The Pursuit of Excellence


With a passion to create that draws on three decades of mastered hand craft skills and a love of the Italian lifestyle, award-winning furniture designer, Sebastian Blakeley reflects on what ‘beauty in design’ truly means.

2016 was a top note year for Sebastian Blakeley - a spring board for business expansion – testing the waters with fresh furniture design concepts in the luxury made market, with time in between the ‘creative process’ to scrutinize the competition.

While new business ventures inevitably throw up their share of challenges, for the award-winning designer – one bete noire talking point continuing to try his creative acumen is the denigration of the term ‘luxury.’

“Credence (rightly or wrongly) is given to the notion that ‘luxury’ is the perfect adjective to describe something that is ‘beautifully created’,” he explains. “Few would disagree with the value judgement that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But it begs the question - how in our present-day world of ubiquitous ‘luxury’, can a discerning eye ever truly define ‘beautifully created’?

Roll back the years to the early mid-century and the definition would be appreciably easier to qualify. Furniture design was conceived by architects and bespoke manufacturers – the entrepreneurs of the day. These skilled craftsmen laboured away in factories using hand craft skills passed down the generations. It was this tactile, humanising process that defined the iconic status of those early designs. Man and material working in harmony. Together they sow the seeds of creating furniture ‘with soul.’

This last century has seen the inevitable march of mechanisation progress and the furniture industry hasn’t escaped its clutches. Computerised machinery may be extremely adept at mimicking, hand crafted and hand finished products. But what it can’t do is create that finely-honed authenticity. Hand crafted, hand cut, hand planed, hand chiseled, nurtured and caressed into existence – it’s only through immersion in this creative journey that furniture can truly develop a personality of its own.

Choosing the right finish is a further hallmark of ‘quality’. Patina and depth of age can never be achieved with synthetic materials. Instead, nurturing sweeps of natural oil can enhance the beauty of those specially chosen timbers, help with the ageing process and encourage a uniform and natural deepening of the wood’s colour tones.

In today’s world, discernment is a commendable trait – it is one that should be held in higher esteem to combat the dumbing down of tradition pushed all too often to the sidelines in favour of convenience. Those that truly recognise ‘hand crafted’ are in an enviable position. For they appreciate that, “the purposefulness and labour of structure and design” embodies furniture with a dynamic energy all of its own.

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