Furniture Designs We Have Our Eye On
The Bayleaf daybed by Mr Sebastian Cox incorporates chestnut and sycamore
Discover eight beautiful and stylish designer pieces crafted by the new breed of “urban woodsmen”.
It’s hardly surprising that in this increasingly virtual world of ours the idea of hand craftsmanship is very appealing. Within the style arena, every other brand boasts of its “handmade”, “hand-finished” or “hand-worked” pedigree, but the truth is, if you want something really made for you, from start to finish, a trip to Savile Row, the couture ateliers of Paris, or the shirt-makers of Naples is a necessity. And that doesn’t come cheap.
When investing in a one-off piece for your home, however, there’s more choice. Designer-makers (ie, those who both design and make their own products), once relegated to niche backwaters, have become fêted “urban woodsmen”, celebrated on the high street as well as in the higher echelons of the design world. A new generation of craft folk is revisiting ancient skills and processes once pushed to the margins by mass manufacturing, and there’s nothing more satisfying than a piece of furniture made with passion and to order. Here are eight such pieces, available now, from some of the most exciting designer-makers across the globe.
by the Galvin Brothers
The Galvin Brothers’ Bistro table is made using age-old carpentry techniques, but finished in a modern way
Messrs Matthew Galvin, a Royal College of Art graduate, and Andrew Galvin, a joiner, formed their Yorkshire-based workshop in 2012. With more than a little influence from their late father, who was a joiner and cabinet-maker for 61 years, the brothers produce wooden furniture using traditional joinery techniques. Their latest Bistro table (£1,200/ $1,832) is made in American walnut wood and comes with a hand-turned pedestal. (This type of “bobbly” leg appears on their chairs and sofas, too.) “It’s a pegged and wedged system, so it’s really stable,” explains Mr Matthew Galvin, whose mission is to revive dying forms of carpentry by incorporating them into contemporary pieces. “The ‘how’ of furniture is just as important as the ‘why’.” Galvin Brothers mostly makes to commission, but its studio shop in Beverley, East Yorkshire, stocks a small collection.
Maker’s Trestle table
by Ms Lola Lely
Ms Lola Lely’s table is an upgraded version of the typical trestle. Photograph The New Craftsmen
A native of Hanoi, Vietnam, but raised in London and Kent, Ms Lola Lely describes the Maker’s Trestle table (£6,400/ $9,772) as “a patchwork of crafts. I started out looking at different types of trestle table (and there are many), then examined workwear, which led me to Japanese Boro textiles, where pieces of cloth are stitched together to form patchwork garments,” she explains. Mayfair-based shop The New Craftsmen (London’s standard-bearer for handmade design) commissioned Ms Lely to make the table, which comes in reclaimed oak stained in indigo, grey and black with a dye made from rusty nails and vinegar. Any holes and imperfections have been filled in with brass. “Trestles are the first thing every furniture designer makes,” says Ms Lely, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art. “They are cheap and cheerful but can be a bit soulless. I wanted to make a statement version.”
by Mr Achille Salvagni
The Gio credenza by Mr Achille Salvagni was inspired by the architect Mr Gio Ponti. Photographs by Mr James McDonald
Roman architect Mr Achille Salvagni brings (in spirit at least) the skills of Vatican City bronze workers, Quirinale cabinet-makers, and a host of other “virtuoso” craftsmen into his galleries in Rome, New York and London, who all toil to keep the city’s regal and ecclesiastical treasures intact. Their skills are harmoniously combined in elegant handmade pieces, with which Mr Salvagni furnishes the many yachts and luxury homes he decorates on both sides of the Atlantic (80 per cent of his furniture is made to order). His inspirations include “Roman civilisation, Arte Povera and mid-century design”. The Gio credenza (£48,955/ $75,000), named after his all-time hero, the poet and architect Mr Gio Ponti, is made in royal oak with a patinated bronze top and an antique-glass back.
