Wednesday 23 December 2015
An interview with Timothy Oulton
The Timothy Oulton furniture brand is internationally renowned for its commitment to quality and originality in furniture design, with stores across the world and concessions within the most exclusive department stores. We talk to the man himself about his inspirations and latest collections.
What drew you to furniture design?
I’d been in the antiques industry for a long time, I loved antiques but I wanted to make something, to build a business. All those things that make antiques special – the stories, the craftsmanship, that timeless quality – I wanted to translate that into modern pieces that people could use in their daily life, but pieces that still retain a sense of history.
How would you describe your signature style?
We blend ideas from the past with a modern sensibility, to create something fresh and exciting. Our pieces are made to look lived in, I like to say we breathe old life into new things. For us, we see the ‘imperfections’ in natural materials as perfections, whether it’s the weathering in hundred-year-old wood or the natural scars in a quality leather hide.
Why do you think the Timothy Oulton brand with its quintessentially British edge is so popular across the world?
Our collections are really about a certain mind set, they’re red-blooded, daring and authentic. We want to create spaces that inspire people, to make their home a launch pad for their next adventure. These are ideas that resonate with people all over the world from New York to Moscow to London.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I see the creative process as a bit of a quest, a journey. You explore, discover and often end up finding inspiration down pretty unexpected avenues. We have leather finishes inspired by antique cowboy chaps, lighting inspired by vintage jewellery. You can often find me at flea markets picking out the most threadbare pieces. I see a shape, a material or some tiny detail that seems to draw me in.
Talk us through the design process…
Every designer has their own way of doing things. For me, I don’t sit there with a blank piece of paper sketching, but it’s very much a creative process. It starts with the inspiration, then I start to translate that idea into something that’s useful. Our pieces have a vintage feel but they need to work for today’s homes, to be relevant. The design evolves; we change bits, we make a sample, we change it again until it has exactly the right look and feel.
How do you maintain the integrity of craftsmanship that seems so central to the brand?
Handcraftsmanship is at the heart of everything we do, it’s the lifeblood of the brand. That’s why we use the old techniques, they’re tried and tested. It takes a lot of time and effort but there’s no other way to achieve that level of authenticity. Reclaimed materials play a central part in your work.
Is it the salvaged finds that influence the design process or do you intentionally seek out materials to integrate into existing creations?
It can be both. The materials definitely come first for some pieces – like the Axel collection. We bought this fleet of decommissioned junk boats and used the timber from the hulls, beams and decking. We took all the nails out by hand and cleaned the paint off, but preserved the character of the wood; the weathered texture, the cracks, the oil marks – it’s those signs of life that make each piece unique.
With the festive season approaching, what makes a good party in the Oulton household?
I’m a very casual person so I like relaxed evenings where everyone just kicks back. I make sure I’ve got a good stock of drinks in for whoever’s coming – whatever their favourite is. Music’s really important, I like a bit of Bob Marley, some Stones and Beatles mixed in, maybe a little Sinatra later over cigars.
How do you decorate your home at Christmas? Any tips for getting it right?
It should be whatever makes you smile, rather than following any set rules. I like to collect things when I travel, it could be something really quirky I picked up at a European market or something more traditional. It’s about creating a space that’s relaxed but playful where everyone can celebrate together.
What can we expect to see from Timothy Oulton moving forward? Are there any new signature pieces to be revealed in the near future?
We’re busy working on the 2016 collection at the moment so yes, lots of new pieces to be revealed early on next year. We’ve also got some other exciting projects coming up so you’ll have to watch this space.
To find out more about Timothy Oulton and the company’s range of products visit www.timothyoulton.com.