Christopher Jenner, designer of Diptyque boutiques, Eurostar and specialist British bathroom manufacturer Drummonds showroom in Notting Hill and Kings Road has just launched the new range of bathroom furniture for Drummonds at Clerkenwell Design Week. This is Drummonds first design collaboration and it was a pleasure to meet and talk with Christopher about the collaboration with Drummonds. Scroll down for Q& A with the designer who likes to push boundaries and take design risks. Inspiring!
As a designer to be offered the opportunity to make 5 pieces of furniture that are highly crafted and highly considered is once in a life time opportunity. So here it was really about how do we expand the repertoire of the brand outside of the traditional products that they made into pieces which combine craftsmanship and carpentry and cast iron which you don't really see as a relationship very often. In fact I haven't seen it before.
Were they using timber before in their pieces?
Never used timber before, so its really nice to be able to come and mesh the two together and also using local craftsmanship is what it's all about. The moral point of view, doing something that's local handcrafted and considered is the right thing to do. It just feels right.
Were you given the freedom to design whatever you wanted to design?
Pretty much, if you are designing on the behalf of a brand you need to take that into consideration you make a strategic consideration on what you are going to do and how you are going to do it, because it has to become successful and it has to sit in their repertoire so there is a seem less relationship between all the pieces. If it's on behalf of the brand your objective is to grow their portfolio through these new pieces and people's relationship to the brand I think is really important.
Who do you see as people who are going to be using these pieces?
People who buy things once and that's what you buy for the rest of your time because these pieces are never going to date, they don't fit into any kind of trend. They are highly crafted so they are meant to last for the rest of your life and that's something I'm quite comfortable with too. I'm not a consumer and buy things, I buy a few things that represent myself and have those in my home. I want people who make a considered choice for a bathroom that they are putting together or developing, when you buy a piece like this you are buying it for a lifetime.
The details on the pieces are really well thought out and beautiful, is that all your design?
Every single detail has been considered, so when your looking at the traditional craft techniques of Drummonds which is generally in the foundrys or metal work its' being able to integrate those metal features of the brand in various facets of the design. So the handles are solid cast, the tops are solid cast aluminium or polished iron. So you have these details which bring that emotional connection.
I don't want to dictate to people what's right and what's wrong, I want them to find it as an expression of themselves and as an element of style. So we have given a selection of colours that you can customise the pieces as you wish. But outside of that, you can make any choice in the RAL colour really.
Is this Drummonds first collaboration? What was it like being the first collaborator?
I always treat everything as a process, not as a project. So you always start at the beginning if you think of making these cast iron pieces it's never been done before especially when you have complex curves it's virtually impossible. Initially they were like 'we can't make that' and we had to push, push, push. And if you go through the process and don't say no until you've tried and I think that's really a hallmark of where craft has to go. Craft has to push otherwise it doesn't have a relevance anymore, it's something from the past not quite in our moment and I think that's a hallmark of our work too is pushing craft as much as we can so you get a whole new expression of the traditional techniques.
This is all super traditional stuff but it's very contemporary in it's representation.
Things that are handmade are intrinsicly of the value of the craftsman, so you feel that. The whole mass produced thing is just wrong, we don't need any more stuff on this planet. The pieces are beautifully made, considered, hand crafted and it supports people and it's right.
You have designed the Drummonds showrooms in Notting Hill and King's Road, did you get a good understanding from those projects about Drummonds?
You start seeing the aesthetics you can bring in to play to broaden the collection.
Did you have ideas about what you could do while designing the showrooms?
Oh yeah, you can see immeadiately there is an aesthetic value in everything that can be incorporated into a toilet roll or toilet seat and it can go on, which is what's so great about it. There is such a great opportunity to bring a whole new value to bathrooms. It's become so pedestrian and no craftsmanship it's all manufactured.
Do you feel craftsmanship is coming back?
It's something that we are constantly trying to bring. A lot of our work is very challenging and you need people who are connected to the work to deliver it for you and you don't get that when you work from a manufacturing perspective. We are always challenging ourselves to push it as hard as we can because otherwise don't do the job anymore.
If you are not trying something new or innovative or experiencing a new technique, your not actually learning. I think being a designer is all about learning.
What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?
I am doing a collection of luggage at the moment, we are working on a department store in Russia which is off the radar. I think a sofa would be nice, a chair is quite a good challenge. I think textiles would be good too.
At the moment we are doing the ticket hall for the Eurostar in St. Pancras is a one of our new projects which opens in a few weeks. We just launched lighting in Milan, it's pretty much everything going at the moment.
How many are in your studio?
There are 10 in our studio at the moment, everything comes from me, it's all drawn from me in the first place. I draw everything out and the team is incredibly talented. The relationship is close, it's fantastic from a simple drawing they know exactly where we are going, what we are trying to do, how it gets made and put together. Because it's also about how you make it. It's easy to make a nice drawing, but what are the junction pieces and how its actually constructed. You need people who know how to make things and it's a big issue is that people don't know how to make anything anymore. Whereas in the past designer were makers, now they just design they don't make, but actually there has to be that connection between the two. The realisation of the piece is the total joy.
Do you do visits to the factory?
We commission all our projects from craftsman, so understanding technique is essential.