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Every piece is a work of art – an antique of the future By David Head

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MDF – Ahhhhh the horror…..hold on………why don’t people use this for handmade furniture??!!

You may have noticed that I am slowly becoming much more comfortable writing blogs about handmade furniture. The titles are getting sillier, the jokes about the boss more frequent and the layout getting very slowly more professional looking (well I think so at least!!)

Today I thought I would write about a subject that tends to divide both other tradesmen and customers alike. That subject is……MDF.

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It happens a lot, a customer will come in and speak to myself or David about having some furniture made. Lets assume that in this instance they are looking for some wardrobes. The conversation proceeds thus.

‘So, I would like a painted finish on the doors’
‘Would you like to be able to see a grain pattern through the paint?’
‘No, I would like it smooth and modern. What material would you use for painted doors?’
‘We would use a moisture resistant MDF’
‘Oh really? I was hoping for something solid’

It is at this point that I normally scream at them and instruct the lads to deposit the customer outside. Ok, only kidding, but sometimes I would like to.

The reason for this is very simple. We believe at David Head Furniture that if you are looking for a neat, modern looking painted finish you are much better off using MDF than you are solid timber.

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First things first, let me show you a few pictures of furniture that were made using moisture resistant MDF and then painted

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Here are three very different pieces, finished in a very different ways. The top bookcase was hand-painted, the kitchen was sprayed using a PU based paint at a 10% sheen and the bottom unit is finished in a high gloss black and then polished to a high shine.

Would you honestly have much of a clue what was behind the painted finish??

There are several reasons why we favor the MDF, and these are reasons that will make a big difference to the quality and longevity of your piece of furniture.

It is much more stable. Solid timber moves, we all know it. As it dries and as it ages it will move and shake and expand and contract. When you have painted over it this can cause paint to crack slightly, meaning it may need to be touched up a lot more regularly. MDF is a very stable material. Because of the way it is made there is no moisture and therefore it won’t move around. It won’t bow and it won’t shrink, it will stay exactly the same size and shape as it was when you cut it.

Most peoples view of MDF is derived from watching Handy Andy on ‘Changing rooms’ marching around with a hard hat on, surrounded by horrible brown boards and saying stuff like ‘pukka’ and ‘yeah mate will knock that up right good guv’. The MDF we use is a little bit more advanced than that! For a start the MDF we use is actually green. This is because it has been specially made to be moisture resistant. You can get red MDF which is heat resistant also.

This means that we can use it in areas that we would be more hesitant in using a lot of solid timber. We use it to make bathroom vanity units, certainly the wettest room in the house and most often we use it for our kitchens. The lack of movement and moisture resistance to absolutely perfect for the environment.

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The finish. MDF finishes extremely smoothly on the front faces. This allows for much easier and more even coats of paint and a much smoother overall finish. If you aren’t looking to see the grain through the paint (and in all honesty most people aren’t) then it will give you the best finish possible. On the edges we first coat it with a sealer that basically closes it up and stops the paint from being too heavily absorbed by the end grain. This means that the edges match the finish on the front faces.

Cost. Put simply it is a much cheaper option. The material itself is ridiculous amounts cheaper and then it so much easier and quicker to work that it tends to be less expensive in labor as well. You don’t have to plane it all and sand it all to size before you can do anything with it. This alone can take a day or twos labor off of a large set of wardrobes.

Here are some more pictures of painted MDF!!

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So there you have it. Hopefully you will agree that MDF has come a long way and that it isn’t quite the horrible material a lot of people think it is. For us it is extremely easy to work, flexible and helps us to get a very professional finish. It makes a big difference to the price you may pay as a customer and will mean less time and work in the future keeping the finish of your furniture looking fresh.

All that I ask is that people are a little more open minded about the material. Don’t immediately dismiss it because of what you saw a cockney handyman do with it on the BBC 20 years ago!!

Thank you for reading

If you would like to inquire about having a beautiful piece of painted MDF furniture (!) then you can reach David on 01525753737 or at david@davidhead.co.uk

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HANDMADE FURNITURE CASE STUDIES   |    HANDMADE FURNITURE GALLERY   |    HANDMADE FURNITURE REVIEWS
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HANDMADE FURNITURE BLOG – Index

PROFILE SERIES – TOM DIXON
PROFILE SERIES – TERENCE CONRAN
PROFILE SERIES – RABIH HAGE
HANDMADE FURNITURE – AN INVESTMENT FOR THE FUTURE

PROFILE SERIES – TOM DIXON

Tom Dixon OBE (born 21 May 1959, Sfax, Tunisia) is a self-taught award wining British designer.

