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Posts Tagged ‘RHS Chelsea’

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

Shows and Exhibitions 2017

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

As I write this, I am seated at my desk in our so-called office and showroom surrounded by towering piles of kitchen appliances, chunks of solid kitchen cabinets and units and sections of study shelving. A narrow path leads to my chair and looking back along it I can glimpse a sliver of the outside through the glass doors. You are always welcome to visit our ‘showroom’ but just at present, even a pre-emptive telephone call won’t help you to actually see anything – you can barely step inside, never mind make out the shapes, shrouded as they are in protective grey blankets!

All is not lost however as there are several opportunities for you to see our work at various different venues this year:

3rd – 6th May 2017 – ‘Inspired’ British Festival of Silver, The Goldsmiths’ Centre, 42 Britton Street, London EC1M 5AD

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This is the 3rd time we have exhibited in this prestigious show. Part of London Craft Week, ‘Inspired’ presents the work of the very best of British silversmiths, including our friend, Karina Gill, displayed in and on furniture by the country’s leading furniture makers. This year we will be showing a contrasting pair of our drinks cabinets: one in English walnut with burr American black walnut doors, the other in sycamore with burr ash doors. The show is open Wednesday – Friday 10am – 5pm and Saturday 10am – 4pm. More details available here.

23rd – 27th May 2017 – RHS Chelsea Flower Show London Gate, Royal Hospital Road, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3 4SR

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Following the success of the launch of our collaboration with Sitting Spiritually Ltd at RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year, Floating Bench will be returning in a slightly different guise. This year, you will be able to see two new versions of the Floating Bench: Blonde and Noir. As the names suggest, Blonde is completely un-scorched natural oak while Noir is jet-black, entirely scorched oak. They will once again be accompanied by our Yakisugi Swing Seat. Look out for Sitting Spiritually’s stand – RHW295.

1st & 2nd July 2017 – ‘Making Dorset’ Wolfeton Riding House, Wolfeton, Dorchester, DT2 9QN

wolfeton riding house‘Making Dorset’ is an exhibition of fifty of the best 3-D artists and crafts-people based in Dorset and will include the launch of a new book called ‘50 Dorset Makers’. The show is a Dorset Visual Arts initiative and is curated by Professor Simon Olding , Director of the Crafts Study Centre and Simon Barber, Editor of Evolver Magazine. ‘50 Dorset Makers’ will be available to purchase at the venue and from each of the makers taking part.

As we get closer to each event, we will update these details so keep checking back.

If you can’t make it to any of these, then you are welcome to try your luck at the Courtyard Workshop, please though, do telephone first.

Floating Benches in Two RHS Gold-Medal winning Gardens!

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

It’s been a busy summer for the new Sitting Spiritually ‘Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range’ after its launch at the Chelsea Flower Show. The Floating Bench was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year which gave it a very high profile, and although we didn’t win the public & press reaction was terrific. Needless to say we have been busy making them to fulfil Sitting Spiritually orders ever since.

The new range, and in particular ‘Floating Bench’ has also gone down very well with garden designers; hot on the heels of success at Chelsea Flower Show a pair of Floating Benches featured in the Gold-medal winning CCLA ‘Summer Retreat’ garden at RHS Hampton Court. Designers, Amanda Waring and Laura Arison of Catfoot Garden Design were inspired by the ethos of the Arts and Crafts Movement; the garden embracing its values of simplicity, elegance, style and craftsmanship. The Floating Benches beautifully illustrated the quality of contemporary British design and craftsmanship whilst their ‘barely-there’ appearance allowed the planting to be viewed virtually uninterrupted. CCLA-A-Summer-Retreat__1088x612-04

Catfoot Garden Design’s ‘CCLA Summer Retreat Garden’ which won a Gold-medal at RHS Hampton Court incorporated two 2-seat Floating Benches in the design.

The garden and the benches featured prominently on the BBC TV coverage from Hampton Court with Joe Swift talking about the medal wining garden at some length on and around the benches…

There was hardly time to catch breath until the opening of RHS Tatton Park (from 20th – 24th July), and once again a Floating Bench is in another RHS Gold-medal winning garden! This time it subtley makes its presence felt without dominating the ‘Waiting List’ show garden. Designed by Alison Galer, once a transplant nurse, this uplifting and calm garden has been created for patients who are waiting for a kidney transplant. The Floating Bench provides somewhere for patient and nurse to sit and talk surrounded by the beautiful planting and tranquility. The-Waiting-List-01__1088x612

A single 2-seat Floating Bench at RHS Tatton Park. Florence Garden Design’s ‘Waiting List’ garden was also awarded a Gold-medal by the RHS.

