It was one of the most complex projects we have ever been asked to undertake, but our team of master craftsmen were perfectly prepared to play their part in the recent refit of 20 new bedrooms on the third floor of one of London's most historic society clubs - The Reform Club, in the capital's Pall Mall.
As one of the Country's leading designers and manufacturers of bespoke furniture, with a Royal Warrant for making furniture for the Royal Household, unusual projects are our forte, but building the furniture for the Reform Club refit was to prove one of the most unusual and thought-provoking projects we have encountered.
Frequented by politicians, artists, doctors and lawyers, the Club was founded in 1832. The imposing and palatial Grade One listed building boasts a stunning interior inspired by the Victorian era, which was designed by leading architect of the day, Charles Barry.
Winston Churchill, Henri Cartier Bresson, E. M. Forster, Henry James, J. M. Barrie, Lord Palmerston, William Makepeace Thackeray, and H. G. Wells were all ‘Reformers' - though the Club is probably best known for its association with Jules Verne's ‘Around the World in Eighty Days' as the place where the idea of this incredible journey was conceived and the famous bet made.
We had previously worked with the Club's main contractor, Allenbuild, on a number of projects, including the refit of the Royal Lodge at Windsor for HRH Prince Andrew, and Allenbuild recommended us as the ideal bespoke cabinet maker to finalise architect Paul Vonberg's designs for the interior woodwork.
We were commissioned directly by the Reform Club to realise Paul's vision for 20 distinctive mahogany beds for the bedrooms on the third floor of the Club and worked closely with him to bring to life his designs within a tight budget.
"The beautiful mahogany beds had already been designed, but the cost of manufacture exceeded the budget. We proposed a solution which kept the original concept, but by subtle design changes and better use of materials we were able to greatly reduce the cost by about a £1000 per bed," said our managing director Neil Stevenson. "We are proud to have worked on such a prestigious project and look forward to working with Paul Vonberg and Allenbuild again."
Paul Vonberg was delighted with the way we handled the project: "We needed a team of top craftsmen to come and work on this project. The beds and other items were designed in the character of the Reform Club, working from my original designs. The work N.E.J. Stevenson has done has been very good indeed. I’ve found them very organised, producing good drawings and they really care about the project, which you can see by how often they come down to the site."
We contributed toward a range of finished pieces during the extensive refit of the club including: folding tables, mirrors, new doors and a variety of fitted joinery items.
Our final challenge was the delivery of the pair of 3m square, carved mahogany framed mirrors they had created for the Club’s stairwells. The mirrors contained single panes of glass and carved frames that were so big that special steel racks had to be designed and mounted on the sides of the lorries to deliver them from the N.E.J. Stevenson workshop in Rugby to London’s Pall Mall.
Passing under motorway bridges with only 2 inches to spare, the transportation and delivery of these huge works of art was carried out with military precision. When they arrived at the Club, a crane carefully lowered the mirrors into the building through a slot in the roof, before the final roofing work was completed.
An incredible journey for us and a beautiful, impressive refit of one of the oldest, most revered clubs in England - Mr Churchill and his friends would be proud.
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