

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term luxury means:

“A state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense.”

I feel as though the term ‘luxury’ has been exploited at present, losing its true essence and significance, instead demonstrating a broad interpretation of an often warped perception.

I had always understood the term ‘luxury’ to describe wealth and splendour. We are now seeing a trend of poorly made, cheap goods, labelled as luxury to fool consumers into parting with hard-earned cash, for a well below par product or indeed set of products. We must retain the true essence of the word luxury, seeking quality at all times to reap the benefits that true luxury brings.

I have no doubt in my mind that the nurtured quality, the underlying responsibility to longevity, the design concepts, our experience and the absolute honesty of our hand crafted materials is altogether something luxurious. Our business ethos is to provide the very best in quality and luxury. Support us in our journey to really prove what luxury and quality is!

Friday Finish

We have come to the end of another busy week and my goodness, we are heading towards the closure of yet another month! Rather than dwell on the speed of time, let’s embrace the wonder that is Friday and with it, a long Bank Holiday weekend. My Friday ‘finish’ of the day is our aptly named ‘Nibble Handle‘.

An unusual design in a hand crafted finish which creates an interesting contrast to hard edged furniture.

Nibble Handle

Personally, I would say that the Nibble handles are the most effective in antique brass. As you can see from the image, the brass, takes on a beautiful mottled effect, providing the illusion of an ancient treasure.

What is Antique Bronze?

Antique Bronze is a robust blend of copper, zinc and other minor elements. Stronger than copper and less likely to split, the most common brass antiques are decorative domestic wares.

Much antique brass dates back to the mid-18th century, when Birmingham was at the heart of metalworking within the UK. By the middle of the 19th century, the city was the world leader in brassware. In order to understand the prestige that surrounds this type of metal, we should identify the cost of a genuine antique brass homeware today. In today’s market, a genuine pair of antique brass candlesticks from the 19th century can fetch between £150 to £650, style and exact age depending. This goes to show just how sought-after and luxurious this metal is.

The angled sides of the Nibble pull handle make it easy to grasp and pull. This pull-handle suits small to medium size drawers and doors. 

Crafted to the highest standards, our luxurious handles complement many beautiful pieces of furniture. Our pull handles are sold with pieces from our collection and also available to purchase individually to enhance your own furniture.

Don’t just take my word for it though! See for yourself …

Product Focus – Malden Sideboard

There are so many gorgeous pieces within the Black & Key range, that it is nigh-on impossible to choose a favourite. If I had it my way, I would kit the entirety of my home with the plethora of glamorous sideboards, console tables, and cabinets!

However, I fear that I would get into almighty trouble from my partner, who already adopts a stern glare whenever a new soft or hard furnishing appears in the house. I often take great amusement in how long it takes him to notice in most instances.

This week, I have decided to focus our attention on a divine item within the range; the Malden Sideboard. A fine example of British craftmanship at its very best.

Malden Sideboard

The cabinet carcase and doors of the Malden sideboard are shown here in burr Walnut veneer, although there are multiple materials you can choose from if you so wish. The burr Walnut veneer is a personal favourite of mine.

Varieties of Walnut wood have been used in furniture making for centuries. Walnut veneer in particular was incredibly sought-after and highly priced. This is perhaps why I adore this finish so much. Such a piece emanates luxury, quality and indulgence. Figured Walnut and Burr Walnut (also often referred to as Burl Walnut) were considered the most luxurious and attractive varieties (and we agree to this day!).

Burr Walnut veneer uis taken from the specific part of the tree where ‘growths’ sprouting smaller branches and/ or roots would occur. As these ‘growth’ areas were limited in both occurrence and size, larger veneers were hard to source and often on bigger furniture (tables, desks, bureaus, cabinets etc), these veneers would have to be carefully joined by matching up the pieces or blending them together.

The distinctive wrap-around frame is Raven oak, as is the interior of the cabinet. The door edges are mitered and conceal the carcase edge. Nack handles in Raven oak match the frame. The Raven Oak complements the Burr Walnut veneer, made in a multifaceted shade of black with just the slightest hint of texture on its surface, so to showcase the grain of the timber beneath. This adds a quality dimension to the wood, adding depth and interest, creating a certain sort of character within the timber, ensuring the detail isn’t masked by inky tones. As a result, the two differing wood varieties create a striking and contemporary piece, with a dramatic and sophisticated feel.

Contrast of wood varieties – Burr Walnut Veneer & Raven Oak

As a standard, this cabinet is supplied with two drawers and three adjustable shelves. 

I am still blown away by the detail on these doors – just incredible!

We make this piece in other dimensions, finishes and interior configurations, all of which are hand-made in the UK by our skilled craftsmen.

So, what do you think? Are you blown away by this piece just as much as I am. If so, have one of your own. You will not be disappointed!

Contact our team today!

Meet the Maker – Jeremy Higson

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have been given an opportunity to interview one of Black & Key’s most experienced and well-esteemed craftsman.

Jeremy Higson from Evesham, Worcestershire has been in the carpentry trade for 35 years and comes with a wealth of experience, knowledge and advice.

I could feel the passion oozing from every bone in his body as he spoke to me about his experiences when making such beautiful works of art for Black & Key customers!

67684875_2419361858387473_9060791040616693760_n (1)

How would you describe the experience of creating such beautiful and often bespoke pieces of furniture by hand?

