Ahead of design specialist Silvera’s first birthday in London, we spoke to the showroom’s general manager, Laure Maillé, to find out more about this unique brand.
Silvera was first founded in 1990 by Paul and Fabienne Silvera; nowadays the integrated concept boasts ten Parisian showrooms – and one London flagship showroom, which will be celebrating its very first birthday on the 28th of June, 2018. Ahead of Silvera London’s first birthday, we visited the Chelsea showroom and spoke to Laure Maillé, the showroom’s general manager, to find out more about Silvera and the brand’s unique set up.
Even after discovering that Silvera call themselves a ‘specialist in designer furniture and accessories’ – who work with over 500 international designer brands - it’s still difficult to pinpoint what Silvera actually are. This draws a laugh from Maillé. “We’re consultants,” she explains. “We’re a design house with design consultants and project managers. We advise; if a client comes to us and says, ‘this is my space and this is the look I’m trying to achieve’ – or even [if they don’t] know what they’re trying to achieve - we’ll help them discover it.”
Bringing suggestions, ideas and recommendations to the table, Maillé says Silvera’s end goal is to make sure the project works for the client. “If we’re discussing [a project] with a client and we know that perhaps their idea won’t be functional, we will raise it. For us, it’s very important that at the end of the project, the client has something that is functional, that is beautiful, that they’re happy with and that has suited their budget. We have various budgets here in terms of products, and we respect that in terms of our clientele and what we put forward [to them].”
It becomes apparent as we walk through the showroom that the Silvera team have put individual brands together in order to create cohesive structure throughout the space. One area is reminiscent of a lounge; another of a dining room; a further section boasts a stunning glass roof. Maillé explains that this King’s Road showroom was designed by renowned French architectural firm, Jouin Manku.
“We’d already done a showroom with them in 2007, so we decided to work with them again on this project,” says Maillé. “They came up with the concept [and] maintained the original façade - we wanted to keep an original British feel to the exterior. [Jouin Manku] created a central block in timber, [and] we stripped all the walls to reveal the original brickwork. The atriums were existing but we put them all back into good condition and painted the frames black.”
On first impression, the Silvera showroom seems to encompass one main, open-plan space that looks out onto the King’s Road. Large windows allow passersby an easy view in to the collections of design products within. However, heading through one of three archways at the back of the showroom, it becomes clear that the space is much more expansive than it first appears. “It’s so hard to find a space like this,” Maillé comments as we look around; and then another secret is revealed. The Silvera London showroom boasts 500 square meters overall – there’s another full floor downstairs, below street level.
Previously, the downstairs space was segregated; Jouin Manku opened up the space for Silvera and put in a new, central staircase. “We maintained the original vaults and have turned them into individual display areas,” Maillé mentions, guiding us over to the small nook where the hidden vaults can be found; they glow, changing colour as the lights that shine on them move through the colours of the rainbow. “Each vault has a different piece or icon of design [in it] and we change them over quite regularly,” explains Maillé. “They’re really intriguing, and clients do come in and continue to keep discovering the little nooks and crannies of the showroom.”
Though there are several different brands showcased throughout the Silvera showroom, none of them are ‘zoned’ into one area. Instead, each collection works amongst other pieces to create a unified space. “Our strength is having about 500 different brands available to us; we pick and choose from those collections to create curated interiors for our clients. It’s very much about [creating] something that’s quite bespoke,” Maillé says.
Giving the example of a lighting fixture that hangs above the staircase, Silvera’s general manager explains that although many of the pieces Silvera showcase come from a collection, they are unique because of the way they’re crafted. In the case of the lighting, each feature is a sphere of hand-blown glass. “It’s something that we focus on for our clients; doing things that are designed just for them and their space. [Even] our standard collections [are] available in so many fabrics or leathers, and so many different configurations”.
The bespoke element to Silvera’s offering doesn’t end there. Architects and designers working with the brand will have no need to go anywhere else to find samples to help create ideas, as Maillé proudly states, “we have all of the samples that we need here in house. Quite often when we have our client meetings we’ll have loads of samples around, they can bring in their tiles or flooring and we can compare. That’s really what we’re here for, to be able to create something homogenous with the clients.”
