Guest blog: Kelly Rice, BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling.
On Friday 17 November we visited Tom Raffield’s home and workshop in the depths of Kernow.
Tom Raffield designs and makes a range of contemporary furniture and lighting that represents his beliefs, promotes good design and champions the materials he loves. Each product is hand-made by a skilled set of craftsmen in their woodland workshop in Cornwall. An ethos of sustainability means that they create high-quality products that counter society’s throw-away culture.
Set in a densely wooded area, which Tom sustainably manages for his designs, Tom’s home and workshop have featured on Channel 4’s ‘Grand Designs’, which saw him shoot to fame and showcased his steam bending methods to both Kevin McCloud and the nation!
Sitting just behind his home is an area laden with cargo containers, remnants of sawdust and workshop paraphernalia. Entering the workshop area was a sensory experience in itself; the warmth from the heaters mixed with the aroma of the wood and the soft opera music playing in the background (Bartoli & Fleming - Le Nozze di Figaro Sull’aria to be precise!).
"As a student, Tom experimented and developed his steam bending methods, and is now passing on these unique skills to his staff, a team of around 30 people that often includes graduates from the region."
In the lighting area three employees were working on different designs, one of their largest pieces, we were told, took a total of three days to create and was progressing through stages by being clamped slowly working from a small inner circular form, outwards, selecting and bending wood until the 800mm diameter had been achieved.
The business, which now ships internationally, is growing at an exponential rate with the workshop practically bursting at the seams, so they’re currently looking for new premises.
We walked back down past Tom’s new timber home, to the original house, which is a grade II listed gamekeeper’s lodge and is now used as a showroom for his creations, including his signature ‘Arbor armchairs’, lights, coat-stands, mirrors, and coffee tables.
As a student, Tom experimented and developed his steam bending methods, and is now passing on these unique skills to his staff, a team of around 30 people that often includes graduates from the region.
The highlight of the outing was a chance meeting with Tom, who popped in to hang a wall light as we browsed the showroom. Engaging and humble, Tom has achieved international recognition and received various awards for his work; from his innovative approach to traditional craftsmanship and lighting design to sustainability awards and, most recently, winning Walpole’s Brands of Tomorrow ‘Best Emerging Luxury British Brand’, which comes with a 12-month mentorship programme to put the brand on course to become a leader in the luxury market.
Tom Raffield is stocked by John Lewis and Heal’s, as well as selling on their own website, with an option for the consumer to customise their furniture with bespoke upholstery fabrics, sourced from Abraham Moon & Sons.
In addition to his innovative furniture and lighting designs, Tom stepped up his game with an exciting entry for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 with the Gwenver Garden Room; a space that invited the outdoors in and ‘calls for a moment to relax among nature’. Heavily inspired by his own home, his RHS entry has opened the doors to a more affluent, luxury market.
Tom’s success is a prime example of the results of hard work, trusting your vision and focussing on the quality of design, leading to some really exciting collaborations. I love the results of his most recent collaboration with ‘A Rum Fellow’, a London based design firm. Together, they display an exciting synergy, and a core ethical service to delivering sustainable business practices, ones that explore traditional crafts to form and make contemporary pieces.