In the Eye of the Beholder

02.11.16

James Matthews digs deep into the creative genius of furniture designer Chris Denman-Tanner to find out what makes good design
 
How would define your approach to design?
Form follows function every time. The aesthetic experience is a functional requirement within this. As an end user, I like understated detailing. I believe that as Designers we are service providers.

Like art, if something can be created, it’s likely there will be someone who will enjoy it. Amazing portfolios evolve naturally as a result because they are supported by satisfied clients.

Good design is also defined by the satisfaction of the end user; taste, opinion and functionality being categories which need to be complete in order for the owner to know they have a well-designed piece. The end user should always have the final say.

Tell us about your journey from artisan furniture maker to offering a full design and interiors service?

I was fortunate at 14 to know that designing and making was for me. I had some great school teachers in Art and Craft, Design & Technology. I developed a particular fascination with chair design - Phillipe Starck was presenting the Designer in a rock star status, and a friend with an Architect father had a Charles Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman.

My most defining moment though was at 19, working on scaffolding as a Pest Control Technician, a summer job during my time on the Furniture and Product Design Degree at Kingston University. An architect was inspecting the building and most of the tradesmen on the site were less than complimentary about him. There was clearly a vast gap between the visionaries and the trades who execute those visions. Both relied on each other but it seemed there was an ‘us and them’ conflict.

I left University and got straight on the tools. I knew that in order to be a good designer I needed to understand the trades and the skills so becoming a Cabinet Maker was the obvious route.

After a short spell with a furniture maker living and working with him on his medieval welsh longhouse, I secured a position in a cabinet makers in Shoreditch in the mid-nineties for a year and have been self-employed since.

My business today relies on my hands-on experience, improving efficiencies from concept design stage through to installed furniture and understanding the challenges of each trade at every stage.

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What design services does your new company Bespoke FFE offer?
Bespoke FFE exists because I have developed some great relationships with trusted professionals who share my attention to detail and the desire to ensure an efficient and quality driven end product.

Given the opportunity and the right project, I might go back on the tools but for now, designing, coordinating and overseeing the whole furnishing process is very satisfying and keeps me working closely with teams I trust. I like it this way, we are all independents each taking ownership of the service we provide, and it vastly increases the scope of services we can offer.

Whether it be a bedside table, a bespoke chandelier, a set of automated curtains, a restaurant dining suite or a full five bedroom luxury residence, furnishing these environments is only achieved because the trades I work with trust my constructional design solutions and management techniques and the clients, developers, architects and designers recognise that I have their best interests at heart throughout the project.

I’m a designer. I’m addicted to the creative process but I will always focus on designing achievable, considered pieces.

How do you like to work with clients?
My services now are often ‘on behalf of’. This essentially means that I place myself within a core business, I bring an extended team within a team, assisting with the concept design phase to secure a resolved design solution yet always keeping an eye on knowing that my associated trades and services all have the capacity to manufacture, store, deliver and install these schemes.

My portfolio today relies heavily on the opportunities within this process, working with some great Architects, Designers and Developers to realise their concepts. Designers and Architects will often present concepts in need of research and development. As an experienced designer maker I will take these concepts, whether a napkin sketch or a set of clear CAD drawings and pursue to a finished piece.

What key trends in design are coming to the fore this year?
I’m more excited to hear from clients with clear ideas than ones that think they need a duplicate interior of an article in a magazine. Design is for the end user, if each item in the home is selected or designed with the end user in mind it will by default be compatible with the other items in the home. However, given the chance I’d always squeeze an inky grey blue with an antique brass detail and oiled walnut into a scheme. I’m not one for future forecasting. Serendipity is a much better application.

http://www.bespokeffe.co.uk

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