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Posts Tagged ‘Design Guild Mark Winners’

Blonde & Noir, Special Edition Floating Benches for 2017

Friday, March 31st, 2017

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2016 was an extraordinary year for Floating Bench and our new collaboration with Sitting Spiritually. The bench and its new partner, the Yakisugi swing seat which form the basis of the Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range had their first outing at RHS Chelsea, with Yakisugi ending up as a feature in the Raymond Blanc hospitality area – Le Jardin Blanc. Meanwhile Floating Bench was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year award and was part of two RHS Gold Medal winning gardens at the Hampton Court and Tatton Park shows. All this generated lots of magazine, TV, and social media coverage and a healthy order book!

There is little doubt the scorched finish and texture that we are at the forefront of was one of the big hits of last year, so much so that we are seeing it appear on other garden furniture manufacturers stands and within the garden design world more generally. So how have we reacted to this flattery? With the 2017 ‘Noir’ and ‘Blonde’ special edition floating benches…

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The Blonde is finished in natural oak with no scorching at all – pure and simple, exquistitly finished and detailed. In a way we are saying ‘”we’ve done the scorching thing and moved on”.

But that’s not entirely true, because we still love that texture and character that the burnt surface gives us. It’s a black like no other black, somehow deeper and more ephemeral; so we decided to create the ‘Noir’. This completely scorched Floating Bench has real presence, it’s a piece of sculpture as well as humble garden seating. As a statement this is saying “we are taking scorching to its visual and technical limits!” The result is a jaw-dropping piece of refined beauty, but with a real edginess.

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Burning timber to create a scorched surface is relatively easy, but creating that depth of finish, the texture and the stable surface has taken us many years to perfect. Actually it’s far from easy as the harshness of the flame shrinks the timber and creates an unstable brittle surface. We have to work hard though various processes to turn it back into a hard-wearing surface finish, but the end result is worth it.

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Playing the Blonde and Noir special edition benches off one another was fun in the photoshoot. We have always loved exploring what you can do by creating opposites. It’s an approach that we have regularly taken with our furniture over the years. Experience has taught us that a single design made in different timbers can take on very different personalities. Lighter timbers like sycamore or ash tend to produce more delicate, soft and sensitive, almost feminine characteristics; whilst darker timbers, walnuts, or burrs for example tend to demand more attention and make excellent statement pieces. The contrast between the natural mid tone oak and scorched variant on this bench do indeed create two very different beasts which just goes to highlight what you can do with a single product.

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Of course we shouldn’t forget the original two-tone Floating Bench here. It is still likely to be the best seller with that lovely balance between the two extremes of timber, texture and contrast. During the early development of the Floating Bench we did come across a few clients for whom the scorched surface was too stark or contemporary, so these clients were the impetus for the Blonde.

If the client for a Blonde is shying away from the contemporary, then the client drawn to Noir is positively embracing it. It’s a bold statement piece that will hold its own in a highly landscaped garden, or as a foil to some very specific foliage or planting. I can also see Noir as an inside piece, holding its own within a strong architectural interior.

We think these new additions to the Sitting Spiritually ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ will make 2017 as exciting as the 2016 launch year, broadening the client base and interest. Floating Bench has been shortlisted for 2 more very high profile awards this year. The first is for a B&LLA (Brand & Lifestyle Licensing Awards) as it now a Sitting Spiritually licensed product for Royal Horticultural Society. It is the RHS that suggested we all entered the bench for this award.

Even more excitingly from a design perspective Floating Bench has been shortlisted for a prestigious Design Guild Mark from the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. Both these awards will be announced in late April, just in time for RHS Chelsea. Fingers crossed on both hands!

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Both Blonde and Noir Special edition Floating Benches will be on the Sitting Spiritually Ltd of Lyme Regis stand at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 23rd – 27th May 2017 (Stand RHW295).

You might may be able to get a pre-Chelsea sneak peak of the range at the Sitting Spiritually Open Garden Weekend, which takes place at their Lyme Regis HQ on the weekend of 29/30 April. For more information visit the Sitting Spiritually events page here.

The ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ of garden furniture is available exclusively through Sitting Spiritually. The images above are all of 2 seater versions of the bench, there is also a generous 3 seat version available in all finishes. For more details and pricing of all Floating Benches and Yakisugi swing seats visit the website by clicking here.

