James UK Furniture

Profiles: James Harrison

James HarrisonHomegirl London pays homage to James Harrison.  He’s the craftsman behind the fabulous furniture brand James UK.  If you’re not sitting comfortably right now then read on.  His company produces contemporary design-led pieces created from quality hardwoods and superior upholstery.  His collection mainly includes chairs and sofas which are handmade in the UK by manufacturing experts who combine modern technology with traditional techniques to deliver the best results.   By keeping the customer service personal, James is able to offer clients a collaborative approach in the materials, size and design.  I caught up with James to ask a few questions …

Q: Tell me about your design background

A: I graduated from Northumbria University in 2005 with a BA Hons in Three Dimensional Design.  It was a great course that allowed me to experiment in a number of areas.  I really came into my own in the workshop which is where I developed a love for making.  After graduating I moved to London to start a job that I had been offered by Habitat, initially prototyping but I soon progressed into the design studio.  I have, and still do design for a number of other companies on a freelance basis but my main focus at the moment is progressing James UK as a business.

Q: What made you decide to go into furniture making and in particular seating?

A: I love the challenges involved with seating.  It is not just about creating a beautiful object, there are so many considerations to take into account to ensure it is functional, structural and of course comfortable before you can start to think about the aesthetics.

Q: What compelled you to set up your own business?

A: It was partly out of frustration but mostly because I just knew I wanted that level of freedom and flexibility in my working life.  Working for larger companies certainly has its benefits (mostly a regular wage!) but I did become frustrated with the limitations and red tape.  Setting up a business can certainly be a daunting task, especially if like me you had very little business experience, but there are certainly no regrets.  If you have a skill and a passion you can learn everything else along the way!

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: The fact that every day is different and I am the one who determines the future of James UK.

Q: Why is it important to manufacture your products in the UK?

A: Well firstly there are the environmental considerations.  I hate the idea of shipping large sofas halfway around the world in order to save money and sacrifice quality.  Secondly, being near my manufacturers means that I can keep a close eye on quality and makes it feasible to offer a bespoke service.    When developing new products I can simply drive to my manufacturers at the drop of a hat and discuss things face to face, tweak prototypes, try a thicker foam or tighter springing for example.  It makes the whole thing a much more fluid process and makes for a more concise product.

Q: Do you have any of your pieces at home?

A: I have an Alwyn sofa at home as well as one of our new Holton tables.  I also have the first sample of the Newington sofa which is one of my new designs.  I think it is important to live with a piece of furniture to really put it to the test.  It is very easy to design a product out of context and lose sight of its function.

Q: What’s your bestselling piece?

A: The Wingchair has been around the longest so has probably sold the most in terms of units but the Norton range has proved hugely popular since its launch this year and I think may soon catch up!  People seem to love the fact that it is such a flexible piece.  You can customise the fabric colours, sizes and even add things like contrasting piping detail.  I think a lot more people seem to be taking an interest in design and this allows someone with no experience in furniture the opportunity to create their own unique piece.

Below is a selection of chairs and sofas from James UK.  For more information go to James UK.  Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of James UK, special thanks to James Harrison.

Wingback Oak and black leather


Norton Arm Chair


Norton double armchair grey green hemp

Norton Double

Norton Wingback Chair

Norton Wing

Norton double wingback sofa green wool

Norton Double Wing

Lucan sofa black and fuchsia

Lucan Double Lounge

Alwyn Compact Sofa

Alwyn Compact