Cornish bays, Dartmoor hills, contrasting materials and naming new products...we caught up with designers Tom and Danielle to give us an exclusive insight into the development of our brand new Ash Accessories Range.
With origins rooted in the sculptural tree canopies surrounding our Cornish design studio, our new collection of steam bent, ash wood storage and accessories celebrates the strength, versatility and unique character of this sustainable natural material, whilst showcasing forward-thinking design at its very best. We've caught up with designers Tom and Danielle to find out more about the new ash wood designs and discover how they'll be incorporating them into their Grand Designs home.
The Ash Accessories Collection has a slightly different aesthetic to your other accessories - tell us about what inspired it?
TR: For me, designing a new range goes hand in hand with experimentation and I tend to become inspired by the materials themselves more-so than anything else. We've wanted to create more products using ash wood for a while now and have been exploring prototypes on a variety of designs. Sustainability is really important to us, so using ash wood was the obvious choice for this collection as it’s the fastest growing hard wood and also self-seeding, which means it grows in plentiful supply. This durable and supple material, paired with our ecological process, allows us to create these complex shapes with minimal wastage. Once we knew we were set on using ash wood for the new accessories range I started to play with different steam bent shapes and forms, to gauge the woods capabilities. For me the final design aesthetic has been very much led by the properties of ash wood.
DR: Setting out to design our ash accessories we sought to create a product range that was both beautiful and practical. It had to be sustainable (our number one priority when producing new pieces), cohesive with our other steam bent collections, celebrate organic materials and pay homage to biophilic design. With our workshops located so close to the most westerly point of the UK we spend a lot of free time outdoors - on the beach, walking, climbing, no matter the season or weather. The shapes of the new accessories are inspired (like so many of our other designs) by forms found in nature. For example, the Lusow Mirror takes inspiration from a water droplet and the fluid shape is evident in the final design.
Which rooms of the home do you feel the products best lend themselves to? Did you have this in mind when designing the range?
TR: I think, as the range is so storage focused, the products lend themselves well to small spaces such as hallways and living areas. The designs are highly practical as well as being aesthetically pleasing. I like the idea that you can hang a coat or umbrella from a steam bent piece of wood, that when bare, becomes a piece of eye-catching artwork, almost sculptural. Products like the Lundy Shelf look equally beautiful when empty as they do with books, ornaments and small trinkets.
DR: We always like to have a variety of spaces in mind when designing new products - there's something satisfying about having versatile pieces that work in different rooms. It also makes me believe that they truly are designs to keep for life - ones that will be moved from home to home and from one generation to the next. We styled the Housel Shelves for the photo shoot with some children's props borrowed from two small local businesses - Lakin and Boone and No.56 - something we've never tried before and it worked so well, so much so we now have them in our children's rooms at home. This shows that the designs suit any space - bathroom, living room, children's bedroom, or office!
Is there a set process you follow when coming up with a new design or product range?
TR: Once we’ve sketched designs by hand and spent time experimenting with prototypes in the workshop they are modelled on computer software where we continue to make more tweaks. Then comes several rounds of samples where we explore which wood types work best for certain products and the most successful methods of bringing the concepts to life.
Some designs just work and other times they go back to the drawing board a number of times. It can be a lengthy process because every element is very considered, but it’s really rewarding and great fun.
DR: We find a lot of inspiration from Cornish place names, the Celtic language and of course the nature that surrounds our design studios. Sometimes, if we focus a design clearly on a very set shape or form the name comes very naturally. The Housel Shelf is named after Housel Bay near Lizard Point in Cornwall as the bay has such a sweeping half-circle shape. 'Lusow' is Cornish for Ash, so that too seemed like another obvious product name.
TR: Naming the Tor Twist Shelf was a little more complex and perhaps not as obvious. The design takes its name from a Tor - a rocky outcrop that rises abruptly from its surrounding, normally a smooth and gentle hill summit or ridge crest. The shelf, rising above the opposing hanging pegs, creates a ledge for storage, and to me this symbolises a gentle rising gradient, reminiscent of a Dartmoor hill (where i love to go walking).
TR: It is hard to pick a favourite, but for me it's probably the Lundy Shelf. There's just something about the shadows created by the steam bent straps that secure the shelf to the wall. There's no other design like it on the market, it's very unique; the beauty of the shelf just speaks for itself. I'd like a Lundy in our house - but I think I'd leave it plain with nothing stored on it, just so I could see all of the curves... but each to their own!
DR: I think my favourite would have to be the Housel Shelf with Mirror, it looks really great in a bathroom setting and it's just so practical. The shape is really interesting and it draws the eye wherever you are in a room. I like both the new mirror designs a lot actually - the Lusow Mirror is also really elegant and interesting. I think it would be a good talking point in any setting and the fact you can choose a custom leather strap colour to suit your interior makes it very versatile.