On the topic of clients, Maillé explains one of Silvera’s biggest draws: the fact that they are a one-stop-shop who can support their clients through an entire design project. “We can really respond not only to the furniture, the rugs and the lighting, but can go right through and do [full] projects for our clients – which is something that’s really been missing. For a designer to finish a project and then have to go out and [find] accessories… so that’s what’s [special] about us, the designer can find everything from just the one store.”
“It’s what our team are very specialised in doing,” says Maillé with a smile. “They all have a design background and they project manage; they really handle the project from the very beginning right through to delivery, installation and after sales service. It allows us to respond to our clients’ needs; we really listen to what it is they need and then we can go and source the items that would suit them best.” On the other hand, Maillé continues, there are those individuals that will just “come in looking for a couple of bar stools, and that’s fine”.
So has Maillé spotted any trends or common themes within the products that Silvera’s clients are choosing for their projects? “Design is very much like fashion,” she says. “There are different trends, different periods of time – at the moment everyone wants velvet, which is sometimes quite challenging because the UK has strict regulations in terms of fire. Not all velvets respond to that – sometimes there are those little challenges, but again we’re here to make sure that we can get past those challenges.”
“There are also colour trends – every year people will focus on specific colours, and that’s very much influenced by the press [and] trade shows. It’s also influenced by the seasons. Quite often when we’re moving into winter, we change our display; we’ll have cosier fabrics and colours. [In spring and summer, things are] a bit brighter, a bit more colourful. Leather tends to be love it or hate it, and it’s all year round.”
The Silvera team, if consulting for a client, will always start their conversation by listening and asking questions to understand what it is the client is trying to achieve. After this, Maillé says, putting forward suitable brands happens organically. “They’re often the brands that are on display. Throughout their journey in the showroom, [a client will] come across a piece that they fall in love with or that triggers something in them, and the conversation will go from there.”
But what happens when an architect or designer walks through the door, instead of a direct client? The dynamic, Maillé explains, is very different. “They usually need a lot less guidance, they usually know exactly what they want. One of our features that we pride ourselves on is making things happen very fast – if we need to order samples from Italy for them to use on their colour boards, we make it happen as fast as possible. An interior designer and architect know what they want and we’re here to facilitate what they’re trying to achieve.”
“That’s the advantage of [a designer] working with Silvera as opposed to going to different mono-brand stores and then having to do all that logistical work themselves,” Maillé continues. “[It’s] a service that we offer. I would say, out of every one retail client we have, we have three designers.” This number is only continuing to grow - Silvera often have repeat clientele that come back to the brand for their design approach and assistance. “It’s growing more and more as people get to know us,” says Maillé with a smile.
Returning to the main area of the showroom, Maillé points out one area in front of a large window and lists off the brands that have been put together to create a dining space. “We [have put together] a Living Divani mirror, a Flos lamp, a Cassina table, Baxter chairs, a cici-tapis rug, a Living Divani book case and Bocci light - but it all works. It’s quite fine art to put together,” she says. It’s also clear that Laure Maillé knows her showroom inside and out.
Watching the intrigued passersby stopping to look through Silvera’s large windows, it’s worth wondering why the brand decided to set up their flagship showroom on the King’s Road – instead of somewhere like Clerkenwell. “We did consider this for a long time, [but] Clerkenwell is very contract side of town,” Maillé explains. “We really wanted to have a high end residential showroom to start, because contracts we know we can do.”
“The Kings Road has such history. The greats started here. It’s an area that was very important to us and we really felt that this was where we needed to be,” Maillé’ continues. Considering Silvera London is about to celebrate it's first birthday, it's easy to agree that the brand have found their place within the heart of Chelsea. At the other end of the showroom, the passersby have pushed the door open, stepping into the otherwise quiet space. Maillé laughs. “It looks quite calm but this is just a façade. Behind the scenes it’s all systems go – we’re in London, we’re thriving, and we’re so happy to be here.”