The Antiques of the Future
Remarkable craft and constant experimentation mean each piece from Mark Boddington’s Silverlining factory truly reflects his client’s desires
Article by Stuart Husband Photography by Deniz Karagulle
In an outwardly unprepossessing warehouse on an industrial estate in Wales, a portal to the infinite is being created – via a piece of domestic furniture. The Infinity Table, one of the key pieces in the portfolio of the bespoke fixtures and fittings company Silverlining, is made of through-dyed ripple sycamore, coloured lacquer and a laminated Kevlar core. Its surface moves through a red-blue-purple spectrum, and it features a “void” at its centre – just the ticket for those who want to ponder the measureless depths over toast and coffee. “We were trying to do the impossible with wood,” grins Mark Boddington, Silverlining’s owner.
It’s not the only sci-fi flourish among Silverlining’s exquisitely-crafted creations. In its 30 year existence, the company has become fabled for deploying the most singular of materials – rare Macassar ebony, say, or a 227-year-old reindeer hide, salvaged from the Metta Catharina, a merchant ship that sank off Plymouth in 1786 – and marrying traditional and cutting-edge techniques to produce what Boddington calls “the antiques of the future,” such as the Parabolic Cabinet, an oak chest with a cedar interior: “It’s a multi-sensory experience,” says Boddington. It looks like it’s got mass and volume, but it’s actually really fine when you open it up, with the cedar cut into waves, in the manner of cooperage barrels.”
Silverlining has made chairs for Madonna, desks for Tom Ford, and tables for Prince Jefri Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei’s brother. It’s constantly breaking new ground – a wooden screen, destined for a superyacht, is incised with images of swimming carp, treated with an innovative technique to ensure that the azure and creamy white dyes will never fade – and it doesn’t compromise on quality. “We made a set of 14 dining chairs in tulip wood, ebony and crystal glass, with each piece taking about 104 hours,” says Boddington. “Our clients know that our attention to detail is second to none, so they keep coming back for more.”
They’re probably as fired by the enthusiasm of the 53-year-old Boddington as by the transcendent properties of his coffee tables. He hails from Britain’s famous brewing family, but broke away at an early age, making his first piece, a bookcase, when he was five (it’s proudly supporting multiple hardbacks to this day). “My mother took me to every stately home in Britain when I was young, and I became obsessed with studying furniture and the way materials were put together,” he says. He set up his first workshop in a converted cowshed on the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s estate in 1985 – just at the point when they were about to embark on a major renovation. Eight years later, on Boddington’s first export trip to the US, he struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to him on a flight from Miami to Los Angeles. It turned out to be Kevin Costner’s architect, and a Hollywood entrée was established. “We never chase people for projects, though,” stresses Boddington. “They come to us because they know they’ll get something unique.”
Each bespoke Silverlining piece is a mirror of the client’s personality, says Boddington, but it also exceeds their vision in ways they hadn’t expected. The company utilises venerable techniques like straw marquetry (where strips of soaked straw are painstakingly layered on wood) and sand-shading (where a veneer is lightly scorched to create an effect of depth). And while they embrace the highest of techs – an ebony cabinet with 23-carat gold detailing, produced for a watch collector to house his 1928 Patek Philippe, was programmed to respond only to the client’s finger recognition – Silverlining’s lasers are set to stitch a slightly irregular line, mimicking the efforts of authentically fallible humans. “Computers tend to make everything sterile, and we prefer to bring an emotional element to every piece,” says Boddington. Consultations between clients are craftsmen are paramount, and each piece comes embedded with a named and dated silver hallmark – a literal silver lining – and accompanied by a handmade book detailing its production history. “This is how luxury’s changed,” says Boddington. “Detail and quality are now paramount, because everyone wants something that no-one else has got.”