Category Archives: Design

Bill Amberg Studio Design

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Finer Details: Looking back at the redesign of the Asprey London flagship store

In 2004, Lord Foster of Foster + Partners called upon the expertise of Bill Amberg for the leather interiors for the redesign of the Asprey London flagship store.

Aspery; a heritage of luxury spanning 235 years

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Founded by William Asprey in 1781, Asprey was founded in Mitcham, Surrey until the company moved into the current London base at New Bond Street in 1846. Asprey has established a worldwide reputation for itself as a brand who presents timeless, valuable handcrafted luxury goods with a quintessentially British feel.

With a strong heritage that spans over 200 years, Asprey defines itself as one of the leading retailers and manufacturers of high-quality craftsmanship and now has stores all over the world. Having established a reputable place in London’s prestigious shopping district, the flagship New Bond Street store continues to remain an essential part of the Asprey’s identity.

Originally occupying a store at 167 New Bond Street, the company went on to purchase five listed buildings that sat immediately behind the original shop. Taking over the entire corner of New Bond Street, this new base serves as not only a retail store but also as a workshop for bespoke and commissioned work.

Re-imagining a legacy: The redesign of the New Bond Street store 

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In 2004, Asprey London commissioned Lord Foster and David Mlinaric to redesign the flagship store and incorporate the additional buildings to create one of the largest luxury retail stores in the world as we see it today. This redevelopment was vital in connecting the various historical listed buildings together through a new central courtyard. The new store saw a sequence of retail spaces, offices and workshops with a grand staircase in the heart of it.

The new design included the introduction of what has now become an iconic new central atrium connecting the two stories and various buildings, with a glazed canopy overhead. The selection of materials for the interiors represents the rich heritage of the brand, whilst offering a clean, modern palette. The materials used include; Venetian plaster, stone, hardwoods, brass, and leather. With Asprey’s reputation for fine craftsmanship, it was only fitting that Fosters + Partners contact Bill Amberg to collaborate on the leather elements for a number of the interior spaces.

Leather interior expertise by Bill Amberg

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Foster + Partners invited Bill Amberg to provide his knowledge on the type of leather that would be ideal for the selected spaces within the redesign. Within the store, the selected spaces included; leather wall panels for the jewellery hall, leather wall panels for the ladies and gents dressing rooms and the leather handrails for the spiral staircase in the main courtyard.

Working on a project for Asprey, with its long standing heritage of leather goods, meant the choice of leather needed to be of a high quality and representative of their reputation as a luxury goods brand.

With a reputation for working with only the best tanneries in Europe, Bill Amberg was able to source the best French calf hide for the leather wall panels.  Often, Bill will look to the fashion and accessories industries to inspire the work of the Studio, and here it is no different. French calf hide is most commonly used in the creation of fashion accessories and goods due to it being a much softer, giving leather. The  hides are much smaller in size and so need to be cut and stitched creating much smaller panels. Also, the young age of the animal means the hide is characterised by finer grains, and presents much fewer scaring compared to a full adult hide. These qualities add to the elegant look of the wall panels that are hand cut, padded and saddle stitched in our Queens Park workshop before being fitted onsite. The selection of colours include a classic tan and mustard yellow tanned leather for the walls of the ladies and gents dressing rooms and a cream tan for the walls of the jewellery hall.

For the signature staircase in the courtyard, we looked at the material palette used throughout the redesign of the store. The display cases were made from a combination of glass, brass and dark wood and the staircase was built with a dark brass and so we selected a dark brown tan leather for the leather handrail.

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Completed over 10 years ago, the interiors are just as elegant as they were when the new redesigned store opened to the public in 2004. For the Bill Amberg Studio, this project was a great opportunity to work on the leather interiors of one of Britain’s most prestigious luxury goods brands and a reputable project to be involved in. As an advocator of high quality craftsmanship, Bill Amberg Studio continue to produce work that is refined and innovative.

To see other interiors projects by Bill Amberg Studio, please see our Interiors portfolio.

To read about the project in full, please see the Fosters + Partners page: Aspers New Bond Street.

For more information on the heritage of Asprey, please see their website.

Interested in finding out how to use leather in your next interior project?

