When a high-flying client of British design brand Linley was furnishing his Mayfair office recently, he started by commissioning a solid walnut desk and cabinet with bronze details. Impressed by these beautifully crafted pieces, he then requested something equally elegant and just as practical – a valet stand. Now he has somewhere to hang his jacket and tie between meetings and a change of suit for the evening. Using the same design language as the desk and cabinet, it has bronze trouser rails and a walnut accessory tray to hold coins, cufflinks, collar stiffeners and dress studs, while the walnut hanger’s curve is echoed by a base with round edges. It’s an exemplary slice of old-school glamour, fulfilling a practical requirement while adding a chic ambience to the room.
Despite the advance of dress-down Fridays and casual weekend clobber, the right accessories still finish a look – and they need to be stored in style. Prompted by client requests, Linley recently introduced a valet (£4,200) to its retail collection. This well-crafted design offers a hat hook on top of a walnut hanger, and a shoe rack. A concealed cufflink tray slides out from a wooden panel above the trouser rail, while a Santos rosewood panel with grey sycamore detailing adds glamour. Bespoke valets (from £5,400) can include a crest or monogram in marquetry inlay. “Although the main elements – trouser rail, hanger, shoe rack – remain constant, we can include extras like padded watch rolls, charging points and secret compartments. These aren’t just pieces of furniture – they’re glamorous boys’ toys,” says company founder David Linley.
Fast-track lifestyles demand an “everything-at-hand” approach, which French fashion house Hermès interprets with typical Parisian chic. Groom (£29,750) is a handsome metallic structure covered in Canaletto walnut with brushed stainless-steel trouser bars. The rear of its rotating, full-length mirror is upholstered in calfskin with an integral hook and pouch. An accessory holder can be specified in brushed stainless steel or leather, while a walnut jewellery compartment and leather bag rest offer additional storage.
Interior designer Fiona Barratt-Campbell teamed up with Alexander McQueen Studio to create a gentleman’s valet for Wallpaper magazine’s Handmade exhibition in 2014. “Collaborating provided a sculptural fashion edge,” she says. Masculine and feminine shapes give the one-off design (£48,000) for FBC London a striking profile, while two USB charging ports add contemporary relevance. The valet is made from high-gloss oak and bronze, with a creeping-ivy motif etched into brass elements, and McQueen’s signature Prince of Wales check laser-etched on red alligator jewellery boxes.
“I wanted a mix of materials, each chosen for appearance, colour and texture,” Barratt-Campbell explains. “I like mixing traditional methods such as bronze casting – I use a foundry in northeast England – with contemporary techniques like laser engraving for detailed pattern on the brass.
Paolo Moschino, who has created a valet (£590) for interior designer Nicholas Haslam, says: “The practicality makes it an almost essential item. I love mine because it stores my daily kit – cufflinks, collar stays, wallet and some key pocket squares – and it’s the best way to air my trousers and jacket. It also has a raised shoe bed to allow the soles of my handstitched leather Belgian shoes to dry.” And it seems appropriate that Antonio Citterio – the architect behind Ermenegildo Zegna’s Milan headquarters – has also designed a smart valet (£2,500) for the fashion house. The soft-grain leather curve of its shoulder is perfectly shaped to fit a Zegna tailored jacket, while a leather-covered trouser hanger, accessory tray and tie/belt hook are integral to the design.
Anyone in search of a dumb valet from Jeeves’s salad days (he appeared in PG Wodehouse novels between 1915 and 1974) should check out ClassiCon’s Mandu (£420), designed in 1932 by Eckart Muthesius; the elegant, chromium-plated, steel-tube outline is characterised by a suitably art deco flourish. A contemporary equivalent is Pronto (£153), designed by Enzo Mari for Magis in 2002, whose frame, made from the same materials as the Mandu, is topped and tailed by a polypropylene coat hanger, accessory tray and weighted base. A further exercise in restraint and practicality, the Laurel valet (£367), designed by Simon Kämpfer and made in Italy by Zilio A&C, can be found exclusively at London design shop TwentyTwentyOne. A playful amalgam of circular and rectangular shapes, the structure – finished in natural or black-stained oak – offers space for hanging, storing and drying.
