Our best-selling Margot accent chair is the creative vision of British designer Matt Arquette. We visit an independent workshop in Nottinghamshire to see how this exclusive design is brought to life. Sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Take the traditional armchair, and give it a twist. That was our brief to British furniture designer Matt Arquette. The end result (several prototypes and reincarnations later)? Our best-selling Margot accent chair.
“It’s all about a sense of balance,” Matt explains. “Margot’s indulgent in design, but refined in shape, form and detail.” During the design process, Matt was influenced by many things, but particularly the ‘Golden Age’ of travel—think luxe cruise liners and the Orient Express: “I love the timeless lifestyle they encourage and celebrate.”
With a British designer at the helm of this quintessentially British vision, there was only one place for Margot to come to life—and so we head to Britain's Midlands to find out more.
In a sleepy market town, 12 miles north of Nottingham, is a thriving upholstery industry. Once famous for producing lace in the 19th century, today those factories are filled with furniture manufacturers. Keeping the craft traditions of the region alive, Margot is custom made by hand here in an independent workshop. It’s an intricate undertaking, with a small, dedicated team of highly skilled craftspeople creating each Margot.
We’re welcomed by Daniel, the Sales Manager. His entrepreneurial father set up the business over 20 years ago. “We’re now one of the largest privately-owned upholstery manufacturers in Britain,” he tells us proudly. Our first stop? The onsite wood mill. Because the core of any quality chair—like many things in life—starts with a solid foundation.
And this strong core is dependent on the type of wood used. “Softwood frames, like pine, are much more prone to breaking,” explains Daniel. “That’s why we only use hardwood, like birch and beech, for their durability.” For Margot’s frame, seasoned kiln-dried birch is used, accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council. Timbers are hand-selected and efficiently machine cut to pattern with zero waste (any off-chips, sawdust or damaged pieces of timber are recycled and turned into heat using a Biomass machine). The components are inspected and collated, then taken to the frame-maker for assembling.
The frame is hand-built from scratch by experienced craftsmen. It’s a complex procedure, like piecing together a giant wooden puzzle. The joints are glued, screwed and dowelled for strength. In an adjacent workshop, the webbing, attached by hand, creates a strong seat and firm base to support the rest of the upholstery. Finally, the foundation is set for the filling.
Ample amounts of locally-manufactured foam creates a comfortable seat. “All the foam is cut by a machine, to ensure there’s no wastage at all, but then actually affixed to the frame by hand,” Daniel explains to us over the buzz in the workshop. This cushioning gets put through a series of third-party physical performance tests to make sure Margot can safely withstand the rigours of everyday use (and so you’re super comfy while binge-watching Netflix).
Now for the fabric. The luxe, soft-touch velvet is woven in China, arriving in huge rolls. Every piece and panel to be covered in fabric is measured and recorded in a cutting list. Then, machines efficiently cut patterns to create the pieces needed to make a Margot. “Contrary to popular belief, velvet is one of the most hard-wearing fabrics,” Daniel tells us. “To pass the Martindale abrasion test, an acceptable score for domestic use is around 20,000 rubs—the polyester velvet used on Margot scores an impressive 50,000 rubs! So if you’re looking for a hard-wearing fabric, velvet really is the way to go.”
The cut velvet pieces are taken to the sewing workshop and stitched together by a team of extremely skilled needleworkers. “It’s sewn very much in the same traditional way as it was 100 years ago, all by hand."
“After sewing, the fabric is inspected for things like loose seams or threads, and that no stitch is out of place.” The cut and sewn velvet fabric is then ready to be upholstered to the frame.
Each Margot chair is assigned to an expert upholsterer, who completes the whole piece from start to finish. “The pleating [on the back of the chair] is sewn in by the needleworkers, and then the buttons are individually hand-pulled by the upholsterer,” Daniel explains. “It’s a traditional technique called hand tufting.” This elaborate routine is something of an art form, and fascinating to watch.
In total, around 45 different components go into a Margot. Take the feet (the technical name for the chair legs), for example.“The copper tips are from India, the beech wood’s Lithuanian and all put together in Britain,” says Daniel. Once the feet are in place, the entire chair goes through a final inspection. Everything is checked and rechecked for quality workmanship.
And here we have the finished product. It’s a labour of love involving many talented people. And there’s real respect for craftsmanship here. It’s clear, with so many aspects to coordinate to create a single chair, attention to detail is key—and the human touch is a big part of that. As for Matt Arquette’s ultimate ambition for Margot? We think we fulfilled it. “May she snuggly receive the derrières of many," he says. "At home and continents afar!”
The Margot Collection.
An exclusive design by British designer Matt Arquette. Chairs and sofas Custom MADE for you in Britain. Choose from a variety of colours here.
Article written by: Natalie Wall
Imagery by: Joanne Crawford