August 06 2011
Susannah Hunter first made her name as a designer of handmade handbags, but for the past five years, lovers of those intricate appliquéd leather florals have been commissioning her distinctive furniture too.
“The first piece I made was a huge mahogany room divider with hand-decorated leather panels, which was inspired by an afternoon in a friend’s garden,” Hunter says. It was a personal piece but when it went on show, the orders started rolling in and so a bespoke-furnishing arm was born.
Susannah Hunter has a very particular aesthetic and while all the furniture is made to commission, she is strict about what she will do. So, she will make ottomans and headboards and screens (Climbing Roses dressing screen, second picture, £4,450) in any practical size, but she will not re-cover people’s existing chairs. “All our armchairs [Peonies armchair with run-up stool, first picture, £5,850] are made by hand to our own design by a firm in east London, and we always source the church chairs [£500 each] ourselves,” she says.
When it comes to the design, however, the process is more collaborative. The concept behind the furniture collection is to bring people’s gardens inside their homes – an especially attractive idea for those people who spend their weeks in small urban apartments miles from their country gardens – so Hunter discusses specific flower choices and colours with each client before she begins. And while in most cases Hunter guides the client, she can be persuaded out of her comfort zone.
“Jonathan Ross and his wife asked for a bright pink headboard covered with appliquéd white roses,” she remembers. “It’s not a colour I would have chosen, but it really works.”