William Yeoward, design-tweak master

In his china, crystal and furniture, expect the unexpected

March 04, 2007|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

His shop is a hot destination on Kings Road in the heart of London's trendy Chelsea district. But British designer William Yeoward is considered a style-maker on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Yeoward's antiques and designs - in fabric, crystal, china, furniture and home accessories - always seem fresh. Whether it's color (often bold or unexpected combinations), pattern (familiar but edgy), texture, finish or form that make them special, his handcrafted pieces stand out in the design world.

Most of his fan base in the United States is due to his elegant crystal and china. Many of his exquisite hand-cut vases, decanters and pieces of stemware are reproductions of 18th- and 19th-century pieces but look amazingly modern.

His fine English bone china is robust in pattern and palette, compared with other traditional formal dinnerware. One collection of solids is offered in apple green, orange, magenta, lavender, powder blue and chocolate rimmed in gold and costs a cool $150 to $300 per dinner plate.

Yeoward also has been producing furniture in the United Kingdom for 21 years. But only after his crystal took off (it's available in more than 200 stores, including Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's and Saks) did he branch out with accessories such as lamps, rugs and table and bed linens.

"I'm very keen on thinking outside the box," says the 48-year-old Yeoward, who is a model for his philosophy. On a recent visit to Chicago to introduce his book, Perfect Tables: Tabletop Secrets, Settings and Centerpieces for Delicious Dining (Cico Books, $29.95), he was impeccably dressed, but not at all in the attire one might expect of a high-end designer.

There was no dapper pinstriped suit, jaunty tie or pocket kerchief. Yeoward, a contributing editor to Elle Decor magazine, instead was happily attired in sporty chic, punctuated by black jeans, a striped shirt with a spot of orange, and lime velvet running shoes. For those who know him, the shoes are a signature.

The fabrics he designs are available through Designers Guild, a London-based company known for bold fabric and wallpaper collections. Yeoward's textile palette includes unorthodox color combinations such as orange and taupe or raspberry and lavender that seem to eschew trends.

His patterns may feature what he calls "blowsy" (untidy) blooms such as cabbage roses in cut velvet on linen, chenille jacquards and cotton voiles. Inspiration ranges from the American Midwest to Provence, France, to Thailand and Japan.

What distinguishes a Yeoward design is a little tweak, something unexpected, a reflection of his personal style. When dressing a table, for example, he might select a blue plaid blanket with cobalt glasses and, at every setting, purple anemones set in miniature glass butter pails doubling as bud vases.

Consider his handblown crystal lamps. The stacked spheres are not unusual. But what pops is the fascinating crackle, deeply carved grooves and assortment of colors - turquoise, sage, mimosa, mango, rose and lime - topped by fabric shades edged in contrasting bands of velvet.

"I don't believe in reinventing the wheel," he says, often drawing inspiration from the past. What he does particularly well, though, is seek out the best craftsmen to produce his designs. "Quality never dates."

Simplicity of line and shape are constants in his interiors, a melange of new and old, plain and gilded. In his furniture, hallmarks may be the choice of wood - rosewood, mahogany, ebony, limed oak (a whitewash technique that raises the grain) - or a particular veneer or paint finish that signals technique out of the ordinary.

So a very simple box, a buffet called Cire in his furniture collection, has a striped appearance because of a duck's-egg blue base peeking through skinny oak bands. A clean-lined mirror is set off crisply with a bead of polished nickel that lends sparkle.

While comparable to other high-end furniture in cost, his pieces nonetheless are pricey. A large breakfront, for example, can cost up to $30,000. While pieces such as these are not for many budgets, they offer inspiration to homeowners seeking a similar but less-expensive look. His crystal is more affordable, with some glasses selling for less than $50 apiece.

SOURCES

William Yeoward Crystal, 212-532-2358 or williamyeowardcrystal.com for crystal and table linens or www.williamyeoward.com for bed linens, furniture and accessories.

Designers Guild (for fabrics), www.designersguild.com.

The Rug Company, 212-274-0444 or therugcompany.info.

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