Do we make furniture or art?

Someone once asked me a flattering if slightly mischievous question. “Does 1718 really make furniture?” they said. “Or do you create artworks that are to be admired rather than used.” I took it as a huge compliment that someone might think our tables or chairs are so beautiful that they just want to look at them, but we are definitely in the business of making furniture.

Clients tell me they often get a rush when they walk into a room and see the bespoke furniture that the team at 1718 has created for them. This is not factory furniture picked up from a showroom or catalogue, but something they’ve discussed in detail with us, seeing it evolve from an initial idea and a sketch to a gorgeous, hand-crafted finish.

But everything we create is designed to be used – from tables for people to gather around with their family and friends, to desks to work at, and armchairs to relax in. Indeed, one of the big trends in recent years, has been a growing demand for furniture that incorporates home entertainment, such as big screens and music systems. Our artisan furniture is very much intended to be lived with and handled, not just admired – and where required, we apply extra finishes to provide added protection.

Five qualities of bespoke furniture

So if what we is create is most definitely furniture, what is it that makes bespoke furniture so special? In the case of 1718, I believe there are five things:

1 Outstanding British craftsmanship

I grew up with a love of working with wood and a thirst to learn from others, including past masters such as Thomas Chippendale and Sir Edwin Lutyens. For me, it’s so exciting to see that the skills I’ve developed over a 30-year plus period are now shared with my extraordinarily talented team. And nothing beats the expression on the faces of our clients when their bespoke furniture is unveiled.

2 The finest materials and finishes

Every piece of wood we use is hand-picked. We explore the grain, feel the texture and analyse the colour. We even breathe in the wood’s natural aromas to ensure that the finished furniture will be everything it can be. And our craftsmen are experts in applying beautiful finishes such as marquetry, églomisé and lacquering, which you can learn more about here.

3 Smart use of technology

While practising traditional cabinet-making skills, we also make use of the latest technology where appropriate. For instance, we design our furniture with Solidworks software, which allows us to create a full 3D model rendered in the materials we plan to use. This provides our clients with a wonderful representation of what the piece will look like before we start crafting it. Solidworks also plugs into CNC (‘computer numerical control’) machinery that allows us to create complex shapes while guaranteeing that each component is exactly the same size.

4 Exceptional customer service

I’m very lucky to be able to call many of my regular clients friends. I’ve got to know them well as they have called on us to create furniture at different stages in their lives, often to celebrate the people and events that mean most to them. I would never let my friends or my clients down. That’s just the way I am. And myself and the team are always prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that our clients are delighted with everything we provide them with.

5 Reliable family values

1718 is a family business, and myself and Susan carry that ethos into everything we do as a company – the way we look after our employees, the way we respect our clients, and the pride that we take in our work. I believe that having a family ethos as a business helps to keep you grounded. And while it’s nice to be thought of as artists, we’re first and foremost proud to be furniture artisans.