Decorum Chats: Tom Raffield

We featured Tom Raffield’s stunning steam bent No 1 pendant a while ago, but as longstanding fans of his beautifully crafted furniture and lighting, we thought we’d find out more about this talented British designer, so we caught up with him for a chat…

tom_raffield_dailydecorum Tom’s fascination with the traditional practice of steam bending began while studying at Falmouth College of Arts, where he discovered the traditional technique of using a chamber wouldn’t allow him to create the complex 3D bends he had envisaged. Years of research and experimentation allowed him to develop a new steaming method to turn his design visions into reality.

Tom was co-founder of the award-winning collective design company Sixixis, recognised for unique aesthetic, forward-thinking designs and now, through his own company, Tom continues to create spectacular, ecologically sound, innovative furniture and lighting from his studios in Cornwall.

In 2011, he was Winner of the Lighting Design Association’s Lighting Design Award.

What made you want to work in design?

From a young age I was much better at putting things together and crafting things from wood than academia. After university I studied 3D design where I worked with steam bending a lot and developed my own methods. I realised the environmental benefits of this process and felt passionate about combining it with locally sourced sustainably managed timber.

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Can you tell us a little bit about the process of behind your pieces?

Steam bending is a traditional process steeped in history and culture. It was once a vital practice, paramount to the production of weapons, tools and water vessels. Sadly, with the advance of technology this practice has been replaced and become less common.

With little time and a lot of practice, I have developed my own way of using steam, which has reinvented this traditional process and brought it into the 21st century. With the new tools and the methods I’ve developed, I can twist and bend wood as freely as you use a pencil for drawing. Having such a good understanding of the material and the process ensures there are no restrictions on my creativity; believing anything can be achieved is extraordinarily liberating!

Why furniture and lighting?

This is what I always wanted to do: to be my own boss and make something completely new and different from scratch. I’ve always been driven to design and wanted to make things that people will cherish and keep forever. Furniture and lighting in recent years have become a disposable commodity. I want to challenge this by creating the antiques of the future.

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What would your ideal project be?

Designing all of the furniture and lighting for a boutique hotel or unusual, extraordinary residence would be incredible. Somewhere people come to stay and see all the endless possibilities that steam bending can achieve. Furniture, lighting… even parts of the structure of buildings. That would be the ultimate project.

What inspires you?

I grew up in the extreme wilderness, tranquility and natural beauty of Exmoor. This environment stimulated my imagination and gave me the freedom to be adventurous with my designs. For the last 9 years I have been living and working in Cornwall. I’m incredibly passionate about the Cornish environment and community and often find inspiration from the shapes and lines of the sea, the windswept shores and craggy woodlands. The aesthetics of the Cornish countryside have certainly played a heavy influence on my work.

From weathered tors to windswept beaches, there is no shortage of beauty and inspiration here. The weather can change from clear and blue to hard-grey and wet in a matter of minutes, it’s all very humbling.

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Which piece are you most proud of?

I am in love with our new May Table (above) which is part of the growing furniture range. It is called the May Table, named for the uplifting changes of this month. This piece uses the design principle of creating robust, strong and functional pieces with an artisan element. It also pushes the boundaries of what steam bending can achieve. I always aim to craft pieces that combine a special beauty with function. The complex wooden twist beneath the table is both beautiful and integral to the structure. Without it the piece would have no strength.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you do for a living?

I’ve never really thought about this much as I have always know that I wanted to make things for a living. However, I love travelling and exploring the world. Can I say an explorer or an adventurer? The likely hood is that I would ultimately end up being inspired by things found or seen on my travels and would be making anyway.

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What piece of recognised design do you love?

It would have to be the No. 14 chair made by the Thonet chair company. It was designed in 1859 and was an affordable, simple design made utilizing steam-bending. Made from six pieces of wood, 10 screws and two nuts. It was a revolutionary design for the era.

And finally, what’s coming up next for you?

We are looking towards the London Design Festival where we will be launching a new chandelier which is exciting for us as it is encapsulates what our core values are. Now that the business has grown I have more time to step away from everyday workshop tasks and get back to the drawing board, literally. Doing what I love to do. Creating original designs, inspired by my surroundings.

