Talking beginnings and defining style, we catch up with furniture designer Dean Edmonds at his London home and workshop.
Currently living and working in London, 28-year-old furniture designer Dean Edmonds has made several appearances on Selectism over the years. Most recently, we caught his large-scale work decorating the home of fashion director Stephen Mann. In one of his biggest projects to date, Edmonds completed a full kitchen and bathroom in his trademark wood and metal -- a combination that has served him well over his relatively short career.
With a style both familiar and strangely new, the designer shies away from rigid definitions, preferring to let his work speak for itself. Scattered across his East London home, Edmond's handmade tables, lamps, sofas and shelves are evidence of a continual need to make and create. Decorating these original pieces is a selection of hotrod paraphernalia and vintage Americana treasures -- Edmonds, together with his partner Natsumi Sashida, translated his longtime habit of collecting old knick-knacks into "Bermuda Trips," an online store specializing in the odds and ends the two so dearly love. Curious to see and hear more, we stopped by Edmonds' home and studio in East London.
Tell us a little about your background.
I went straight from school to art college in Hereford where I grew up. They had a dedicated art school which was quite rare. I got to the end of my course and had been doing a lot of 3D work; product and furniture design just naturally seemed the way to go. I went on to study in Birmingham -- the area has strong links to the car industry so the University had an established Industrial Design degree. My tutor was really old-school -- he used to work for the Arts Council back in the ‘60s -- an eccentric guy. He got me into all the mid-century designers. For him it was about Joe Colombo, Achille Castiglioni, those cigar-in-hand kind of guys.
Did you have any family links to design or production?
My dad is a steel fabricator which meant I had access to our home workshop; that allowed me to make from an early age. He’s also really into motorbikes, fixing them and riding, so that was also a part of my childhood. I think that’s how I eventually got into hot-rods and all the Americana graphics that go with it. I didn’t realize as a kid, but looking back now, it was actually quite cool. In fact, I’m working on one of our old VW Beetles at the moment.
Do you remember the first thing you made?
The first real piece I made was a leaning two-leg table using scraps of oak. That’s one of the things that I’m still really happy with. A friend of mine has it actually. A lot of my furniture back then leaned – I had a thing for corners.
How did you eventually get into making furniture full-time?
I moved straight to London after university and everything happened pretty quickly. I did a show at b-store and Mourad Mazouz, the owner of restaurant Sketch came in and bought a lot of the pieces. My lamps eventually ended up in their infamous "Egg" toilets. That led to a job working with Mourad on Sketch’s interiors. From there I went on to work at Present for a while and along the way met lots of people. Furniture-making full-time just sort of happened.
How would you describe your style?
Back in my early days I was into all the RCA graduates like Peter Marigold and Martino Gamper. Those guys were doing a lot of unusual, crazy work which I really liked. It’s tricky because you often make one thing which you then get commissioned to create again and again and suddenly you become that “oak and steel” guy. To put it simply, I just very much like making stuff. My interests are quite wide; I’d happily work with any material, and for me, it's the act of making that is really important. I guess essentially it’s all quite minimal and raw. I try to do as little as possible to the material.
Are there any particular pieces you're drawn to?
I really enjoy making the smaller pieces -- lighting, in particular. As long as it has a bulb and the light is directed in the right way, you can pretty much do anything with a lamp; it’s really free. Louis Kalff is one of my favorites, he was head of design at Phillips in the '50s and created some beautiful lamps.
Can you tell us a little about your store, “Bermuda Trips”?
I run it with my partner Natsumi. Everything on there is basically just stuff we’ve wanted ourselves and then tracked down. You can see we have most of it here on display. We’ve just got some great hats from an old brand called “Quaker Marine Supply.” We’re selling the long-bill caps that Hemingway always wore as well as the white tennis hat made famous by Hunter S. Thompson. It’s all just super classic Americana as well as items we’ve picked up on our travels, particularly in Japan.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been commissioned to make a bed with matching side tables, something I’ve never done before. It’s huge, a mixture of steel and Waney oak; that's the natural edge of the timber that would normally be removed. I use it a lot.
I recently did some stools and rails for Several; and I've just finished a project with Arc'teryx. I’m also working with a company in LA called Atelier de Troupe designing desk lamps to go on show at ICFF in New York in May. It’s the first thing that I’ve designed but am not actually making myself. I’d like to go more in that direction, drawing and designing and maybe doing some more one-off, crazier pieces. That's where I see myself heading.