Those who think that board games are an anachronistic way to pass the time in this digital age might want to consider the luxury games from Pemberton & Milner. The bespoke leather-goods maker’s boards can be jazzed up with myriad colour combinations and exotic skins and, with each one individually tailored to reflect the lifestyle and personality of its owners, they are truly heirloom pieces.
For Monopoly fans this might mean swapping the (however much beloved) Scottie dog, top hat and wheelbarrow for a client’s favourite real-life toys. One commission – a gift – featured a yacht, Harley-Davidson, vintage MG, electric guitar, helicopter and London bus (how he takes his son to see the sights), all of which were hand-cast in gold. On the board itself, New York Avenue or Piccadilly can become significant personal milestones, such as, for that same client, replacing the ever-coveted Park Lane with the hand-embossed name of the church where he got married.
Pemberton & Milner, founded in 2010, makes all its products by hand in England and, ever-passionate about traditional skill and craftsmanship, it also partners with select artisans. These include sculptors – for silver-plated playing pieces, for example – and jewellers, who have been behind bespoke boards with diamond-inlay detailing and dice set with black pavé diamonds (the latter by Victoria Bedwell). Completion times and prices vary greatly, but on average they take from about three months (which includes several client meetings and visits) and cost from £1,250; £100,000 was the price for an ultra-luxe charity-edition piece that was made in collaboration with jeweller Garrard (first picture).
And it doesn’t stop with Monopoly. One client asked for an entire games compendium (from £6,500) for his boat, which Pemberton & Milner created on reversible leather boards: noughts and crosses, Scrabble (third picture), draughts, chess and backgammon (the last one, once more, detailing key points in the client’s life). All the boards drop into a handmade leather base, complete with goat-suede-lined holders and a lambskin bag for the tiles – and for Scrabble, the son’s leather tile holder was even inscribed with a personal message. Also included was a hand-embossed scorebook for keeping track of who came, who played and, ultimately, who won. So whether it’s kids wanting a quick game of noughts and crosses – which can be silver-embossed on oversized leather squares – or a desire to channel your inner Magnus Carlsen with the contemporary-styled, disc-shaped lizard-skin chess pieces (second picture) – everyone can be entertained.
“I remember lots of fun Christmases sitting around with my family, shouting at each other across the table because someone’s not winning or someone’s just won,” says Pemberton & Milner’s founder Elizabeth Finch-Moore. “We are a small company that likes to embody that family lifestyle.”