My exhibition in Lye Regis is now closed but here is a resume of what was on show there.
Designed and made for a client in Oxford and borrowed for the exhibition, this compact domestic desk uses a structure which is not traditional in timber furniture but shows the versatility of modern techniques and articulates the separate elements of the desk. Made in English oak with Indian rosewood details, which chiefly serve as strengthening splines in the mitre joints of the frame but are continued down the central drawer pulls.
The Brown chair
Not originally designed to accompany this desk, which it nevertheless suits, this oak chair was part of a dining table and chair set for another client in Oxford.
The Ivory table and chair
They have nothing to do with elephants or walruses: there is nothing in their construction apart from English ash.
Mrs Ivory in Edinburgh asked me to design a chair to go with a modern Italian table she had recently bought; she didn’t like the chair design that went with it. I later designed a different table to go with my chair, and both were included in the exhibition. Rather later I repeated the design for another client and extended it to a dining room cabinet.
The table is 1200mm diameter, with a 300 extension leaf.
The Ling armchair and settee
This armchair, seen here in American black walnut, but available to order in other timbers, drew inspiration from seventeenth-century English furniture and also separately from a design by Augustus Pugin. The Ling chair was originally designed for a London solicitor as part of a set that included a bookcase as well as a small table and four chairs.
The design was later developed into a whole range of furniture for the fellows’ dining and combination rooms at St Catharine’s College Cambridge.
Following that commission I extended the design to this two-seater settee, a form that is often found in English seventeenth-century furniture.
Malone-Lee coat stand
This is the only coat stand (in oak and stainless steel) that I have every made: it was lent back for the exhibition.
I did also design a hat and coat stand – in the Egyptian style – for a client who was an enthusiast for, and very knowledgeable about Egyptian art and culture. Unfortunately it never got made, although much else besides, in the Egyptian style, was designed and made for the client, chiefly for his chambers as a barrister and QC in the chancery division.
It was an interesting exercise in the assimilation of an alien aesthetic to a modern way of life. I was never quite sure what kind of hats and coats (never mind umbrellas) the ancient Egyptians might have needed to hang up. Designing a desk with a computer rising on an automatic lift seemed more in tune with popular tales of cunning mechanisms within ancient tombs. There is, however, a long and serious tradition of ‘Egyptomania’ in western architecture and design.
The furniture I made for this barrister is now migrating to his house (also in an Egyptian style) on the banks of the Thames as he gradually retires. Fortunately for me his commission lead to others amongst his professional colleagues.
The Griffin table
This inlaid table is intended to capture, in a variety of contrasting timbers, the spirit of Italian renaissance marble tables, and was originally designed in response to a client’s enquiry. The overall lines of the design also draw loosely on a mid-seventeenth century oak table from Chetham’s Hospital in Manchester.
The table top is veneered and inlaid with some exceptionally fine timbers on a groundwork of Swiss pear radiating from the centre and surrounded by an elliptical band of lozenges which constantly change shape in accordance with the geometry of the ellipse axes. Kingwood, tulipwood, exceptionally fine French burr walnut, black ebony discs, Indian rosewood and bubinga are all used. Some of the exotic timbers were taken from supplies that have been in this country, passed on from furniture maker to furniture maker, since the 1940s.
Although the design met the client’s aims, the commission did not proceed and the Griffin table was made as an exhibition piece. It is now available for sale.
Bolger tub chair
This very comfortable chair has a striking but essentially simple constructional form of a minimum of solid timber components and a moulded ply back shell. The timber here is American black walnut and the back shell is faced with maple veneer.
Originally it was designed and made in a set for an eye surgeon’s reception area and is now made to order.
This side table with two drawers is made in American black walnut with holly details, in the undulating relief inlay, corner brackets and feet. In its general outline it references English Georgian furniture but its particular interpretation is modern. It is available for sale.
This music stand, made in American black walnut and maple was designed, with an accompanying chair, for a client in Greenwich who plays quartets with a group of friends. The stand has a telescopic height adjustment in its main stem and secondary adjustment for tilt and height in the mounting of the desk. Great care was taken in the design to achieve something that was elegant, functional and constructionally stable (involving laminating techniques in most components). One visitor to the exhibition remarked that it had the appearance itself of some kind of musical instrument that one might imagine could be played. The chair makes special allowance for the needs of musicians.
I have worked with these clients on many occasions over a period of about twenty years, providing furniture for their dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bedroom.
“Both the bedroom and the kitchen work beautifully and remarkably and have made our lives considerably easier. So that is what well thought-out furniture does for you.”
Made for my own house over twenty years ago, and now showing the marks of family life since then, this very practical bookcase with cupboards, shelves and drawers is called the ‘Shaker bookcase’ because of its plain design and capacious storage. ‘Plain’ was a prime term of approval amongst the Shakers, and they would have approved its range of different kinds of storage – although perhaps not all the open shelves. They were probably too busy for much book reading.
It is made in English cherry, where we have some advantage over the American Shakers, who also favoured cherry. English cherry has a more delicate grain and colour than American cherry, as is the case with most of the species shared between our continents.
Similar bookcases and cabinets can be designed to commission.
The design was originally developed for my wife to use in her work as an Alexander Technique teacher, but it could be used in many domestic situations. It extends in length by means of a fold-down flap at each end.
Domestic tables often need to be extendable and there are many possible design solutions. The greater the extension the more difficult it is to balance appearance and functionality. The two-flap design is one of the most straightforward and pleasing, found in classic Pembroke and sofa tables. This table is of different proportions and leaves a substantial and very usable surface when the flaps are left down.
This and other table designs, extending or not, can be made to commission.