In 2009, Splinter Works set out to be one of the only companies designing and making sculptural furniture for bathrooms and kitchens.
The Hampshire based product design duo’s first pieces were the Vessel bath tub and Tipping Point kitchen (featured above), two works driven by aesthetics – the first reminiscent of a hammock but made in carbon fibre and the latter a mirrored, stainless steel and teak sink and storage system that appears to rest on a knife edge. Incredible works of art and feats of physics as well as functional objects but while this remains pivotal to what they do, a case of interesting timing has meant Splinterworks now has many more strings to its bow.
‘We established Splinter Works almost exactly when the Lehman Brother’s went down,’ laughs Miles Hartwell, who is co-founder with Matt Withington. ‘So just as we were launching top end, luxury designs the recession took hold. We quickly learnt to be flexible and amenable to the direction our orders went in. Which still very much remains high end commissions but includes smaller and simpler furniture pieces for the whole home as well as the kitchen and bathroom.’
Hartwell and Withington met at a previous employment where they were both product designers. After being there for six years they found they had a mutual desire to inject and push the idea of sculpture and free form creativity into furniture design, citing the Israeli artist and architect Ron Arad as their greatest common influence.
They now offer a space planning service for clients too, which was a natural progression from the highly involved kitchen and bathroom plans and installations they began with and continue to do. They also offer an existing Limited Editions product line, that still includes Vessel and Tipping Point as well as the curvaceous walnut Stiletto Desk and curved silver-leafed Shoot tap.
However, the majority of work is through private commissions and interior designers and they really enjoy this side of what they do and endeavour to provide a sensitive and supportive service to newbies to the world of bespoke. ‘We’ve been doing this a long time,’ says Hartwell, ‘but we are still acutely aware that it is quite daunting, we get that it’s a big deal.’ So the first step is always a face to face conversation for Splinter Works, who ideally prefer to meet at the prospective client’s house for an hour or so to get a real feel for what they like and what they don’t and what they want and what they don’t. ‘Then we mull it over for a week or two,’ continues Hartwell, ‘ and provide sketches for designs, if and when the client likes it we provide a ball park figure – this part of the service is all free. Once we get the go ahead we start the formal design process.’
At this point Splinter Works takes 10% up front and from there on in it can take a matter of weeks or up to months depending on the commission. They continue to keep the client involved with several rounds of meetings, including material swatches and further sketches, up until the final delivery. ‘One delivery really hit home to us how important the whole process can be for a client,’ describes Hartwell. ‘We could see how physically nervous she was when we arrived and when we revealed the piece in her own home she actually burst into tears! Which was half joy and half relief I am sure.’
They often work in sturdy woods, like oak and maple, and use robust metals, such as pewter and nickel, with strong shapes, giving much of their work has a slight industrial edge. Although, they have just completed a decorative and detailed table in bronze and finished in liquid gold, with hand blown glass spheres, as a private commission, showing the breadth and imagination they can demonstrate in their design style.
Splinter Works – www.splinterworks.co.uk