Bill Amberg presents CPD in using leather in architecture and interiors

If you are interested to find out more about using leather in architecture and interiors, Bill Amberg is available for a CPD session. To find out more, please get in touch.

Functional design: eclectic hospitality furniture for Sushisamba, London

Here at the Bill Amberg Studio, we take pride in working to unique and challenging briefs that push the boundaries of  designing with leather. One such project was developing hospitality furniture for the highly acclaimed Sushisamba restaurant in London.

The task here was to come up with a series of furniture that makes use of the space with efficiency while maximizing the number of seats that can be accommodated comfortably. The project brief required us to present three different type of table tops, two different sizes of banquette seats, and two kinds of waiter’s stations.

Sushisamba brings together the culture and cuisine of three distinct countries; Japan, Brazil and Peru. As well as the cuisine, the influence of these three cultures is profound on the nature of the interior décor of each restaurant, forming a unique and high quality dining experience. For the London restaurant, the client shared that we were to ensure the furniture reflected this multicultural and eclectic style of cuisine.

Working to a very specific brief, the design team were also faced with spatial constraints onsite; located on the 38th floor, it was vital to consider the space available for transporting the furniture up to the restaurant space in the lifts. Getting such large furniture pieces to the restaurant levels was not an easy task and so the design team had to be very careful while dimensioning everything so that it could fit in the lift and through the corridors.

For the banquette seats, the wooden box cases have been designed to be as less intrusive as possible by capitalising on the space available. Carefully designed ultra-thin surrounding boxes kept the dimensions and weight in touch allowing easy installation and ease for the future if a layout change should become necessary. To solve the issue of transporting the large banquette seats into the building, a mechanism was included to the wooden box so the seats can be separated during transit and placed back onto the wooden boxes efficiently on site. Further to the detachable seats, a set of wheels on each component further enabled ease of transportation from the workshop to the restaurant floors.

For the dining tables, a precision laser cut wood technique was incorporated to achieve an embellished design on the surface. A high glossy finish was created by adding extra layers of lacquer to maintain the original look against daily wear. Each piece of furniture from the dining tables to the staff stations, were custom made by specialist manufactures sourced by the Bill Amberg Studio to ensure they were of the best quality and made to last. The final result achieves the key requirements of our client, supported by our expertise and knowledge of working with leather. The restaurant space is highly flexible and comfortable for staff and customers alike and a reflection of the extremely high standards of the Sushisamba brand.

Further to the banquettes, the client requested we design two bespoke waiter stations that would merge in with the rest of the interior space whilst supporting the high level of staff activity. Inspired by Japanese Shoji screens, the waiter station has been made to the specific dimensions of each of the objects it will store, with every ledge and drawer in place for a very precise purpose, based on the input from the waiting staff themselves. Even the rubbish compartments have been thoughtfully designed with water-resistant inside surfaces for easy cleaning.  A separate back compartment keeps wires separated away neatly whilst castors on the base provide easy movement around the dining areas. Finally, a special finish is applied to the outer surfaces to ensure they are resistant to damage and daily wear.

The Stack Screen for Hotel Wallpaper, Milan 2016

For the second year running, Bill Amberg Studio were invited by Wallpaper magazine to design and make a custom product for Milan design week.

For this year’s showcase, the publication invited leading designers, artists and manufacturers come together with one-off collaborations for Hotel Wallpaper, creating a veritable feast of design excellence.

Even now, having worked with leather for over 30 years, the team here at Bill Amberg Studio are constantly discovering new applications for it as a structural material. Forming cohesion between traditional methods in leather craft and modern design aesthetic; an essential part of the work we do is to continue pushing the boundaries of leather design. Through this process of experimentation, we developed a structural material; Stack.

Stack looks at leather as a surface material from a fresh perspective, while also acting as means of recycling workshop waste and the hundreds of leather off-cuts from other studio projects. Through a process of stacking the leather strips, a natural pattern emerges, and the application of resin and sanding results in a remarkably smooth and tactile surface. The result is a striped pattern in a variety of colours – entirely made from recycled leather.

