Curating luxury for the discerning traveller

Poker Face: The Luxury Gaming Revival


As Fiona Vlemmiks discovers, luxury, hand-crafted gaming sets are the ultimate indulgence for both board-game aficionados and those passionate about contemporary art

Board games have been universally enjoyed throughout the course of history. Games such as senet, played by the ancient Egyptians, can be traced as far back as 3100 BC, while backgammon originated in ancient Persia and chess in 6th-century India. 

Today, board games bridge cultural boundaries and generation gaps and far from losing their allure in a digital age, there is a clear renaissance in interest and engagement. Backgammon, for instance, is reportedly currently popular with hedge fund analysts, who treat it as a workout for the grey cells, while techies and neuroscientists are studying the intricacies of the game with great interest, applying findings in the creation of digital technology. 

Simon Purkis, who established Purling London Art Games in 2012, says his creations are a pure celebration of art and playfulness. Purkis was struck by inspiration for his lavish games company when he struggled to distinguish the pieces while playing chess at sunset. “It seemed a wonderful opportunity to revamp the iconic design and introduce lacquered, one-off artist-painted pieces to complement modern interior designs,” he says. 

Fiona Vlemmiks

Purling now supplies a wide range of classic games to many international luxury stores and well-known interior designers, and with each piece in his gorgeous chess sets individually hand-painted by specially commissioned British and international artists – meaning that no two sets are the same – they have become true collector’s items. Among the 30-plus artists Purling has been collaborating with is London-based street artist Darren John, who is renowned for his bold, visceral paintings which explore and celebrate the untamed creative spirit. “Take the Darren John x Purling London Art Backgammon ‘Parallax 2.0’, for example. This particular piece features a composition made from a close crop from a previous painting, allowing for perfect harmony between the artwork’s forms and the set’s function,” says Purkis. “The gold and monochrome work has been applied utilising brush and sea sponge, and is consciously finished with a combination of both sharp and textural edges. The materials employed include boxwood, leather, chrome and lacquer.” 

Likewise, the Darren John x Purling London Art Chess ‘Parallax 2.0’ set features 34 hand-carved, triple-weighted, boxwood chess pieces, individually and uniquely hand-painted by John, a hand-painted board finished with deep gloss lacquer, Purling-branded leather felt and luxury packaging. Moreover, each owner receives a unique certificate personally signed by the artist, or signed chessboard, with their purchase.

Pictures: Darren John x Purling London art chess set (hero) and Francesco Jacobello Art Backgammon (above) courtesy of the retailer.



Another London-based British designer, Alexandra Llewellyn, is becoming internationally renowned for her imaginative backgammon boards and other custom-made games tables and games. Each eye-catching in-house design can be personalised after close consultation with the client, with engraved or painted messages, initials and dates, and Llewellyn also takes one-off commissions.  

The designer’s childhood in Cairo inspired a life-long passion for backgammon, as she became enthralled by the idea that board games “operate as an independent vocabulary, requiring neither common language nor culture, so that games bring diverse people together”. She consequently launched Alexandra Llewellyn Designs in 2010. 

“I am continually inspired by how games bring us together and by the conversation that ensues. Time is our greatest luxury and games create a space in which we can enjoy it with treasured people. Games create a universal language,” says Llewellyn.

Perfect for travellers, Llewellyn has designed a stylish and unique leather travel backgammon board, decorated with bird feathers from around the world and beautifully crafted in Spanish leathers. Costing £1,400, the game is available in three designs: silver pheasant feathers, in striking turquoise and black leather with bright orange and yellow stones; woodcock feathers, housed in red and chocolate brown leather with red and white onyx stones; and Indian blue roller feathers, with nautical navy blue and cream leather, augmented with orange and baby blue stones. The brightly coloured stone playing pieces arrive in a custom box that opens to become dice shakers and a casino-quality precision dice.

Pictures: Alexandra Llewellyn Palm Table, courtesy of the retailer.



Trevor Pickett, a self-confessed “eccentric London gent”, launched his eponymous brand in 1988. Pickett is a firm advocate of the British leather industry, so all of the company’s leather goods are made in England from start to finish. 

His sumptuous products are shaped in collaboration with small specialist workshops or individual craftsmen, some of whom have worked in collaboration with the company for more than 25 years. Pickett says he thrives on playing with colour and textiles in new and exciting ways, offering anything from a simple change of colour to a replication of an old favourite. “The company can source specific leathers and finishes with the utmost attention to detail. We have an ‘anything is possible’ ideology, ensuring that we can offer a truly bespoke service,” he explains.

“All of Pickett’s products can be individually personalised with a range of details, from simple block initials and lettering to facsimile writing for a special message, or even with a family crest or company logo. The entire embossing process is done by hand, using a heated press, which ensures maximum durability. Embossing options are offered in gold, silver or blind, which means a deep impression on the leather with no colour.”

With such intricate designs and fine craftmanship, it seems that no matter how the game plays out, luxury board-game owners will ultimately end up feeling like a winner.

Pictures: chess set (L) and travel backgammons set (R) courtesy of Pickett London via Facebook.


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