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Posts Tagged ‘bespoke furniture’

A Grand Day Out

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

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Thursday 25 May 2017 was the hottest day of the year so far. The perfect day to travel to London to visit the most famous horticultural show in the world! All 3 directors, Simon, John and Bridget accompanied by John’s wife, Emily, took the opportunity to visit the new editions of Floating Bench on Sitting Spiritually’s stand at RHS Chelsea and were delighted to see how much attention they S&J Chelseawere getting. The sultry, jet-black Noir bench was the surprise hit of the show, outstripping Blonde in terms of sales, but both benches have joined the original Floating Bench as popular additions to gardens this summer.

As well as visiting Sitting Spiritually’s stand, there was plenty of time to visit other friends from Dorset, sculptor Simon Gudgeon from Sculpture by the Lakes and Richard Lee from Plankbridge Shepherds Huts, as well as viewing the show gardens and trade stands and gaining some inspiration for new designs as well as for our own gardens.

Our day was rounded off in the most perfect way with an invitation to the Furniture Makers’ Company Design Guild Mark Awards in Clerkenwell where John, Emily and Bridget were thrilled to watch Simon being presented with Design Guild Mark No.193 for Floating Bench. Simon now has his head full of ideas for more garden furniture so you can expect to see a new range taking shape soon and, who knows, maybe another Design Guild Mark may follow?

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ZMMA Architects – Museum Collaborations

Sunday, January 8th, 2017


We have continued our successful collaborative partnership with ZMMA Architects by working with them on two unusual and prestigious museum projects. The first of these was for the recently renovated Watts Studios in the Watts home Limnerslease, part of the artist village at Compton under the banner of the Watts Gallery which was built by and displays the work of influential Victorian artist G. F. Watts. We were asked by ZMMA to build a vitrine for the Compton Gallery and a long wall mounted side-board style cabinet for the Mary Watts Gallery.



Both these substantial pieces were of English Walnut with brass and glass fittings. The more straightforward piece was the side-board which demanded the more traditional cabinet-making skills. It incorporated lockable drawer storage as well as ‘discovery drawers’ for visitors to the gallery to open and explore the treasures housed within. These drawers are also a feature of the vitrine (a glass topped cabinet for displaying objets d’art) though this was a particular challenge because not only was it comprised of a series of glass topped and fronted cabinets, it also needed a dropped section in the middle. zmma-va-stools-copyBrass detailing along the entire length of the cabinet complicated the construction further and this combination of timber, glass and brass elements led to a few headaches in the planning stages, and a few more during construction! However, it is the challenges that such projects present which makes them all the more satisfying and we like to think that our dedication and attention to detail contributed a little to the Watts Gallery being listed in ‘The Times’ list of The Top 25 Small Museums.

The second museum project we worked on with ZMMA was the world renowned V&A Museum in London. ZMMA had won the contract for the restructuring of the 1600 – 1815 gallery and as part of this needed to create an education suite. They chose us to make the stools they had designed for the use of children visiting the gallery. The stools were made from American walnut which was then finished with a grey-tinted lacquer. The challenge in the construction of these stools was to maintain the delicate fluted sides whilst retaining structural integrity and preventing them from twisting a skewing when sat on. After a lot of head-scratching and experimentation, a solution was devised and seven of these pretty little stools are now supporting the bottoms of children exploring the V&A each day!


To find out more about ZMMA Architects click here to visit the website.

For information about the Watts Gallery, Limnerslease and Watts Studio click here.

The V&A website is obviously as expansive as the museum itself so this link takes you specifically to the V&A Europe 1600-1815 Galleries pages.

John’s Top 5 Favourite Projects

Friday, March 8th, 2013

Over the next month key members of the STP team will be selecting their top 5 favourite pieces of furniture from the archives. They could be old, they could be new, there is nothing borrowed, but there is something blue! It may be that they loved the design, or some technical aspect of making it. It may be the timber or the combination of materials. There will be an image plus little explanation of why they selected it. First up is John.

John Beaves joined Simon in 2000 after completing the HND Furniture Course at Buckinghamshire University. Now an experienced cabinet maker with an eye for detail, John became a director of Simon Thomas Pirie Ltd in 2007 when the business expanded and moved. As well as being ‘on the bench’, much his role now focuses on the management of what goes through the workshops here at Briantspuddle.

So the first of John’s top 5 selections, in reverse order…

5. “This is the first kitchen we ever did so it has lots of positive memories for us, but I particularly love that centre dresser cabinet in sycamore and lacewood (or London Plane). The combination of timbers is unusual and very beautiful, making it appear light and airy, but the proportions also right.”

In a sense this piece was a bit on an accident. The original intention was to completely open the space up but it was less expensive to leave a pillar in what was originally an outdoor load-bearing wall. Simon had to design something that would hide the pillar and become a stunning feature piece in its own right. All our kitchens feel more like a collection of furniture pieces rather than ‘fitted’ units, but that’s especially true of this. We played around with leading the eye to the back corner of the room to make it seem larger with another cabinet, this time in burr elm. This kitchen is in a lovely Georgian house on the edge of the New Forest, and as first kitchens go it’s a pretty impressive one. We worked with interior designer Yvonne Hellier on this project which was great fun”.