For Hotel Wallpaper, we explore the architectural aesthetics of a hotel room, taking inspiration from a classic dressing screen. Simplified architecture is often complemented with interesting interior elements, allowing the space to adopt to changing trends, uses and functions over time. This idea forms the conceptual basis for the Stack Screen, challenging the structural possibilities of incorporating the Stack material into the design.

A key in the making process was collaborating with a professional joiner who has a level understanding on how to convert the Stack material into an easily applicable format for interior products and surfaces. Arden Hodges, with their high level of expertise in architectural joinery, worked closely with us to devise a manufacture process that would make the Stack an accessible material. To create a smooth finish, the Arden Hodges team suggested the best method of application was by incorporating a tongue and groove joint as it results in both a robust and seamless finish. The tactile characteristic of the material is demonstrated with the use of both curved and flat surfaces on the screen; the patterns adding an illusion of depth to the rounded shape. The Stack Screen represents a new way of using leather in furniture and as a breakthrough in leather production techniques.

The story behind the Earth & Fire table tops for Tom Dixon, Milan 2016

Having worked with the Tom Dixon Design Research Studio over the years, Bill Amberg Studio were once again invited to partner up for another design showcase. For Fuorisalone 2016, we were asked to design and make the table tops for two of the four element-themed dining halls at The Restaurant, presented by Caesarstone and Tom Dixon. The team at Tom Dixon Design Research Studio approached us with the elements of Earth and Fire.

Intrigued by ancient materials, we were able to locate unused leather scraps from the storage of various tanneries we work with. The Earth table tops are made from highly characteristic sections of old leather; a shoulder panel from a cow hide. Representing the most natural grain of the animal, it is a highly irregular and tough section of the leather, qualities that make it the least used part of the hide and a by-product in the leather industry.

For the Fire table tops, we choose a black leather with a ‘waxy’ bloom texture on the surface that had transformed into a pattern that is more reminiscent of rock surface than a hide. Due to the surfaced wax, the leather was easily charred; a process we undertook to achieve the intricate charcoal-like texture.

A key process during the design was achieving a balance between the material and its final form. Unique shapes and formations inspire the various surface styles; some are sectioned off in patterns, whilst others have been laid with a single sheet of leather to highlight the intricate textures. By working with the leather in this way, we are also able to reduce the waste produced in the making process. By taking the raw and chaotic leather and cutting and applying it in an organised sequence, we disrupt the natural pattern of the hide, resulting in contemporary table surfaces.

Bill Amberg Studio at Milan 2016

We are happy to announce that Bill Amberg Studio will be appearing at the Milan Fuorisalone from 11 to 17 April with two very unique and exquisite design showcases.

An authority on leather design, here at Bill Amberg Studio, we develop cutting-edge techniques to bring this ancient material into contemporary context, from interiors to product design.

This year we meet Tom Dixon at The Restaurant by Ceasarstone in the stunning Rotonda della Besana. Invited to explore the Fire and Earth themed dining halls, Bill Amberg Studio present an experimental and unconventional range of table top designs.

The Studio’s ongoing commitment in challenging the parameters of leather design saw the creation of a unique adaptable surface texture; Stack. For Hotel Wallpaper, a beautiful custom designed screen, handmade in collaboration with Ardern Hodges will form a part of the hotel setting. The Stack Screen represents a new way of using leather in furniture and as a breakthrough in leather production techniques.

If you would like to schedule a meeting in Milan, please contact the team at: info@billambergstudio.com

exploring the properties of leather as a three-dimensional material

The lobby area of this pioneering new office, retail and residential development in Central London gave the Bill Amberg Studio an excellent opportunity to explore and showcase the properties of leather as a three-dimensional material. Working with project architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, the studio created an undulating wall of leather that mimicked the building’s curvy glass façade (itself a homage to contours of 1937 design classic, the Aalto vase).

Using a semi-soft saddlery leather spread over combination of neoprene and Plastazote foams, we were able to create a smooth and even wave effect on each three-metre panel. Stitching techniques from saddlery were used to fix the panels in place, with recessed stitchlines to protect the thread. Positioning the panels at 5mm intervals added depth and definition to the 40sqm wall area.

Complemented by the matching leather seat pad on the reception bench, the result was a nut-brown ‘curtain’ of leather that brought warmth, texture and tactility (and, of course, natural fireproofing) to the space.