I have a passion for making things. The work that I do on a daily basis cannot be classed as ‘work’ in the traditional sense. I find myself becoming absorbed in a project and can often become lost in the mechanics and processes of crafting. Whenever I am working on a piece for a client, time seems to go by so incredibly quickly, that before I know it, it is time to pack up and go home.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Every part of my job is challenging but the very notion of a challenge is what I love most about my work and is an element that I thrive off. The more challenging the project, the more stimulating it is for me. I get a buzz when a brief is complex and difficult.

What items of furniture have you made that you are most proud of?

I have been mastering the art of craft and carpentry for 35 years and so there are many moments where I have felt pride and accomplishment. In most recent times, I am perhaps the most chuffed with the mirror detail on the Petite Lombard mirror.

It perhaps does not look so impressive but the time, patience and skill it takes to piece all these elements together is incredibly intricate and complex.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that I can turn almost anything into something beautiful. Even materials that seem utterly mundane and hopeless can be worked with and manipulated into something pretty spectacular.

What is your favourite Black and Key piece?

My favourite piece would be the Dazzle handles , especially when on the Radial cabinet. The contrast in colour and form is just fantastic! The handles themselves are made with mother of pearl that go through an intricate process in order to give them the finished look. Each section must be cut, washed, dried and then stuck in place by hand. This is an incredibly delicate operation that can easily go wrong. You must have patience with this type of work, but the outcome is worth the wait!

Radial cabinet with Dazzle handles

What is the longest amount of time spent on a piece of furniture you’ve created?

Unfortunately, this was not a Black & Key piece but I spent 3 months working on a George III desk for Carlton House.

How many processes do you encounter when crafting anything bespoke?

This is really dependant on the piece and the materials used. You could have 5 processes on one piece and 55 on another!

Does perfectionism get in the way of efficiency?

No, I am very fast! (Jeremy smiles widely). Fortunately, my 35 years of experience in the trade has meant that I can work both quickly and accurately. I have made so many mistakes over the years, but it is about what you do and how you go about putting it right.

Which material is the most challenging to work with?

Swiss Pear!! This type of wood is held in high regard around the world but it can be tricky to work with. There is a reason why we do not use it here at Black & Key!

Have you noticed any significant change in trends over the past year?

It is the change in colour, veneers and wood mainly. For a while the trend was cherry, then oak and then dark cherry, black and then to walnut. In terms of design, like most things, the style in which an item is made will go around with the times. Art deco and 70’s retro seem to be a popular style within this industry at present.

What materials do you enjoy working with the most?

I love working with any material. The harder the better! The trick is to be careful with whatever material you use to get the best and most out of them.

If you could craft anything in the world, what would it be and why?

If I could create anything, it would be to build a replica of the Roentgens Berlin cabinet from 1790. This would be a life’s work but fascinates me due to the inclusion of some incredible technology for its time. It is an example of one of the finest achievements of European furniture making. It was made by Abraham (1711–1793) and David Roentgen (1743–1807) and is a writing cabinet crowned with a chiming clock, featuring finely designed marquetry panels and elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button. Just remarkable!

Have you ever been given a brief and thought “How on earth do I pull this off? If so, what was it?”

Often! That is the challenge and the reason why I come to work! I would say the mirror was a little bit like this.

I just break down each project into bite size pieces and work through the processes issues that way, otherwise the task can become overwhelming.

***

I could have spoken to Jeremy all day about each and every piece he had made during his 35 year career, how he went about each project and watch him work, but I fear he would have grown tired of all my questions!

Yet, what an incredible skill to have, with a mindset so determined and motivated! I would like to thank Jeremy and the team here at Black & Key for all the blood, sweat and tears that go into making these items so incredibly beautiful and unique.

If you want to know any further information on any item within or catalogue or wish to talk to our team about bespoke pieces, please get in contact!

Craft the perfect Guest Room

You do not need a large family home with a designated guest room to offer a memorable stay, warm welcome and bonus host points to friends and family. With just a little thought and creative thinking, a space of any size can accommodate your guests using a range of multi-functional furniture such as storage beds, day beds or sofa beds.

As a guest room is not permanently occupied, it can be easily disregarded when it comes to thinking about soft furnishings and those little touches we pre-occupy ourselves with for spaces that are better utilised. We must not overlook these touches, as these can really make for an impressive and comfortable guest room.

Ensure that you use high quality beddings, adding a variety of throws, blankets and cushions to the mix (because we all love a scatter cushion). Personally, I could quite happily spend all my monthly wage on soft furnishings at Luxdeco. This will rank you higher in both the comfort and aesthetic ranking.

A full-length mirror is an obvious essential for any guest room, allowing your guests to preen and present themselves for any big (or small) occasion.  

Grand Lombard II mirror

It may be that you even wish to include clothing hooks for hats, coats, bags, or ties. When guests are in town for a formal occasion, the more clothing storage, the better!

Take a little inspiration from your favourite boutique hotel, and stock your guest room with all the essential amenities. Ensure you have quality, fresh towels and toiletries. Even if your guest room does not have an en-suite, you won’t fail to impress with trinkets such as this! Plus, this means that people will leave the rummaging of your toiletry cupboard for another day. If you need a little guidance, perhaps opt for the Urban Apothecary toiletries – just divine!

Stock a console table and place a small stack of books and magazines nearby, enticing guests to put their feet up and relax for a few moments.

Frank Console Table

Last but most importantly not least, so that your guests can enjoy endless hours on social media or adding to their Pinterest boards instead of racking up those much-needed snooze hours, ensure you have a handy bedside table ready and waiting along with your wifi password, a lamp and preferably a nearby power socket. Never again will your guests have to crawl around furniture on their hands and knees, hunting for outlets!

Rogers Lamp Table

Enjoy and good luck! You know where we are if you need any additional inspiration.

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