All Images taken by Double Exposure Photographic.

Perhaps the last word on Floating Benches should go to an RHS Gold Medal winning garden designer…

“It’s understated and simple, functional and beautiful. Inspiring.”
Sarah Jarman of Jarman Murphy Garden Design

RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year Finalist 2016

Friday, March 4th, 2016

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Wow, great news for the launch of the Sitting Spiritually / Simon Thomas Pirie Comtemporary Range – we can reveal that our ‘Floating Bench’ is a ‘Chelsea Garden Product of the Year 2016’ finalist! The winner will be announced during the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on the evening of Sunday 22nd May.

The collaboration with Sitting Spiritually and the ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ couldn’t get a better start than that! So now as well as a Floating Bench and Yakisugi Swing Seat on the Sitting Spiritually’s stand (RHW369), there will also be a Floating Bench on the ‘Garden Product of the Year stand – FR325. There is much more about how the Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range came about and our exciting tie up Sitting Spiritually, the only garden swing seat and bench maker licenced by the RHS on a previous story on this blog…

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Simon Pirie_002It’s a quirky award, more often than not won by smaller garden aids and implements. But it’s lovely to be nominated and frankly – you just never know!

Two years ago we won both a Design Guild Mark and the Wood Awards with another collaboration – the St Hugh’s College, Oxford project which we co-designed with Tony Portus and Makers’ Eye, so there is a lot to be said for awards and collaborations. You can read more about the St Hugh’s project by clicking here…

Winning awards and even being nominated is great for the profile of small design-led businesses, it certainly helps get press attention which is no bad thing, particularly in the frantic media scrum surrounding the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range which includes the Floating Bench and Yakisugi Swing Seat is available exclusively through Sitting Spiritually. For more details including prices and dimensions please click here to visit the Sitting Spiritually website.

We hope to see you at RHS Chelsea from 24th to 28th May 2016.

Double Prize Winning Design

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Simon Thomas Pirie and Tony Portus of Makers’ Eye have scooped their second major design award for the St Hugh’s / Dickson Poon China Centre Desk. The Furniture Company’s prestigious Design Guild Mark is awarded to drive excellence and raise the profile of British design and innovation. The Award recognises the highest standards in the design of furniture for volume production, by the finest designers working in Britain, or British designers working abroad.

This follows the same project winning in the furniture prize of The Wood Awards in November. So our one desk now holds two of the most recognised and coveted awards in British furniture design.

Tony and Simon received the award – Design Guild Mark no. 142 at a special event and seminar to discuss British design during Clerkenwell Design Week 2015. Other winners that night included Samuel Chan of Channels, Sir Terrence Conran, Mark Gabbertas, Rodney Kinsman as well as Robin Day and Ernest Race for classic pieces. There is a comprehensive round up plus images on Wallpaper.com In all 21 Design Guild Marks were awarded this year out of a shortlist of 50.

The St Hugh’s College / Dickson Poon China Centre project, for which we made 63 of these desks in oak also had other pieces like folding tables, academics desks, bookshelves and occasional tables as part of the furniture package. In all there were nearly 200 items of solid oak furniture designed by Simon & Tony. The manufacturing was spread across 4 bespoke furniture workshops – Waywood, Matthew Burt, Tim Hawkins and Simon Thomas Pirie. This is the great strength of the Makers’ Eye model – to be able to use some of the best furniture workshops in the country and make use of their skill sets and working capacity. The result was delivery of all the items in just 3 months – on time and on budget.

The ‘Poon’ Desk as it is now known was always the signature piece in the range. It comes in two sizes – 1.8 and 1.6 m long and currently two timbers – the original European oak and now in black walnut as seen here. The desk can be purchased through Makers’ Eye as a one off but we are also keen to sell more to institutions and corporations. The range of products will be expanded to include tables and chairs very soon. Bespoke variations can also be created for specific situations whether it’s a one-off or multiple.

More information:

There is a full article on the project and the other pieces we designed for St Hugh’s College and the Dickson Poon Centre, click here.

You can order the Poon desk and see more images and the specifications on the Makers Eye Website, click here.