The Creative Class #2 – Tom Dixon from The Creative Class on Vimeo.

He first began his career appearing on top of the pops playing the bass for his band Funkapolitan, but unfortunately his music career didn’t take off, so he went in to managing several nightclubs in London.

He first ventured into handmade furniture design in the 1980’s, using his experience in welding, he would salvage odd bits and pieces from skips or reclamation yards, items like parts of scaffolding and old grates. Dixon put together a creative think-tank which also acted as a shop front for himself and other designers. During the late 1980s, Dixon went on to work for the Italian furniture giant Cappellini, here he designed the iconic ‘S’ chair.

Dixon sold the ‘S’ chair, his first fully finished handmade furniture piece to the Victoria and Albert Museum, they bought his S-Chair for their permanent collection…. His name soon made the rounds with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, purchasing more of Dixon’s work.

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Tom Dixon – Furnishings At Anima Domus – Handmade Furniture

Tom Dixon used to be the creative director of Habitat, and he is still a partner at the Dock Kitchen restaurant in west London.

Tom Dixon, OBE (born 21 May 1959, Sfax, Tunisia) is a self-taught British designer. He is currently the Creative Director of the brand ‘Tom Dixon’ specialising in Lighting, Furniture and Accessories.

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Milan Design Agenda – Handmade Furniture

Tom Dixon is currently the Creative Director of his company “Tom Dixon” which specialises in Furniture and Lighting. Dixon has sold many of his designs to museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Pompidou in Paris.

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The world of Tom Dixon – Handmade Furniture

OTHER LINKS

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Gallery – handmade furniture
Portfolio – handmade furniture
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MENU – HANDMADE FURNITURE

PROFILE SERIES – TERENCE CONRAN

The name Terrence Conran is so ubiquitous and familiar, that it is very easy to forget how he has shaped the way we live today, and how indebted we are to Terence Conran.

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Terence Conran

Terence Conran the designer started to make an impression in a post-war Britain. He studied textile design at the Central School of Art, London, and then went on to set up a furniture, ceramics and fabric workshop in the East End of London. Several years later, still in the early 1950s, he worked on the Festival of Britain on the South Bank London.

He was inspired whilst travelling around in France experiencing its simple food and kitchenware, he decided to fuse this appealing Gallic lifestyle into his work.

Not satisfied with designing he ventured into the restaurant business, opening his first restaurant in 1953, it was named The Soup Kitchen, situated just off the Strand.

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The Soup Kitchen was quite exotic at the time, selling French breads and cheeses, continental coffees and Mediterranean inspired soups, all to a public still on rations.

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The restaurant was also a design statement, with the soups served in mugs, cane chairs and quarry tiled floor.

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After a year Terence Conran opened The Orrery restaurant situated in Chelsea, still keeping with the French theme and developing on the Soup Kitchens concept, this was a Parisian style brasserie.

Following The Orrery restaurant Terence Conran launched his design practise in 1956 the ‘Conran Design Group’. The new business gave service to many of the new, trendy boutiques springing up all across the capital.

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It was into this exciting new world that Terence Conran began his new venture into the retail industry, starting a new shop in 1964 called Habitat, situated on Fulham Road, London, it was a working class area of west London.

The first Habitat store was opened by Conran, his then wife Caroline, model Pagan Taylor, and Philip Pollock. The store became a template for future Habitats, with its tiled floor, white brick walls, cut flowers, wooden-slatted ceilings and spotlights, it created a simple uncluttered space, focusing the attention on the product.

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Terence Conran has said that one of the main reasons the shop was so successful was because it was one of the few places that sold cheap pasta storage jars, at a time the market for dried pasta took off.

The first Habitat really appealed to the young and hip, selling among other things, bean bags, duvets, paper lanterns and woks to a young, hip British public. Attention to detail was also key with Mary Quant designing the uniforms, and Vidal Sassoon cutting their hair. The shops unique and fresh design, its products, and the style paved the way for the likes of Ikea.

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Habitat expanded quickly in the UK throughout the 60s, and then expanding overseas with a store opening in Paris in 1973.

The company’s shares were floated in 1981 on the London Stock Exchange and in 1982 the company merged with the Mothercare Group to form Habitat Mothercare Group PLC. In 1986, the company merged with British Home Stores to form Storehouse plc. Then in 1992 Habitat was purchased by IKANO.

