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Posts Tagged ‘Designer Maker Furniture’

The Magazine Rack – Dorset Magazine Feature

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

We were featured across 4 pages in this months (October 2013) Dorset Magazine, with story by Sara Hudston of Watershed PR who know us so well, matched up with the amazing images of Matt Austin.

The full set of 100+ shots Matt took around the workshops can be seen on his blog by clicking here.

It’s been lovely having friends and strangers alike coming up to me saying “I saw you in Dorset Magazine”.

A Cook and Wine Lover’s Kitchen

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

We have been busy making films again, but this time approaching it from the perspective of our clients. What’s it like to commission a Simon Thomas Pirie kitchen, what are they like to live in and most importantly to work in? In this first film we look at a black walnut and cherry kitchen we recently completed for long term clients near Salisbury. Martin and Jillian love cooking, entertaining but especially love their wine. The space was designed not only to accommodate our stylish interior but incorporate a specially built downstairs wine cellar. On top of all that it also has to cope with the rigours of being a family space for five.

Like all our kitchens this one is full of sensuous curves, beautiful timbers and clever design features. The walnut on the cabinets runs horizontally, creating echos of the big open landscapes of the surrounding Salisbury Plain. Listen to what Martin has to say about his new kitchen as he cooks Simon a ‘quick’ lunch and opens something appropriate.

To see more images of this stunning kitchen and read the full story click here to visit the case study

Simon’s Top 5 Favourite Projects

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

Through March 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! 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. These are Simon’s.

Simon Pirie, M.Sc is the designer but is also an accomplished furniture maker. He originally trained as a sculptor but then found his real niche when he enrolled at Hooke Park College, part of John Makepeace’s Parnham Trust. It was at this experimental college in the woods where he developed his making and design skills, but also a deep understanding of forestry and environmental issues. He is a visiting design lecturer at further and higher education levels and has sat on the boards of Walford Mill Crafts and Dorset Visual Arts / Dorset Art Weeks, of which he is currently chairman. His own workshops were established in 1998 in mid Dorset.

I’ve found it really difficult to select just 5 pieces. Over the past 15 years we’ve made so much, and we’ve experienced such a variety of projects that on any given day I remember something else. Anyway these are my top 5 favourites (this week!)

5. It’s really tempting to put a ‘Floating Bench’ up as the first of my top 5 favourite pieces. It would make sense to combine it with the Liberty Outdoor Living Launch this week where it is a key product, but instead I’m going back to the mother ship!

So no.5 is is the Tudor Arcade public seating project, which we completed in early 2012 in Dorchester. The ‘Floating Bench’ came out of this project as a pure stand alone piece; ‘pure’ because I’d intended to have all the arms on this public commission floating as well, but it was just too vulnerable to the rigours of outdoor space.

Despite that compromise – it’s ambition, scale and popularity make it something I’m very proud of. It combined very high tech CNC manufacturing with much more traditional methods like steam bending and scorching. Mike made most of this and did a beautiful job of it.

I walk past it often, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing people sitting on it, kids pretending it’s a train, bikes locked to it and dogs tied round it. It certainly is a very popular piece of public art and it has been lovely to do something so public, so locally.

There are a couple of videos of how it was made, showing the steam bending and scorching in the case study. Click here to see more.

4. Is the ‘Torii’ side tables. A very personal choice these… This is the last pair in scorched oak in a limited edition of 12 pairs. We have done them in lots of timber combinations over the years.

If you can see a Japanese influence you’re not wrong. These came out of a very special trip to Japan with my brother in 1995, although the first set of these was not made until 2000.

We made 12 pairs over 12 years, in sycamore, walnut, cherry, elm, lacewood and lastly scorched oak. There is something about the simplicity of the design which is very satisfying. You can find out more about my trip to Japan and it’s influence on me and my late brother on the blog by clicking here.

3. Last week John puled out an element from a kitchen he really liked in his top 5 favorite projects, so I think I’m entitled to do the same…

For me then it’s this gently curved and lit wall in a kitchen we did back in 2006 in Poole. I love the whole project but think this was my favorite little bit. The curve is very subtle and includes the ovens, fridge and a doorway through into an enormous larder space behind (which is always full to overflowing!) Materials are ripple maple and mazur birch, although the kitchen also contains elm and burr elm in places.

For the full story and lots more images of this project have a look at the case study:

2. At no.2 it’s this ripple ash, burr sycamore and walnut drinks cabinet.

Lovely piece and lovely timber combinations. Perhaps it also fits my own fantasy of a piece of furniture I’d want in my own home to fill with nice single malt whiskies!

Another common theme that runs through most of these choices is that they are usually a commission from a client that I get on really well with. This one is no exception. Dennis and Eileen are from North Yorkshire, but they came across me at a show in Poole we did with fellow Purbeck furniture makers Cameron and Talbot. They have commissioned various pieces, and for whatever reason they always seem to bring the best out of me as a designer: Perhaps it is just the complete trust they place in me to come up with something and their enthusiasm with the end results.

I think this piece had been in the back of my mind for some time, it just takes the right client to unlock that potential. I love the way the cabinet section is suspended in the framework. There are lots of subtle curves and angles so it’s a much more complicated piece then it first appears.

1. So after 20 years of designing and making furniture, 15 years of running my own business what’s my favourite piece? Well this was designed exactly 20 years ago, while I was at Hooke Park College and was the first chair I ever designed – the ‘Oryx’:

Perhaps I’ve never bettered it, there is a kind of naivety in doing something for the first time where you are not held back by the most efficient way of machining something or using timber most cost-effectively. As a result it’s a pig to make, taking twice as long as an ‘Impala’ chair, nevertheless we do still make slightly revised version, ‘Oryx2’ today. I’m still very found of it, it is beautifully, almost classically proportioned and supremely comfortable. When I sit in the armchair it’s like therapy, the arm detail lets my hands wrap around it, the curved slats support the back and that lovely top rail rail does the same with the shoulders. I’m not alone in thinking this, I have friends who make a bee-line for it as soon as they are through the door. I do have a really early version here at home and it’s still looking great. So while some of my other choices in the top 5 may be fluid, this chair would always be at no.1.

That first set in 1993 was designed for Bournemouth University, for their main lecture theatre furniture. It’s been used as the platform table for many debates over many years. These where all in sycamore, the idea being that they stood out and had a real presence in such a large auditorium. I took this shot soon after it was commissioned, it’s a rather poor shot taken before the room was renovated and the colour scheme matched the furniture, hence the black and white image. It’s in sharp contrast to the image above, which again is the first and still the best!

They have been made in many materials over the years, but I think they still look best in oak. The classic combination is oak and walnut, best seen in this fantastic 14 seat dining set for the Lulworth Estate completed in 2009. There are 2 armchairs, with the rest being the ‘Grand’ 8 slat version of the dining chair. We also do a smaller 6 slat version of the dining chair just in case you don’t have a castle! You can see one in the background of the main image above.

Click to see Mike’s top 5

Click to see John’s top 5

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