Adding functionality to a classic leather basket

A constantly evolving design, the leather basket has been in production for several years, with its robust and versatile properties, it is ideal for use for storing anything from firewood to magazines and newspapers.

We were approached by a private client who required a storage box for their children’s toys, which required easy manoeuvrability.  Always seeking new innovative ideas to further develop our products, we worked with young designer Sophie Ashby and sought a way to introduce a wooden base and castors to the leather basket.

We selected ply for the wooden base and completed the elegant look with brass wheels. The leather selected for the basket was English bridal, which has a 3 ½ mm thickness allowing the basket to billow out slightly, yet maintaining its original form for years to come.  The leather will age well, evolving in its use as it does.


Bill Amberg Studio at Work It for The Art Room

London based art consultancy Fair & Co invited artists, architects and designers to transform the iconic Ernest Race BA2 chair for the Work It exhibition held at Selfridges, Oxford Street from 30 April to 11 June 2015.

A joint collaboration between Fair & Co and the Duchess of Cambridge’s charity, The Art Room, which offers art as therapeutic intervention for children facing challenges in their lives, the chairs were sold through online auction house Paddle8 with all proceeds going to The Art Room.

Our exploration of the BA2 chair, which dates back to 1947, took inspiration from modern day working methods and the increase in agile working, especially with mobile devices like an iPad or laptop.

For the transformation, we took a recycled aluminium BA2 chair and removed one of the four legs and used it to create a lectern, integrating a wooden section of the seat pan to complete the look and create a holder for the technological device. Then we made a new inner seat pan from a piece of vegetable tanned English side leather.

The transformation evolved around the form of the chair and how we could present a playful, yet functioning alternative. By taking the very special design that is over 65 years old and altering its generic form, we wanted to create a product that is fitting of a tech start-up office or usable within a school and college environment.

Bill Amberg Studio meets Heatherwick: Sharing a new way of experimenting with materials

Here at Bill Amberg Studio, we spend a lot of time experimenting with the leather to really try and understand what it possible. It is a vital part of our work here, not only for the client but also for us as designers and in the workshop because it maintains a flow of inspiration. It also means we are able to constantly present new ideas and new techniques in front of our clients.

An important part of Bill Amberg’s work with leather is sharing this expertise and knowledge of leather through a specially crafted Continuity Profile Development talk. Based in King’s Cross, Thomas Heatherwick’s architectural studio invited Bill Amberg to present a CPD talk on ‘Using leather in interiors and architecture’ to the team.

The CPD is a crucial element in opening up the way leather is perceived and the understanding of its use; it aims to highlight the possibilities of leather, enabling architects to better understand how it can be incorporated into their work. Further to the talk, we invited the team at Heatherwick studio to come and visit the Bill Amberg Studio in Queens Park, offering them a personal insight into our work and what we do here.

“The trip to Bill’s studio opened us up to a new way of making and experimenting with materials which brings further richness to the work that we do” – Alexander Laing, senior designer.

View the timelapse video of Bill’s talk, click here: Bill Amber Studio at Heatherwick studio.

Understanding leather: working from render to recreate water ripples

Here at Bill Amberg Studio, it is common practise for clients to approach us with unusual and unconventional ideas. These are not only welcomed, but both the designers and workshop team rise to the occasion of working on something that challenges our work with leather.

A client recently came to us with an idea to feature something reminiscent of a reverse-waterfall that would form part of wall that rises up through a mezzanine apartment. They presented the design team with an item for visual reference, the team got busy exploring the form of waves and structural elements that would be key in making the idea a reality. A series of sketches, scale drawings and renderings allowed the key elements of the structure and form to come to life.

A series of models helps us to understand the structural elements of the design and also understand how the workshop team will need to work with the leather to form the desired finish. To fully understand how we would achieve the appearance of natural waves and a reverse waterfall like texture, we introduced the use of a CNC machine to produce exact moulds for a clear understanding of the design. It is at this point that the workshop team work on the moulds with leather, giving the complete impression of the clients’ idea.

The development of the design is just as intriguing as the making part; it allows us to explore the structural elements of leather and how we can incorporate it into contemporary forms, such as this.