Not sure if the Floating Bench has become a bit of a garden designer’s lucky charm or whether Martin Young of Sitting Spiritually has a sixth sense to just back winning designers. Whatever it is 2016 certainly has been quite a year for the Floating Bench!

The story of how the Simon Thomas Pirie / Sitting Spiritually collaboration came about is featured in a previous feature on this blog. Click to read more. But you can also get a feel for the collaboration in our latest short film – from design, though the making, steam bending and scorching right up to when Martin from Sitting Spiritually delivers the furniture into the clients garden.

For more information about Floating Bench and the Yakisugi Swing Seat please visit the Sitting Spiritually website who sell both products exclusively. Click here…

Chelsea Flower Show Launch

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Chelsea SS StandFor years I’ve been watching the Chelsea Flower Show coverage on the TV thinking “is it really for me”? But recently I’ve been getting more and more drawn in; I have friends like Richard & Jane at Plankbridge Hut Makers and the Sculptor Simon Gudgeon who exhibit regularly and speak highly about the whole experience. It seemed inevitable that as I went down the route of designing outdoor furniture some day I’d be drawn like a moth to this blue light. However, following the recent tie-up and ever deepening collaboration with Sitting Spiritually it all happened rather sooner than I anticipated…

With so much of Sitting Spiritually’s focus being on RHS Chelsea every year it was inevitable that our world would have to align with theirs: The new Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range which includes the Floating Bench and Yakisugi Swing Seat is now sold exclusively by Sitting Spiritually, it was our job to perfect the designs in the run-up to the show and make sure we had made enough stock to meet demand during and after.

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Of course it’s hard – almost impossible to work out how something is going to go down with the public and as a result how much stock to make beforehand, but Martin and the team have years of ‘Chelsea’ experience to fall back upon and understand the rhythm of the show and its visitors well. The same couldn’t be said for us, so John and I, accompanied with wives, thought we’d better go and ‘do’ the whole Chelsea Flower Show thing. Turns out it’s impossible not to get swept up in the atmosphere; the celebs, the TV crews, the show gardens, the awards, the incredible flower displays in the pavillions and just the general sociable hubbub. We arranged to meet clients and friends there and ran into many more entirely unexpectedly. It’s lovely, and is a total antidote to the ‘design show cool stand-offishness’ we are used to.

For all of that though, it is for a large part a high-brow trade show right in the centre of London’s most expensive district and there is serious money being spent on and off the stands. It’s the right place to bring the new Simon Thomas Pirie Contemporary Range and we were all pleased with the reception it received. In the end Sitting Spiritually had their best year ever at Chelsea Flower Show, with the new products representing about a third of the items sold. What was even more encouraging was that the kind of clientele that came onto the stand we were different to those who tended to come and buy the more traditional swing seats from the other ranges. This was exactly the more design conscious audience we were hoping to woo.

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Floating Bench was shortlisted as one of the ‘RHS Chelsea Garden Products of the Year’ which meant there was also a two-seater version on the Finalists Stand. That nomination in turn meant we got even more great press then anticipated, appearing in The Sunday Times, The Observer, the Mail on Sunday and The Sun the weekend before, as well as lots of the glossy mags in the preceding month. You can just tell when a product is going to hit the ground running, Floating Bench really did have everything going for it and it felt like it was everywhere for those few weeks. The Yakisugi Swing Seat also had its moment in the limelight though, getting it’s fair share of press attention. The high point for Yakisugi was when Sitting Spiritually were asked if they could provide one for ‘Jardin Blanc’, Raymond Blanc’s very exclusive RHS hospitality area. We dropped everything and finished one in double quick time!

As it turned out a rather lovely hosepipe won RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year! To be fair it was rather a sophisticated garden watering system called the Hozelock Cloud Controller, more to do with a modern phone app control system than the hose itself, but saying I got beaten by a hose made me feel better! Still, just getting shortlisted was a big coup in terms of raising the Floating Benches profile.

By the time we said goodbye to Martin, Celia and David on the stand it was near closing time anyway and our feet, eyes, nostrils and wallets could take no more, but we all agreed we’d be back next year; that we’d spend an extra day and be working hard on new products. Turns out Elvis Costello was wrong, “I do want to go to Chelsea”.

DAW out

Although Chelsea Flower Show is now over you can catch both the Yakisugi Swing Seat and Floating Bench at our studios as part of Dorset Art Weeks Open Studio’s which is on until Sunday 12th June. For further details click here.

The story of how the Simon Thomas Pirie / Sitting Spiritually collaboration came about is featured in a previous feature on this blog. Click to read more.

For more information about Floating Bench and the Yakisugi Swing Seat please visit the Sitting Spiritually website who sell both products exclusively. Click here…