The success continued when Conran opened the Conran shop, this was a level up from Habitat, selling more sleek and better quality modern furniture, but still keeping it quirky.

At the end of the 80’s in which modern design really came into its own, Terence Conran opened the Design Museum. In 2014 it relocated from its Thames position to the former site of the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.

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Like many of his generation, Terence Conran hates any kind of waste. He has a hard working ethic, for example he has just realised a new design for Marks & Spencer, he is famously tight fisted, and loathes mobile phones and “time wasters” (notably Tony Blair and George Bush). He has a trusted circle of friends.

At a recent birthday celebration, Conran had a go at the government for lack of investment into new homes, he said he would work as hard as ever to make improvements.

OTHER LINKS

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PROFILE SERIES – RABIH HAGE

Rabih Hage is one of the best UK interior designers who founded his London company in 2001.

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Designer profile – Rabih Hage – Handmade Furniture

His interiors have been described as beautiful and visionary with a cutting edge and ever-evolving creative approach. Rabih Hage takes a creative and confident approach to interior design. “I respect the heritage, stripping back and extending the life of a building”.

His work ranges from beautiful designs for his private clients, to commercial design concepts for his corporate clients. His work has been won numerous awards from the design industry, like the Andrew Martin International Interior Designer of the Year Award 2011, Homes & Gardens Award for Interior Design 2012, and consistent nominee as one of the Top 100 leading designers since 2002.

PORTFOLIO

Rabih Hage graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, working in various architectural companies before moving to London (W1) to start his own business studio with a team of 12 in 2001.

Previuosly Rabih has worked with companies such as Arcora Group, and Viguier et Jodry, winning many, such as the Textile Museum of Lyon in 1988. Hage has also worked on technical and commercial projects including the TGV Train stations of Paris Montparnasse and Nantes.

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ARCHITECTURE TO A HUMAN SCALE

Since starting his design studio in London in 2001, his work moved on to interiors, renovation and architecture projects. His work brings architecture to a human scale, pioneering handmade furniture “that is art” and incorporating other works by up and coming designers and artists, this is what he calls “melding function and aesthetics.”

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TRIGGERED A WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT IN DESIGN

One of his most renowned works was created in In 2008, when he designed the Rough Luxe Hotel. This concept and brand, triggered a worldwide movement in design. This has earned him the go to reference when designing new hotel, restaurant and bar concepts, and he frequently works on projects with international hoteliers and developers.

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FOCUSSING ON DIVERSITY

He describes his approach as “focusing on diversity; creating beautiful volumes and structures empowered by carefully designed objects and selected art. It is a continuous creative dialogue for a functional refined and living result”. Rabih Hage

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COMMISSIONING A UNIQUE PIECE

At David Head Furniture Makers every piece of handmade furniture is uniquely designed, made for individual customers who want something special. For more information or to request a commission, please contact us.

OTHER LINKS

Client feedback – handmade furniture
Gallery – handmade furniture
Portfolio – handmade furniture
Our latest news – handmade furniture

MENU – HANDMADE FURNITURE

HANDMADE FURNITURE AN INVESTMENT FOR THE FUTURE

In 1997 an Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair was sold at Christie’s for £122,500, this elevated modern furniture collecting, making it a prime investment.

With the trend for interiors swinging away from ornate towards more simple and clean lined modern handmade furniture, will buying contemporary pieces both improve your home now and also act as an investment for the future?

Looking through local auction houses you will see that most of the pieces from the late 19th and early 20th century are worth nearly the same as a piece of furniture from Argos.

So how do you spot an antique of the future and what is a design classic?

As with all forms of collecting, the best way is to look for a name. Modern handmade furniture doesn’t always have the prestige of its antique counterparts, but there are talented modern UK designers with form, like Terence Conran, Matthew Hilton, Ron Arad and Tom Dixon.

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Mary Carroll also recommend looking in to the huge range of rugs, which she considers works of art, she considers them to be the real collectables of tomorrow. Another top tip is to look at the named designer collections, especially companies along the lines of Wedgwood, Waterford and Stuart Crystal.

LOCAL DESIGNERS FOR A BETTER INVESTMENT

Investing in contemporary UK luminaries can set you back a bit, you could pay thousands for some handmade furniture which can eat away at your profit margin. Another alternative is looking for up and coming designers, they can still offer original and great designed furniture but with a more cost effective price tag.

