Homegirl London’s Interview: Tom Faulkner. Tom designs and makes contemporary handmade furniture. He is best known for his elegant dining tables, coffee tables, side tables, console tables and dining chairs. The furniture is predominantly made from steel or bronze which can also incorporate stone, wood or glass. Tom’s work features strong architectural lines and distinctive shapes to create a striking silhouette. Because each piece of furniture is made from scratch by his skilled team, it can be customised to the client’s exact specifications. I caught up with Tom Faulkner to find out more.
Phoenix Dining Table
Meet Tom Faulkner
Tom tells me about his background – “One of my first jobs was working for a picture framer in Wandsworth in my early twenties. There was a workshop where we made frames along with decorated mounts and a small shop in Gray’s Antique Market where we sold antique prints. I loved that the business had both a shop and a workshop, meaning I could be hands on with the product and interact with the customers. I’m very lucky that I’ve managed to create a business like that.”
Getting a business off the ground seemed like a natural progression for Tom, he reveals – “I’ve always liked to work with my hands and enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to put things together. I began by hand-painting table-tops in the early 90s and very much enjoyed the buzz and thrill of selling something that I’d made. As my tastes (and fashion) changed, I moved into metal design and the business grew from there. The company was formerly set up in 1995 and I decided to call it after myself on advice from a Business Consultant. Having your own name associated with a brand is a valuable business asset. Besides, I enjoy presenting designs to potential clients which I have designed myself.”
Although it’s Tom’s company, he does have a close team. He elaborates – “Miranda Kirwan is the Commercial Director who started working with me fifteen years ago. Over time she has become more involved and could now be described as the “co-author” of Tom Faulkner as it is today. Broadly speaking I am ‘creative’ and she is ‘marketing’ but we cross over and support each other. My first two employees were Nigel Ballamy and Gordon Ball. I met them over twenty years ago when they were working for a small metal fabricator in Wiltshire making skips and metal racking. Nigel was incredibly skilful and knowledgeable, having done a full British Rail apprenticeship and Gordon was his loyal assistant. I approached them to make me a table and they are both still with me today. Nigel is the Head Welder involved in production and product development.”
Vienna Dining in Walnut
The business showroom is in Chelsea, Tom tells me – “Chelsea is the eye of the interior design storm in London and we are lucky enough to be in the middle of it. The workshop is in Swindon, Wiltshire in the old railway works of the Great Western Railway which was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 19th century. You can still see the original tracks used to transport the trains into the workshops. There is an engineering history which we are proud to be inspired by every day.”
Kite Back Dining Chair
Being his own boss is a dream for Tom, he says – “It’s amazing to be able to make a living from the sketches and scribbles which come out of your head. It’s also great to have created an entity which exists where people have a decent job for which they are well rewarded and valued. It was wonderful when I had the realisation that your business does not have to be like anyone else’s. It’s not all about money and it’s not about an exit. A business can be about creating something of value to yourself, your employees and the community. And finally, of course, there is a certain freedom about having your own business, although it’s never really that simple!”
Tom Faulkner Furniture
Tom describes his products – “We make sculptural and distinctive furniture, mainly tables (dining tables, coffee tables, side tables, console tables) and dining chairs plus cabinets, mirrors and lighting. Current home accessories include candlesticks, vases and hat stands with more to come. The overall style of my work is restrained, elegant and distinctive. A strong and simple silhouette is key for my designs. For the most part, we work in bronze or steel, creating each piece from scratch. Our table tops can be made from wood, marble, or glass and every aspect of the piece can be handpicked by the client. The metal can even be customised, either with patinations (heat and chemicals applied to metal to speed up the aging or oxidisation process) or by being hand painted. The colours tend to be quite muted – except with upholstery on chairs, although our bespoke service does mean that the colour is ultimately decided by the client.”
Edge Side Table
Because Tom’s products are bespoke and created to the client’s specification, he has a team of highly skilled makers at the workshop. They use traditional metal work techniques such as welding, grinding, linishing and polishing. Depending on client requests, the piece can be painted or patinated by the expert finishing team to become a one-off piece. When required Tom works with expert partners to ensure the very best complementary materials. He gives me an example – “The leather on our Berlin chair is subjected to an ancient traditional tanning process using oak-bark to achieve a distinctive rich hue.”
Berlin Dining Chair
The Capricorn Tables are Tom’s signature piece. He says – “Capricorn has a very distinctive and classical silhouette, it is modern and sculptural. It’s such a simple shape to look at but very complex to create and I like that it requires further inspection. I designed Capricorn over twenty years ago, so the inspiration is difficult to remember, but I’ve always been fascinated by the architecture and bridges and the perfect curve.”
Capricorn Dining Table
Inspiration for Tom is derived from architecture, patterns in nature, classical silhouettes, iconic Bauhaus design, art and travelling. He elaborates – “My recent trip to Japan spawned a fascination with the muted colours and delicate form of Japanese pottery and their lush greenery inspired one of our new leather colours ‘Midori’. I do find however that inspiration is a wonderfully unpredictable tool. Quite often it will be months after I see something interesting that I then find it manifested in a design. Who knows when or if I will create my first piece of Japanese inspired furniture!”
Exe Dining Chair
Tom admires product design work of Marc Newson – “He’s super cool and seems to be able to design anything effortlessly and with style. I also admire Paul Smith for similar reasons and for being a genius, as well as tall, elegant, charming (I gather) and humble. He helped me buy a jumper in his shop the other day, as if he was one of the staff.”
Buy Tom Faulkner Products
To see a selection of furniture pieces, go to the Tom Faulkner Website. He can ship orders overseas and has many customers in America. The price of the furniture depends on the specifications of each client. Contact Tom and his team to discuss your bespoke furniture requirements. You can visit the showroom at Chelsea Reach, 79-89 Lots Road, Chelsea, London SW10. You can find showrooms in other countries listed on the website.
Author: Homegirl London. Thanks: Tom Faulkner and Hannah Matthews.