4. Is the Impala dining chair. Originally designed as a restaurant chair it soon became our best seller in the domestic environment.

“We have lost count of how many we have made but at a rough guess we think it’s around 250 since 2000 when the oak prototype pictured was designed and made.

Although we have made it in just about every timber combination imaginable we have rarely strayed from the original design. For example we have only ever made two pairs of carvers over the years, both of which where specially requested orders. We did make a lower back set once but they lacked the elegance without the tall slatted backs. It’s their simplicity which is the key, but they are also very comfortable.”

3. Another larger project – our North Dorset blue madrona burr and elm bar. Told you there was some blue on the way, and very striking it is – down to the colours, textures and a brave client who wanted to have a bit of fun! John’s take on it:

“I particularly like the lit recessed shelves at the back, but it was all very groovy. Lots of our trademark features like those curved doors in here. We used a professional commercial stainless steel bar system with fridges, sinks, ice makers, cocktail trays and the full works behind the timber bar front. Could quite easily be in a luxury hotel somewhere glamourous. The elm played a lovely mellow role against that blue burr and a repeating square-check man made veneer. We also did the study and kitchen for the same clients.”

To see the full case study and more images of this project click here.

2. “I suspect this would have made everyone here’s list, but I’m first so I get it on mine. The elm console table with matching mirror. Everything has a curved front including that dissecting shelf on the mirror. The elm is offset with sycamore details and a drawer handle made from the most subtle of walnuts – an English grown black (or Virginia) walnut.

We have made a few of these in various woods, but this was the first and my favorite because the elm was so beautiful- full of pippy cat-paw burrs. Over the years i’ve really grown to love elm, it’s full of characterful grain and unusual colours – greens, silvers, reds and browns. That does make it difficult to select and use, but get it right and it’s wonderful. Most of ours comes from Scotland these days, but the disease does continue to spread north, especially when we have mid winters. Lets hope one day elm makes a return in our countryside.

I love the way that the mirror and table work together. Every home should have one, by law!”

1. So, here it is, John’s very favorite piece of all time. The ‘Lozenge’ dining table. Again, it’s something that may well have made all our lists.

“Lozenge refers to the shape of the top, an oval with straight ends, it’s not only an elegant shape but very practical, fitting into most modern spaces (which are rectangular) and allowing a more organic flow around it. Not only that but as the longs sides carry the curve you can actually see everyone who’s on the same side of the table as you. It’s a very sociable shape.

This one is in the classic timber combination of an oak top with a walnut underframe. The other thing I love about this table is the lovely curved frame and leg structure. Those beams are made of a reformed solid laminates – lots of thin strips of wood from the same board glued back together in sequence. We colour the glue so you just cant tell it’s been laminated. It’s very strong and it’s no accident it looks a bit like a bridge – Simon loves looking at bridge’s and structures, he’s even designed a few! The other detail I like is the way the double leg detail appears to come through into the top, we actually rout an end-grain blocks into the top which is very effective.

That shot of the table side on showing the curved beam structure is an image I never get bored of. We have used it in every brochure we have done.

We actually have a lozenge table for sale in oak and walnut which is coming back from a client who has just moved house and down-sized. It’s a bit big for their new living space so we are designing them something else. It’s in very good condition but we will refinish it anyway. Seats 6 to 8. Size: L200m x W110cm (widest at centre) x 75cm high. Sale price £2500, which is half the cost of a new one to commission. For further details and images contact Simon.

Click here to see Simon’s top 5

Click here to see Mike’s top 5

21st Century Furniture IV Exhibition

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

It’s London show time again, and for the 4th time we are taking part in the Millinery Works contemporary furniture show, it’s full title is ’21st Century Furniture IV – The Arts and Crafts Legacy’.

I always look forward to the Millinery Works exhibitions, the team that run the place are knowledgable and the atmosphere is just right. It is actually a very sociable show, you have to remember that most of us spend far too long in our dusty hovels (that’s probably a completely unfounded stereo-type by the way!) The other unique aspect of Millinery Works is that it is also a specialist antique furniture retailer, selling arts and crafts pieces through to mid 20th century work by the likes of Barnsley, Voysey, Joel, Heal and Russell to name just a few. It’s great being able to see our contemporary work in that context.

We have 3 pieces on show, the Banquet Dining Table, one of our lovely Floating Benches and the Gabriel Chairs. It’s a really nice cross section of the work we have been making over the past few years. Of course there is also very nice work by 35 or so other makers, some well known and some relative newcomers. It’s always great to meet a few new faces at these events.

The show opens on Sunday, which is also the first of two opening events. I’m at that one on Sunday 10th from 12 till 4 pm. If you can’t make that there is another on Tuesday 12th in the evening. Contact the Millinery works for more information, details below.

To see an on-line version of the exhibition catalogue with details of all those who are taking part just click here.

The show is open from 11am till 6pm Tuesday to Saturday, and from 12 till 5pm on Sundays until March 10th 2013. The Show is closed on Mondays. The Millinery Works is located at 85/87 Southgate Road, Islington, London. N1 3JS.

tel: 020 7359 2019

Closest tube is Angel, but that’s a mile walk. There are plenty of buses that run down Southgate Road.