A Décor Showstopper

Private Property South Africa

The recent Salone del Mobile’s ‘Handmade’ exhibition in Milan proved highly successful. Amongst the many unique items on display were two pub tables named ‘Devil amongst the Tailors’ which came about as a result of a collaboration between Wallpaper* magazine, the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC), ‘aberrant’ architecture, and bespoke furniture manufacturing company ‘Benchmark’.

The Devil amongst the Tailors

The groundwork for the tables was laid when Wallpaper* invited aberrant to design tables which could be used for the magazine’s ‘Handmade’ issue which aims to showcase specially commissioned works and once-off collaborations between the world’s top designers and craftsmen.

The way in which contemporary work styles are evolving was one of the primary drivers behind the design of the tables. For many, office blocks are a thing of the past and an increasing number of workers roam cities such as London in search of welcoming workspaces. The tables represent the growing demand for temporary office space and provide ‘nomadic’ workers with an opportunity to interact with fellow workers and create a sense of belonging.

Aberrant’s design was informed by their study of the original drawings of the now demolished ‘Elephant and Castle’ public drinking house in Lambeth. The designs revealed a mixed-use building divided up into three main areas: a 'public' space for drinking; 'private' areas for the pub's regular patrons, who used the watering hole as an extension of their home and office, and a large space that was used for group meetings and community events. Post research, the tables were fittingly named after Devil amongst the Tailors, a traditional tabletop skittles pub game.

“This unique commission allowed us to further our research into contemporary lifestyles and flexible working conditions at the challenging scale of a table,” says Kevin Haley of aberrant. “Working closely with Wallpaper*, Benchmark and AHEC during both the design development and production stages produced a creative collaboration, which we believe resulted in a far richer process and an unexpected and exciting end product”

Black walnut and ash was combined in the first table which suits a darker environment, such as a private members club or public houses, and a combination of cherry and maple allows the second table to work in brighter spaces such as hotel lobbies or boutique cafes.

The tables are multi-functional. The luxurious surfaces are perfect for entertaining and hidden lids reveal private work surfaces complete with task light and skittle shaped office organisers. Fancy some downtime? Simply place the removable drawers onto the table surface, arrange the skittle office organisers and hook a brass ball onto the light. An impromptu game of Devil amongst the Tailors can now be enjoyed.

Benchmark used traditional cabinet making skills including dovetailing and mortice and tenon joints. The bespoke metalwork, made from silver patinated brass, including foot rails, handles, locks and brass drawer linings were hand engraved to house the skittles. AHEC played an advisory role on timber suitability, aesthetics and sustainable design. According to AHEC, the tables beautifully showcase the U.S hardwood palette of colors and textures.

An interesting aspect of the project was that with Benchmark’s help, AHEC documented all elements of the manufacturing process. This information will be combined with life cycle data recently collected from the American hardwood industry to produce a full ‘cradle-to-grave’ life cycle impact report on the tables.

“The ‘Devil amongst the Tailors’ is not only a cleverly researched and playful table, it is a demonstration of the very best teamwork, craftsmanship and sustainable design, and was a highlight at this year’s exhibition,” said Rod Wiles, AHEC Director for Africa, Middle East, India and Oceania.

“Given that green specification is increasingly informed by a science-based approach and sustainability is viewed as an important facet of design and development, the study complements AHEC’s mission to promote the environmental credentials of American hardwoods in the face of emerging public and private sector procurement policies. The aim is to provide the science behind the low carbon footprint of American hardwoods, thereby ensuring that architects, designers and manufacturers select the material on the basis of full environmental disclosure.”

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