“We’re creating a little jewelled world,” says Lily Atherton Hanbury, one half of luxury accessories brand Le Monde Beryl (founded with business partner Katya Shyfrin), of its first foray into furniture. Their concept – comprising a minimal throne chair and a chaise dressed in the same rich textiles as the gondolier-style slippers that launched the line back in 2016 – is the latest phase in a carefully considered brand evolution. “Part of the original idea for Le Monde Beryl was to use it as a canvas for wider interests, whether that’s a historical style, a craft technique, a traditional textile or a work of art.”
When it came to entering the world of interiors, Atherton Hanbury enlisted the expertise of 20th-century antiques specialist Abel Sloane, who runs the London-based design studio 1934 with his partner Ruby Woodhouse. Sloane, who was introduced to the Le Monde Beryl duo by fellow art dealer and furniture savant Robin Katz, initially sourced design pieces for the brand’s by-appointment studio and showroom in Belgravia. So successful were their efforts they agreed to explore their mutual aesthetic further by creating made-to-order items that can now be purchased through Le Monde Beryl and 1934.
Though the shift from footwear to furniture may seem incongruous, it’s an entirely logical progression for Atherton Hanbury. “When you try on our shoes, you need a chair to sit on,” she says. “We really care about the environment in which our products are seen, so it seemed a natural segue to create our own furniture.”
As part of their research-driven creative exchange, Atherton Hanbury and Sloane paid independent visits to the British Museum – and found themselves inexorably drawn to the scrolls and symbolism of the Egyptian galleries. This scene of the ancient world formed the visual blueprint for the collection, creating a look that Atherton Hanbury describes as “Egyptian revival meets Beetlejuice gothic”.
The throne-like design of the burnished cast-aluminium Sovereign chair, for example, lends a contemporary edge to pharaonic style. “It’s hard to find something really unusual that’s not tiresome to live with. This feels very modern and stylish,” says Atherton Hanbury of the piece, which is hand engraved with lotus flowers (a potent ancient Egyptian symbol of renewal and rebirth) and whose feet are a nod to stone engravings depicting furniture as animals. “I liked the idea of recreating the animal feet in a simplified way,” says Sloane, who commissioned Simon Harlow of Glasgow studio Silo Design & Build to realise his creation.
It’s with the same time-travelling, magpie mentality that Atherton Hanbury is embarking on Le Monde Beryl’s other notable sartorial excursion: jewellery. It’s a project that taps into the brand’s earliest roots, as it was while advising on a jewellery project at the auction house Phillips that Atherton Hanbury first met Moscow-born Shyfrin. “We had an immediate spark,” she says, explaining that she studied architecture then gemology, subsequently working as an adviser in New York and London. As Shyfrin was also a trained gemologist, they bonded over their love of jewels – eventually naming their brand after the beryl family of precious gemstones. “It was like a marriage,” she says, laughing. “I proposed early on, thinking we’d known one another for longer than we had. We’d actually formulated the company within the first few months of meeting.”
The design genesis of the small line of handmade necklaces, earrings and bracelets was a piece belonging to Atherton Hanbury’s mother. “She had these earrings in the ’80s, which were painted gold with fake stones and crosses,” she says, recalling how they were purchased from the now-defunct but cult store Commander Salamander in her native Georgetown.
The resulting creations – one with coloured stones mirroring the jewelled palette of their slippers and the other identical but set with baroque pearls in oxidised silver and 18ct gold – have more than a hint of the ecclesiastical jewels adopted by Gianni Versace in the ’80s. The pieces are, in fact, a melting pot of historical styles and eras, from Georgian to Venetian and gothic, which reveal the duo’s flair for fusing influences. Their ribbon- and chain-strung crucifix pendant necklace, the Collier de la Reine, borrows from both the Hindu navaratna (meaning “nine gems”, which form the spine of the cross) and a storied Marie Antoinette stone that was said to be so heavy it had to be attached to her belt.
Indeed, it’s these jewels that first gave rise to the brand’s furniture. “Originally, we considered creating stoneware cups and bowls to store them in – but the project just grew,” Atherton Hanbury says, confirming that the vessels are currently in the throes of realisation. How these new designs will evolve, only time will tell. Much like everything in Le Monde Beryl’s evocative aesthetic universe, there’s all the time in the world.