A great article from Nicole Swengley of the Financial Times on the use of Vellum on furniture.
APRIL 04 2014
Designers newly smitten with art-deco favourite vellum are experimenting with this skin’s velvety versatility to intriguing effect.
Vellum, the velvety yet tough component of the earliest books and manuscripts, is undergoing an extraordinary renaissance. “Homeowners are always looking for the sensuous and tactile – and vellum is both,” says bespoke furniture maker and restorer Simon Orrell. “Many people are unaware that it can be used in furniture; they are fascinated when they see a piece, and love its richness and texture.”
Similarly smitten is designer Tim Gosling, a director at eponymous firm Gosling, who created a black vellum-topped dining table with internally lit glass-rod pedestal bases for a Mayfair apartment designed by Kelly Hoppen. “Vellum’s exceptional properties give it an aura of glamour, softness and enduring luxury,” he says.
“Its allure is twofold,” declares Paul Wright, general manager at William Cowley, one of the few remaining vellum makers. “No two pieces are ever identical, and the skill levels involved give it a remarkable cachet. Becoming a master craftsman takes at least seven years.”
So, what is vellum? The name derives from the early French word for calf – vélin – and it typically comes from a calf or goat (both are used in contemporary furniture). It is considered superior in quality to parchment, which is made from the split skin of a sheep. Vellum’s durability is highlighted by the retention of a practice, dating from 1497, of printing British Acts of Parliament on it for archival use. Yet it is also “a wonderfully unpredictable medium”, says furniture designer Julian Chichester. “The skins vary so much that not only is every piece unique, but variations in colour and tone provide an extensive palette. I recently clad every kitchen-cupboard door and drawer in my home with variegated brown skins.”