To find out more about Tom’s work, visit his website >

Little Luxuries: Hanging brass lantern from Nordic House

Working with Nordic House, we are constantly tempted by all manner of delightful objets, furniture and soft furnishings from their delicious website. And the latest collection has got us drooling once more…

Copper? So last year. It’s all about brass these days, doncha know. One of our absolute favourite pieces from their new collection is this fabulous hanging brass lantern. It ticks all the style boxes – uber-cool Scandi provenance, check; beautiful aged brass look, check; candlelight, check. And best of all it hangs!

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We love its nautical look and sleek cage-like design. It would look absolutely beautiful hanging under a porch by your front door, or even outside your back door! And the icing on the cake is the price – at just £32, it looks much more expensive than it is. We predict a sell-out.

Little Luxuries: Totem from Lindsay Adelman

Buying a house means a lot of specifying – from the radiators and spotlights (here I try to stay away a little) to the more pleasant things such as lighting, furniture and wall finishes. With my love of mid-century modern style, I have been searching for a light similar to one I found on Etsy. One tweet asking for recommendations was enough to get some great suggestions for DIY mid-century modern lights from Urban Cottage Industries and Lindsey Adelman.

And as soon as I landed on Lindsey Adelman’s website, I never wanted to leave. Quickly skipping through the DIY lights and adding them to the wishlist for the house, my eyes fell on the Totem I light and I was absolutely enchanted.

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While Lindsay Adelman’s DIY lights can be purchased at reasonable prices, Totem I can be yours for only $75,000. Why so much? For me, one look at this light explains it – it is simply a work of art. It is not just a source of light, a fixture you mount on the ceiling and forget about. With a good glass of red wine in hand, I could marvel at its perfection and craftsmanship for hours.

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Referred to on the website as a light ‘sculpture’, Totem I has been created in a limited edition of three for The Future Perfect. The design is a masterpiece, combining together our favourite materials – brass and glass, wood and porcelain. The materials have been put together to create a limitless design concept of vertical sculpture, meticulously engineered.

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The design is currently available from The Future Perfect website, and I know already that in a few years’ time, when these designs are presented in art galleries, we’ll wish we had bought it for the small change that is $75,000 in the art world.

Decorum Loves: Anaglypta

One of our favourite bloggers, Kimberly over at Swoon Worthy, recently opened our eyes to something rather shocking. Anaglypta is BACK. And not only is it back, it’s looking mighty pretty indeed. In fact, it’s one of our newest crushes at Decorum.

For those not in the know, Anaglypta is a textured wallpaper, beloved of doctors’ waiting rooms and old people’s homes and, well, basically anything decorated in the 1980s. It’s hard to believe it, but Anaglypta was actually founded way back in 1887. It was hugely popular with Victorians, who loved its ability to imitate more expensive carved wall panels, as well as the fact it was relatively tough and durable. It fell out of favour somewhat in recent times when people started slapping thick paint – sometimes even gloss, the horror! – all over it in gaudy colours. It was also widely used to hide a multitude of dodgily plastered walls, meaning that when removed, whole walls came away with it.

But just look at it today…

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The beautiful styling and bang-up-to-date hues help, but really, isn’t this stuff simply beautiful? What’s more, there are 500 patterns to choose from in the original archive, representing styles from the mid 19th and early 20th century, so there’s bound to be something to suit your style. And if using it on your walls is just too much for you, it would look beautiful on your ceiling, adding interest and texture to an otherwise overlooked area.

The company has just launched its ‘Book 39’ collection, comprising a range of timeless patterns that celebrate decades of enduringly good design. Amongst the 94 papers in the collection are these beauties pictured above, from the late 19th century Turner Tile (top) and Egon (middle), together with the re-introduced 1930s design, Deco Paradiso (bottom).

Prices range from £8 to £50 per roll. Simply stunning.

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July 16, 2014 - 2:29 pm

Cliff Harris - I want to dive into that second pic. Gorgeous and thanks for sharing.

July 16, 2014 - 5:10 pm

dailyd - Beautiful isn’t it?!

July 23, 2014 - 9:04 am

hot picks week thirteen | HIBS100 - […] Decorum has a long standing feature on their blog called Decorum Loves. I love this feature for checking out ‘new to me’ interior trends, items or shops. […]