Home: Minding the Manor

<< Back to Robb Report, September 2007
  • William Kissel

The furnishings in the new Waddesdon collection from Chappell & McCullar

are not imitations of the classic French period pieces at Waddesdon Manor; they

are interpretations, which, in some ways, might be better than the originals.

“We took good design from the 18th century and interpreted it to a 21st-century

ideal by simplifying the lines,” says Keith McCullar, who co-owns the San

Francisco furniture company with Michael James Chappell. McCullar notes that

classic French designs often are too heavily ornamented for today’s interiors.

“We cleaned them up and got them down to their pure form with just a bit of

embellishment,” he says, “so they would be a bit easier to live with and more

flexible in their ability to be deployed in a period room or a very stark modern

interior.”

Waddesdon Manor, a château-style estate in Buckinghamshire,

England, was built in the 1870s for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, who had

commissioned French architect Gabriel Hippolyte Destailleur to design the home

to hold his extensive collection of antique furnishings and objets d’art. Today,

Waddesdon Manor, which the Rothschild family bequeathed to the National Trust 50

years ago, is a museum managed by a charitable trust under the stewardship of

Jacob, the fourth Lord Rothschild. Jacob is, as was his forefather Ferdinand, an

avid collector and furniture aficionado, and he and Waddesdon’s curators did not

take lightly the decision to license the Waddesdon name. They appreciated that

Chappell and McCullar, native Californians who began dealing in antiques

privately in 1995 and opened their shop in 2002, did not want to duplicate the

estate’s furnishings. “One of our main positions from the outset,” explains

Pippa Shirley, Waddesdon Manor’s head of collections, “was that we were not in

the business of making reproductions and that, instead, this should be a modern

take on a very important historic collection.”

Chappell & McCullar

oversees production of the pieces, each of which is built both by hand and by

machine. “The joinery is identical to that used in the 18th century, but we use

power tools to cut dovetails because it is more efficient and cost-effective,”

says Chappell. The items’ underlying structures are cut from farm-grown poplar,

and their exteriors are covered in exotic wood veneers.

The Waddesdon

collection—nine pieces priced from $9,000 to $22,000—includes chests, tables, a

stool, a bench, and a sofa. The Christophe low table derives from an antique

bench; the Guilloche Demilune chest is influenced by a circa-1770 Dubois chest;

and the Dubois commode bears a cast bronze palmette cast from an

early-19th-century ceiling frieze. “When you see one of these pieces,” says

McCullar, “you can recognize the form as historically inspired, but definitely

with a modern twist.”

 

Chappell & McCullar, 415.693.0882, www­.chappellmccullar.com

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