Simon Orrell says he “wore a suit for several years” before following his passion for design and undertaking an apprenticeship with an Italian master framer. This bold change of direction finally led to Orrell’s new vocation as creator of bespoke furniture covered with luxurious materials such as shagreen and parchment at his workshop in Chelsea, London.
“There’s a growing interest in these luxury materials because people love their textural, very opulent look,” he says. “Parchment and shagreen are wonderful materials to work with and, although they are delicate, I lacquer each piece for durability.”
Orrell uses large goatskin parchment from France and hand-paints sustainably sourced shagreen (the mottled skin of the male ray) with a colour wash. Parchment-framed mirrors and picture frames are also handmade in his workshop along with statement pieces such as a shagreen and mahogany side-cabinet and a circular, shagreen-topped dining table.
The most popular requests are for bedside tables, chests of drawers, console tables and coffee tables. Orrell can work in either a classical or contemporary style, according to a client’s taste. “Contemporary deco” is a particular favourite right now and he believes the use of shagreen or parchment adds a softer, more feminine touch to the style’s angular shapes while echoing the use of these glamorous materials in the 1930s and 1940s. And since each piece is site-specific, “the proportions will be completely right for the space,” he says.
Prices, depending on size, start from £6,000 for a shagreen and mahogany cabinet; from £10,000 for a circular dining table; from £4,500 for chests of drawers; and from £2,500 for bedside tables, console tables and coffee tables.
First picture, parchment cabinet; second picture, shagreen bedside table; third picture, felt and stud console table.