Bespoke contemporary furniture
My furniture is designed along traditional lines using solid wood and age-old methods. It is everyday
furniture that is built for life; it should be used and enjoyed, not cosseted and hidden from children
(a great source of patina!). It is neither reproduction furniture nor art furniture; but it is handmade
and it is unique...
There is much talk today of "antiques of the future" in furniture making. However, very few makers of
contemporary furniture actually use the methods that allow for restoration or the development of patina,
crucial for the long-term survival of your furniture. The methods and materials used a hundred and fifty
years ago are very different to those commonly used to make today's fine furniture. A good look around a
top antique shop and a perusal of some hundred year old books on cabinetmaking will soon highlight the main
differences: glue, finishes and upholstery. Today's methods, based on factory techniques from the twentieth
century, are not equivalent to those used to make fine antiques. Furniture made with modern glues cannot be
disassembled for restoration and modern synthetic finishes tend to chip and flake off. And how little time
does it take before a modern sofa is considered worthless and yet too toxic to burn? Are we building
antiques of the future or next years' landfill?
From ancient Egypt until the twentieth century, the glue of choice was made from animal skins and bones.
Grisly though it sounds, this adhesive has superlative characteristics for furniture making. Moreover, it
is the most fundamental part of making restorable furniture because it is reversible. Furniture can
thus be disassembled for major repairs, unlike furniture made from modern synthetic glues, such as PVA
(polyvinyl acetate) and epoxy resin, which are not reversible. Despite this, animal glue is rarely
encountered in today's furniture workshop. However, I use animal glue for all my work.
Modern finishes are, also, not used on my furniture. Shellac (the essential ingredient of French polish)
and raw linseed oil are used extensively in my workshop because, again, they are known to give good service
over the very long-term. Indeed, their track record spans centuries. They even have the delightful
characteristic of slowly wearing away to reveal smooth shiny areas instead of flaking away or looking scuffed.
They develop a pleasing patina instead of needing to be refinished. And don't think that traditional
finishes are ineffective; the white rings and worn out finish often seen on Victorian furniture are often
the result of poor quality finishing. Shoddy work was done then as well as today! Traditional finishing is
an art form that takes years of training and calls for the best materials. The results are durable,
beautiful and functional.
Furthermore, consider the upholstery on the modern dining chair: a piece of chipboard with a layer of foam
stapled to it. While this may seem satisfactory, it will usually flatten and feel disappointing within a
year or two. A traditionally upholstered drop-in seat, using webbing and curled hair, retains its springy comfort
for many more years. Sprung stuff-over dining chairs last even longer and maintain their comfort for
decades. And rush seat chairs, again, if done skilfully, can also outlast the original purchasers of the
furniture. Indeed, chairs made in the latter part of the nineteenth century often arrive at the restorers
for reseating for the first time. A hundred years' of use!
Finally, my furniture is also excellent value for money. Construction, materials and finish are optimized
for each piece of furniture keeping costs to a minimum. It may still cost more than you usually spend on
furniture but you won't be buying it twice. To my mind, that is what good furniture is all about. Whether
you are looking for dining chairs, tables or cupboards, this furniture will improve your life forever.