The home accessories that are tabletop talking points

Handcrafted home accessories with wit and personality are becoming the design items du jour as digital developments declutter the domestic landscape, says Jenny Dalton

From left: Apparatus Studio marble, brass and glass Neo lanterns, from $780; brass and marble Neo vessel, $2,400, with brass bowl insert; and brass candle blocks, $760. Above: brass and glass Synapse hanging pendant, $7,700
From left: Apparatus Studio marble, brass and glass Neo lanterns, from $780; brass and marble Neo vessel, $2,400, with brass bowl insert; and brass candle blocks, $760. Above: brass and glass Synapse hanging pendant, $7,700

Jérôme Aumont has always been a collector. He bought his first piece from an auction house when he was aged just 13: an antique Buddha, it was for the young Jérôme more than just an inanimate object – it possessed personality, and objects with personality are exactly what his Collection Particulière label is all about. Launched in 2014, it is more a handcrafted love letter to the home accessory than a brand. Featuring vases, candleholders, objets and glassware from designers such as Paris-based Dan Yeffet and Christophe Delcourt, every piece is a sibling in Aumont’s eyes. “I’m building what in effect is an ideal private collection,” he says from his base in the French capital’s seventh arrondissement. “Every item adds its personal touch, with subtlety and sophistication, and each of the designers I work with needs to understand the pieces designed by the others, otherwise it doesn’t work. These are not something any designer could do for any brand. It is not a case of just putting a label on an object and claiming it for the collection.”

Nika Zupanc for Ghidini 1961 brass and rose-gold Florida bowl, €372
Nika Zupanc for Ghidini 1961 brass and rose-gold Florida bowl, €372

Already influential are the label’s pieces, simultaneously glamorous and familiar, with a remote hint of temps perdus. Take the sleek marble BOS vases (€1,932) by Delcourt, for example, with their charismatic bulge, or the smoked-glass and brass-topped Elements vases (€1,500) by Yeffet that sit quirkily angled on a smart block of Marquina marble: they have charisma as well as integrity, thanks to Aumont’s use of small traditional workshops staffed by specialists who work by hand (the brass pieces are made by goldsmiths in Portugal).

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Over the past year, other major home accessories launches have adopted Aumont’s focus on the object. Take Swarovski’s foray into table and desktop accoutrements through its Atelier Swarovski Home line, featuring items such as crystal candlesticks (from £199) by Kim Thomé and a Daniel Libeskind chess set (£13,995), that is an ode to the cityscape with its shard-like crystal playing pieces, as well as items by the likes of Ron Arad, Fredrikson Stallard and Tord Boontje. Designers available for this year include Raw Edges (bowls of laser jet-printed coloured crystal, price on request) and Tomás Alonso with his solid, faceted jewel-hued tabletop accessories, such as the striped crystal Prism tray (price on request). 

Kim Thomé for Atelier Swarovski Home crystal Plinth candlestick holders, from £199
Kim Thomé for Atelier Swarovski Home crystal Plinth candlestick holders, from £199

Plus there is Ghidini 1961 – a new collaboration between designer Stefano Giovannoni and Italian brass, aluminium and zamak manufacturer Ghidini Bosco – whose timeless metal tabletop pieces include the exotic leaf-shaped Florida serving bowl (€372) by Nika Zupanc, and Richard Hutten’s shiny triangular-grid trays (from about €111), both available in brass and rose-gold finishes. 

Zaha Hadid Design gilded stainless-steel Serenity platter, £335
Zaha Hadid Design gilded stainless-steel Serenity platter, £335

Apparatus Studio has a sophisticated range of tabletop lighting in the form of its marble and brass Neo lanterns (from $780), as well as stunning centrepieces from the same range such as the Neo vessel ($2,400), made of a large brass bowl that slots into a curvaceous marble stand. It also added an Objects collection in 2014, featuring iconoclastic, interconnecting waxed brass candle blocks ($760) that transform into bookends, and a geometric incense burner ($820), shaped like a chalice in spun and cast brass. Much of these would appear just as at home in Cleopatra’s palace as in a modern apartment – no small achievement. Other recent launches include those by Italy-based Bloc Studios, whose passion for marble has produced a monumental minimalist tabletop collection. Particularly noteworthy is Stefano (£361), an Arabescato tray-cum-fruit bowl with a raised trim. 

