During The New Craftsmen residency at Holkham Hall earlier this year, Alfred Newall was inspired by the origins of ‘the cabinet’, historically a room - not a piece of furniture - furnished with books and works of art, adjacent to a bedchamber. ‘The cabinet’ was a room for privacy, study and a place to be surrounded by personal treasured items. Over time, a free standing chest-on-stand piece of furniture would house these treasured items, and became popular from the 16th century onwards. Exquisite, 18th century lacquered chests decorated with Chinoiserie patterns are tucked away in the private rooms of Holkham, and are pieces of note in their own right.
Alfred’s chest-on-stand, the Venus Cabinet, blends this narrative with his passion for traditional joinery. Ian Barrett, a long-standing member of house staff at Holkham who was dedicated to fixing and restoring everything from architecture to furnishings, introduced Alfred to the layers of craftsmanship found within the house. “From the hardworking functionality of the ‘downstairs’ areas, through to the decorative architraves and mouldings of the Staterooms, these aspects of Holkham have all informed my design.”
For colour inspiration, Alfred turned to a colour historian, Patrick Baty, and his traditional neoclassical schemes for paintwork. Green was the colour of Venus and saved for rooms associated with intimacy as opposed to Mars’ red in the public staterooms. “I wanted to continue this theme of the cabinet being a place for privacy.The idea behind my piece is that it’s personal and intimate, designed with shelving and drawers to hide away today’s treasured pieces.”
The final piece is flexible in use and designed to be equally at home in a bedroom, sitting room, study or dining room.The shelving is adjustable so could house anything from books and letter writing materials to glasses and bottles of spirit.
Explore the striking Venus Cabinet by Alfred Newall below or book an appointment to view it in person at our Mayfair showroom.