Solland: Bespoke Art Furniture Fit for a Superyacht

By Paul Joseph

Stepping aboard a superyacht can often be akin to entering a luxury furniture showroom, with the utmost thought, care and attention having gone into every piece.

The challenges of designing furniture for yachts are well known – not least the fact that everything must be pinned to the floor – but that hasn’t deterred one London company whose unique haute couture furniture pieces are the perfect fit for your floating palace.

Yet the clear synergy that has emerged between the kind of pieces created by Mayfair-based Sollands and the type of furniture typically seen on yachts was not necessarily the plan all along. We sat down with Grazyna Solland, CEO and Chief Designer at Sollands, to find out more.

SY: Can you start by telling us about the kind of unique art furniture that you design?

GS: I design strong sculptural pieces in bold and materials including natural wood, stainless steel, sterling silver and semi-precious stones, with upholstery in embroidered leather and luxurious fabrics. The pieces vary from a simple form in a single colour lacquer making a bold yet paired back statement, to ones with a combination of materials and detailing. I like pieces to surprise, yet be elegant and timeless. To also be practical, usable and comfortable if seating.

What are the origins of the company – how did it come about?

Sollands is a multi-disciplinary practice which I started in 1987 with my husband Abner Solland, initially as a property development vehicle designing and refurbishing super-prime residential properties in Mayfair, Belgravia and Regents Park. Following the sale of four family flats on Park Lane, Mayfair, we received numerous requests from other residents in the same building to redesign and refurbish their flats, so we expanded the business to take on commissions for clients as well. This in turn lead to our opening the showroom in South Audley Street.

At this point, I was reliant on outside workshops and furniture companies to produce furniture for us. There were always constraints, understandably so, on what I was able to achieve and design, detail and workmanship. In order to satisfy my exacting and uncompromising requirements I found it increasingly necessary to set up my own atelier, which I established in 2002 in Narborough, Norfolk, employing a team of very British craftsman.

Is there a typical kind of Sollands clients or do they vary significantly?

Sollands clients come from all around the world, including US, South America, Russia, Middle and Far East, Europe and of course the UK. They are all looking for unique design and exacting standards of quality.

Many people have commented that your furniture has the look and feel of pieces often found on superyachts – was this intentional and have you ever been commissioned by a yacht owner?

This wasn’t intentional, however, my use of colour and insistence on supreme standards I believe match that found on superyachts. I did 25 years ago produce designs for an American client of ours who was having a motor yacht build in Holland. This, however, was to quiet traditional style unlike the pieces coming from our atelier. Whilst our focus has been on the design and refurbishment of luxury residences, I do appreciate how our pieces can work on super yachts and possibly bring something fresh to the table.

What can you tell us about the Gra and Gra Premier Collection?

The Gra collection is Sollands signature collection, made up of pieces such as the Elip chair and Koyo unit. These pieces can be reproduced to a client’s wishes, whether it be using a particular combination of coloured lacquer or veneer, or adjusting the size to suit requirements.

The Gra Premier collection is one-off pieces or a limited edition, showcasing the best in design and British craftmanship and incorporating precious metals, semi-precious stones and fine marquetry. Each piece in the edition being differently finished and/or detailed, such as the Loopz table collection. Loopz I table has been finished in deep red lacquer with stainless steel fin details, whereas Loopz II table recently completed, has been finished in black lacquer and draped in stainless steel chain.

I understand you’ve recently remodelled your Mayfair showroom – what can you tell us about this?

In recent past years we have displayed our pieces in the showroom individually, rather like an art gallery. I decided to change this and remodel the showroom to provide sets, allowing customers to better envisage how are art furniture and products could look in their homes and to garner inspiration.

Can you tell us a little about the design process at Sollands, from concept to final product?

If I'm designing a private commission, it'll start with a meeting with the client and taking their brief. I like to spend time to ascertain their particular taste and to understand what they are wishing to achieve. I often like to inject ideas they may not have considered. We will then produce drawings and samples, and possible carry out some prototyping. Once all has been agreed, we will manufacture the final product. Depending on the piece and design, this process can take anything between a couple of months to a year.

If I'm designing a new piece for the showroom, I rely on inspiration, which can come from anything, anywhere and at any time. I sketch ideas as they came to me, and sometimes go on to develop them straight away, or at times I refer back to them at a later date.

My designs inevitably mean that I have to ensure I can overcome practical difficulties in converting my ideas into the physical product. This is done in our atelier in Norfolk, where following discussions and meetings, my craftsman will start prototyping. It is at this stage that we will find out if a design is workable and where tweaks need to be made before we go ahead with the finished product. It is always inspiring to hear appreciation from the end client to a design. That is ultimately what makes the whole effort worthwhile.

What are your design inspirations?

Firstly nature. I never cease to be delighted and inspired by natural materials available to us. It in my please to visit veneer suppliers and marble yards. Whilst you often see the familiar, which has beautiful grain and veining, you sometimes are lucky and find the unusual. Such as beautifully warm coloured Tamo ash veneer. I am also inspired be the magnificent designers and craftsman of each generation and how they unapologetically used colour and detail. It is impossible to chose a couple of examples when so much is inspiring.

What do you hope the future holds for Sollands?

To be at the forefront of delivering unique exciting designs, combining traditional methods of craftsmanship with contemporary possibilities.

By Paul Joseph