by Mr Sebastian Cox
The Bayleaf daybed is made in the medieval fashion with timber from Mr Cox’s very own three-acre wood
When he’s not in his Greenwich studio in London, Mr Sebastian Cox is likely to be in his three-acre wood in Kent, harvesting and gathering oak, chestnut and hazel. His Bayleaf daybed (£3,950/ $6,031) is made from sycamore, with a chestnut drawer and woven chestnut shelf. It’s part of the ever-growing Bayleaf range in which Mr Cox wants to bring long-forgotten British woods in from the cold; the Bayleaf armoire is constructed from flecky, grained plane trees (known in the trade as lacewood), while a dining table comes in ash. “The collection is made in a medieval manner,” says Mr Cox. “In those days, craftsmen would make things using four, five or even six species of timber, selecting the very best material for the task.” And like his forebears, he will happily make to order.
by Mr Ty Best
The Kintla chair by Mr Ty Best begins life as a carved wooden frame that is then cast in bronze. Photographs by Mr Bill Batten
Like many pieces US-based artist Mr Ty Best makes, the Kintla chair (£8,370/ $12,780) started out as a carved wooden frame that was then cast in bronze. It’s the latest addition to an ongoing collection, aptly named CASTE, which the artist first launched in 2008. All pieces are handmade in marble, bronze, leather and wood by Mr Best and his team of artisans in Missoula, Montana. Since swapping a frenetic life as a fashion stylist in New York and California for one as an isolated artist maker, Mr Best hasn’t looked back. “Missoula’s out of the way and I love that,” he says. “There is no compromise and no second-guessing.” Happily, he’s no longer off the grid in the UK, having arrived this autumn at London’s Willer gallery.
by Mr Tyler Hays
The Bronze bureau by Mr Tyler Hays takes 10 weeks to produce. Photograph BDDW
Mr Tyler Hays has been building an empire, wood block by wood block, since the mid-1990s. A team of 100 makes his bespoke furniture from a workshop in Philadelphia and Mr Hays sells them through his BDDW showrooms in Milan and New York. The Bronze bureau is a bestseller; it takes 10 weeks to make and comes in a variety of finishes. His talents are such that he has bought M Crow & Co, a 107-year-old hardware store in Oregon (the state in which he was born), and filled it almost entirely with his own designs. Exquisite ceramics, furniture and considered workwear replace chainsaws, hammers and horsefeed. Next month, he’s opening a second M Crow next to his Soho showroom that promises to bring the hardware store of old to the heart of Manhattan.
by Mr Gareth Neal
The elegant Ease chair by Mr Gareth Neal was the result of a chair-making competition
Bodging is a wood-turning craft, using unseasoned wood to make chair legs and other cylindrical parts of chairs. And it was this distinctly traditional skill that was employed to create this distinctly contemporary chair. Indeed, it’s fitting that the Ease chair has ended up where it was born – on the shop floor at Heal’s. Its designer Mr Gareth Neal won the Great Heal’s Bodging Race (an in-store competition between six designers to make a bespoke chair) this year, and in return, the store put his chair into production. Mr Neal has been working with sustainably sourced English oak and ash from the West Country since 1996. Each year he goes on a “bodge”. essentially the chair-maker’s equivalent of a tech detox, his annual jaunt forbids electricity (so no power tools), computers and drawing boards. “In the world of chair design, this is probably as back-to-basics as you can get,” he says. Incorporating leather offcuts and unseasoned oak, Ease (£895/ $1,368) comes in black, tan and dark brown versions, and keep an eye out for the entire range, currently in the pipeline with Heal’s.
NIM coffee table
by Mr Russell Pinch
The NIM coffee table by Mr Russell Pinch uses Jesmonite, a plastic and concrete resin. Photographs by Mr James Merrell
It looks like a piece of hewn stone or lava, but the NIM coffee table (£4,350/ $6,650) is made of Jesmonite – a plaster and resin composite. It’s a departure for London designer Mr Russell Pinch, who has spent a decade creating handmade furniture from British woods such as cherry, walnut and oak. From his Clapham studio, Mr Pinch collaborates with a network of craftsmen across the UK and makes clean-lined cabinetry, lighting and upholstered furniture. “My furniture is like a ready-to-wear collection, which can be customised and stretched quite far in terms of dimension, colour and finish,” he explains. Unadulterated Pinch pieces are also at available at SCP, Liberty and The Conran Shop.