July 20 2011
After leaving Christie’s, where he specialised in 19th-century furniture and works of art, Leo Vaughan Williams began to respond to clients’ requests for highly personalised, luxurious bespoke accessories such as gentlemen’s dressing boxes, jewellery boxes, humidors and desk accessories. His company, Beckford, is named after the aesthete, collector and author William Beckford (1760-1844), and his designs are all handmade at British workshops and often personalised with details such as inlaid family crests, hand-blocked initials or hand-engraved monograms.
“Dressing boxes are a perennial favourite because they’re very beautiful yet functional,” he says. “We make them in rosewood, ebony, hornbeam or English walnut. One client commissioned a box for her husband’s 40th birthday with specially sized, suede-lined compartments for his most cherished possessions, including two Roman coins.” (Third picture: a macassar, ebony and sycamore inlaid version. A similar box would cost from £7,000.)
For a 50th anniversary, Vaughan Williams designed a cocktail set with silver stirrers shaped like sculling oars, polo mallets, golf irons and cricket bats, while silver decanter tops resembled balls for golf, tennis, cricket and football (first picture; stirrers from £275). An Arsenal fan and club shareholder ordered a miniature silver desk cannon (second picture), while another client commissioned a solid silver model of a 1929 Supermarine S6B racing plane (similar designs from £4,500).
Beckford was recently asked to create all the luxury accessories for Nero, a new 90m classic yacht, including desk sets (from around £1,000) and board games (backgammon set from £1,500). Objects for yachts and private jets have also included a silver paper-opener in the shape of a yacht’s hull. Butlers’ trays (£750), sets of coasters (£700) and photo-frames (£250) are also popular, with each design displaying exemplary craftsmanship and attention to detail.