For those who wish to sit while adjusting their black tie, then Sam (£2,660), a contemporary valet available from London’s Urban Living Interiors, incorporates a stool upholstered in a client’s choice of leather or fabric. Made by Italy’s Porada from solid Canaletto walnut (available in a natural finish, stained moka or wenge wood, or lacquered), it is equipped with jacket and trouser hangers, and an accessory tray and mirror can be configured to suit requirements. The seating element harks back to the maple, cherry or pine PP 250 valet chair (£5,580) designed by Hans Wegner in 1953. The top rail is shaped like a coat hanger and the seat is a storage box. “It’s beautifully crafted, sculptural and functional,” says TwentyTwentyOne co-founder Simon Alderson.
Multifunctional designs with integral mirrors can double as mini-wardrobes. Push mirror (£525), designed by Stine H Andersen for Danish brand Skagerak, provides a hanging area behind a long mirror topped by a shelf. And Jonah Takagi’s valet (£1,750) designed for British brand Another Country has an arched clothes rail incorporating a full-length mirror and shelf. It is made in white oiled ash or lacquered in black, cream, blue or stone grey, with much of the stretched wooden rail cleverly hidden from front view. “This original and characterful design is a valet stand and small, portable wardrobe all in one,” says Another Country’s founder Paul de Zwart.
Where the priorities are fewer acccessories and more in the way of a mirror, there’s architect David Rockwell’s angular mirror ($1,450) designed for Stellar Works’ Valet collection, which launches this month at Milan’s Salone del Mobile. A leather pouch (for shoes) is the sole addition to its polished bronze and leather-edged frame. And Jasper Morrison’s frill-free, floor-standing mirror (£1,200), which was designed for Cappellini in 1997, remains popular for its adjustable inclination and double-sided practicality.
A soaring, sculptural design can operate as a perfect statement of intent for the day ahead. Hermès’ Vestiaire coat rack (from £7,350) is a 1.8m-tall folding structure in solid Canaletto walnut with brushed-steel hooks and feet, two wooden accessory trays and a bag rest upholstered in calfskin. Tom Dixon’s Pylon coat stand (£1,000), inspired by bridges, towers and pylons, is handwelded using copper-plated steel rods, while his Mass design (£1,500), with angular protrusions for hanging and storing, has a timber frame clad in brass foil. And master craftsman David N Ebner, whose work has been shown at the Smithsonian Institute, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago, has created the sculptural, bulb-like Scallion coat rack in cast bronze ($18,500) or bleached and painted ash ($8,500).
Meanwhile, contemporary furniture maker Channels is experiencing strong demand for its seven-drawer Wem (oak, £1,450; walnut, £1,595) and Alba tallboys (oak, £2,190; walnut, £2,410; zebrano, £2,600). “They are not marketed as vanity cabinets but many customers use them for that purpose in their dressing rooms,” says Channels founder Samuel Chan. At influential furniture retailer Aram, Chameleon (£6,957), is a mobile vanity unit created by Swedish design studio Front for Italian manufacturer Porro. This pearwood cabinet with internal drawers and shelves is covered with black and white leather on alternate sides and hinged to allow for a colour switch. And London-based designer Tim Gosling is increasingly commissioned to create bespoke accessory cabinets (from £17,000). One made in English sycamore and vellum has a pink suede interior containing watch rolls – sized to match the client’s wrist – below which sit three levels of lift-out cufflink trays.
Grander still is Linley’s Sunrise vanity cabinet (£80,000), designed to resemble a building shimmering in early-morning light. A marquetry façade of birdseye maple veneers is hand-dyed in coppery tones, and bleached sycamore gleams with iridescent mother-of-pearl. Lift the lid and up pops a silver-leaf églomisé mirror, while vide-poche drawers pivot out for bits and pieces. Cabinet doors below reveal a figured walnut interior with leather-lined drawers and compartments purpose-designed for cufflinks, collar stiffeners and shirt studs. There’s also a drawer holding a Bamford Watch Department toolkit, others for housing clothes brushes and a bone shoehorn, more for ties, handkerchiefs and pocket squares, and two secret drawers for whatever you please; plus padded leather watch rolls, two SwissKubik watch winders and, hidden behind a mechanism in the cabinetry, a Bramah safe whose location is revealed only to the purchaser. Even Jeeves would find it irresistible.