Our passion is design and we love speaking to designers from all across the spectrum, quizzing the men and women whose furniture and products grace our homes, about their loves, their products and much more…
This time we talk to furniture designer Ben Fowler, the Futon Company’s first ‘Design Master’ whose innovative Hat Tree inspired the introduction of our new specialist website…
Ben trained at Leeds Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, following in the footsteps of his father who was also a furniture designer. Based near Brighton, where he has a workshop founded in 1986, Ben makes bespoke furniture and interiors as well as prototypes for manufacturers and retailers.
Explain your approach to design
I still follow the Bauhaus design ethos I was trained under, that form should follow function. My design is also hugely informed by the craft of furniture making as I have run my workshop for some 27 years now, making high-end cabinetry as well as architectural joinery and wooden boats.
What do you love about being a designer?
I love to develop a simple idea into an elegant and ‘de-bugged’ final product that is functional, smooth in manufacture and beautiful. This is my goal… the pleasure is in trying to achieve that.
Tell us about your product design for Futon Company
I have designed several products for the Futon Company over the years, most recently for the launch of Design Masters, which champions small-space products by independent designers with a focus on innovative, pioneering design. I currently have my Leap Desk, Hat Tree, Manx Stool and Rake Chair for sale on the Design Masters website.
Beyond Design Masters, I currently have two products in store and online, including the Wardrobe Bed and shelving called Benji. The Wardrobe Bed saves space by supplying huge amounts of storage in canvas drawers underneath. The idea sprang from a great canvas we sourced. Canvas makes really beautiful boxes that fold flat and are much lighter than wooden drawers, making them easy to transport as well as great looking. In essence, I designed a simple bed around the lovely canvas work.
The Benji shelves are based on the idea of metal shelves on wooden frames. They have a unique height-adjustable system that avoids the need for lots of little holes.
How do you approach design for a small space?
It is always worth focusing on practicality, I find the best test is to simply ask whether the end product is useful.
Give us a space saving tip…
Chuck it out! As William Morris said, ‘have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’
What are your thoughts on sofa beds?
The sofa bed is a great invention, the only problem is that too many of them end up being not so good as either a bed or a sofa! When well designed, however, they can revolutionize your social life, allowing you to have people to stay even if you live in the smallest of spaces.
Who would you most like to share a sofa bed with?
As a sofa, with Thomas Heatherwick who I think is the country’s best designer; we could talk about design and drink wine.
As a bed, with Lauren Bacall, we could talk about the world, drink wine and… [Interview terminates!]
Join us for the launch of Design Masters at Futon Company, 169 Tottenham Court Road on Thursday 13th March 2014 from 6-9pm