Dan Yeffet for Ooumm smoked-glass, Marquina marble and brass Orion candleholders, from €1,560
Dan Yeffet for Ooumm smoked-glass, Marquina marble and brass Orion candleholders, from €1,560

Back in Paris, fragrance-meets-accessories line Ooumm – started by Maria Bosoni in collaboration with Barnabé Fillion and Collection Particulière’s Aumont in 2015 – opened its first store last year. Particularly noteworthy items include its elegant marble Orion candleholders (from €1,560) and Libra, a pale‑grey glass candleholder that can be replenished with four unusual scented refills (€384), both by Dan Yeffet. Zaha Hadid Design, meanwhile, has collated its expanding home and desktop ranges to coincide with the launch of an online store and a major collection that transfers Hadid’s signature dynamic curves onto the gilded stainless-steel Serenity centrepiece (£335) and adds optical art to fluid, geometric placemats (£85 for a set of two) called Contour.

L'Objet earthenware and gold Celestial bowls on stands, from £350
L'Objet earthenware and gold Celestial bowls on stands, from £350

The richly decorative aesthetic of pioneering home object brand L’Objet is informed by owner Elad Yifrach’s discoveries on his travels. The remarkable large-scale black and 24ct-gold spotted vases (£335) in its new Tulum collection are influenced by the arts and crafts of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, while the fabulous handpainted spiky ceramics of its new Celestial collection (bowls, from £350) embrace a similarly primitive style. The label’s continues to expand internationally (65 countries and rising), and this year promises another new boutique, plus a partnership with Brent Smith Group to grow the Asian side of the business. L'Objet’s rising presence and popularity are signs of a broader trend, for the times are changing and the home accessory is peaking in importance for a number of reasons – prime among them being the decorative holes in our homes left by the movement of many of our tech and entertainment products to the Cloud.

Dan Yeffet for Collection Particulière smoked-glass, Marquina marble and brass Elements vase, €1,500
Dan Yeffet for Collection Particulière smoked-glass, Marquina marble and brass Elements vase, €1,500

“With so much of our lives moving online or into digital storage, items like picture frames, books and bookshelves, CDs and stereos no longer take up such a large part of the interior design landscape,” says Joanna Feeley, founder and managing director of market researchers Trend Bible. “This presents us with a challenge. In the absence of such clutter, what do we choose to showcase?”

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Whatever objects do enter our homes now need to have extra resonance and be even more carefully considered, says Feeley. The inexorable rise of screens that we can swipe shows an underlying craving for sensorial experiences, she says, and has in turn influenced our desire for natural materials – from marble, copper and brass to tactile new wood treatments. The result? Home accessories have become “the most intriguing and inspiring centrepieces and talking points”.

Certainly they take centre stage at Studio Ashby. Director Sophie Ashby has quickly risen to the top of the London list of interior design luminaries, bringing surprising and seductive elements to new developments and residential projects by imagining the personalities that might eventually live there and dressing the space to suit them. “I always try to build a room around meaningful objects, so each space feels incredibly personal,” she says. “I’ll bring pieces and gems from all over the world together to make it work as a cohesive whole.” Mixing vintage and new items from sources such as The Conran Shop (“so beautifully curated it is impossible to go in and walk out without buying something”), Willer and The New Craftsmen, she treats each project as an opportunity to “imagine something as my own, so we as a studio become in a sense the owner, which in my mind means the collector”. She has even been known to produce playlists for the rooms she works on.

Curated stores and services from Alex Eagle to Wallpaperstore, Pamono, Maison Numen and Designer Box are also catering to this change in the domestic landscape, offering a personal, edited feel with their niche or exclusive tabletop pieces and objects. This freedom to create collectables with meaning is also a big draw for designers. Tabletop designs possess a potential that lighting and furniture cannot always have because function is such an essential part of their form, says Gabriel Hendifar, co-founder of Apparatus Studio. The company’s objects – sculptural, atmospheric mood-makers – have a function, yes, but it’s their ceremonial nature that is their chief purpose, Hendifar adds. Similarly Atelier Swarovski Home designers Raw Edges are less interested in function, and “more interested in investigating the process – the crystal, the effects and the printing elements”. 

More engaging and narrative-driven than their often prosaic furniture cousins, these home accessories not only have a sense of purpose and history, says Hendifar – they also have the personality to make their purchase an emotionally charged decision.

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