BUY WHAT YOU CAN’T RESIST

“In terms of investment it’s what you love that is going to give you a better quality of life and what more can you ask? A classic sofa might be good for your back but it’s not really going to lift your spirits. When you see the item that’ll lift the spirits, you’ll know.” Janice Blackburn (freelance curator).

“Imagine you’re moving, it’s all the things you want to take with you. It’s the items you can’t live without and that will look good in any environment. There are wonderful pieces in the shops now.” Polly Dickens (creative director of the Terrance Conran Shop).

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Furniture that is hand made and aesthetically pleasing, will last a long time and have desirability. For example the simple lines of the Barcelona chair and Le Corbusier Sofa Daybed, they still look good and work in a modern interior, as when they were designed back in the 1920’s.

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HOW TO LOOK FOR A FUTURE ANTIQUE

According to interior designer Rabih el Hage, you can find future antiques by basing your search on three areas, originality, functionality and materials.

“The materials used will allow me to guess the way the piece will age. If it is a traditional material, say solid oak, one can imagine how the piece will look in 20 or 100 years. The way a piece ages influences its value and desirability. I’m tempted to choose new designs using old materials.” Rabih el Hage.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

So what should you look out for, what will stand the test of time. We can’t predict what will be desirable in the future, although looking over the last 100 years, handmade furniture that has been the best investment is simple with clean lines and made from good materials. As long as you like it and it holds up against the three search criteria’s recommended by Rabih el Hage, originality, functionality and materials, then you should have a good chance of having something that stands out from a sea of refined good taste 100 years or so down the line.

UNLIKELY ITEMS

“It will be the most unlikely items that will become collectable as everyone will keep the special editions and collectors editions of things. With a Philippe Starck piece, everyone will keep it, whereas there might be some plastic thing in Ikea – albeit well designed – that is the one that everyone wants in 100 years time – mostly because it is so rare. It’s the stuff everyone chucks out that becomes valuable. That’s why all the horrible handmade furniture of the Seventies is so valuable. In the Eighties, everyone chucked it out.” Martin Waller, chairman of Andrew Martin.

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INVESTING IN HANDMADE FURNITURE

Bespoke handmade furniture offers an exciting investment with truly tailored and unique design that will endure for years to come. Commissioning high quality handmade furniture tailored to your taste and specifications allows you to give your home a personal, elegant touch, for interiors that are truly unique. Commissioning luxury handmade furniture is also a great investment for the future.

COMMISSIONING A UNIQUE PIECE OF HANDMADE FURNITURE

At David Head Furniture Makers every piece and every design is unique, made for individual customers who want something special. For more information or to request a commission, please contact us.

SPOTTING TOMORROW’S ANTIQUES

Spotting tomorrow’s antiques is now harder than ever before, simply because there is so much good material out there, which is very encouraging for quality of life, but not easy to spot the next family heirloom.

George Khachfe, the managing director of Poliform, an Italian furniture company – doubts that any furniture designed for full scale production will ever be a great investment because the market is flooded with too many of them.

Mr Khachfe says “What you need to find, for it to be worth any money, is a piece from a designer before it went into production.”

He recommends the Italian designer Carlo Columbo, who is producing stunning work, unfortunatley a lot of it is commercially produced, ironically the best pieces to invest in could possibly be the proto-types that were not commercial enough to make the step into production.

DESIRABLE IN THE FUTURE

Or is it possible to get future investment from handmade furniture that is commercially produced, the editor Mary Carroll, from BBC’s Homes & Antiques magazine, believes it is possible, but the value depends on its condition, for example something like the Forum sofa designed by Robin Day, it is currently one of Habitat’s biggest sellers, retailing between £1,200 and £1,500. Mary Carroll says a piece like the Forum sofa could well be a future antique. A well looked after design classic like the Forum Sofa will be as desirable in the future as it is now, but the better it is kept the more chance of it becoming an investment, and it is still nice to sit on.

INVESTING IN HANDMADE FURNITURE

Bespoke handmade furniture offers an exciting investment with truly tailored and unique design that will endure for years to come. Commissioning high quality handmade furniture tailored to your taste and specifications allows you to give your home a personal, elegant touch, for interiors that are truly unique. Commissioning luxury handmade furniture is also a great investment for the future.

COMMISSIONING A UNIQUE PIECE OF HANDMADE FURNITURE

At David Head Furniture Makers every piece and every design is unique, made for individual customers who want something special. For more information or to request a commission, please contact us.

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