Nic Parnell, Reclaiming Discarded Wood For a Furniture Design Rebellion

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

In a world where man-made products can often enforce structure and order onto the objects we bring into interior spaces, contemporary furniture designer Nic Parnell is a breath of fresh air, taking inspiration from naturally occurring shapes, in fact, he incorporates them directly into the final product.

Lamps created from seasoned branches treated with a variety of finishes

‘My work is a means to repel the daily routine of Geometry,’ says the London-based designer who sources fallen or discarded timber and branches for his bespoke furniture and lighting pieces. ‘they are statements of form and finish to be used as tools to make a room, or complete one. They are not “camouflage” objects which I see so much of in the design industry.’

‘I am essentially a craftsman who is constantly trying to further the development of my aesthetic style and quality, so the reality is that my studio could accept a huge array of commission.’

The finishes applied to reclaimed timber add a splash of colour 

These branches and boughs, now often sourced from tree surgeons who would otherwise shred unwanted cuts, form hooks, bases, stands and stems for tables, desk lamps, standard lamps, coat racks, consoles and coffee tables. Branches are seasoned and then a variety of finishes are applied including flock, lacquers and metalised powders and resins.

The beautiful bark metallic textures are actually created during the manipulation of the applied bronze powders, rather than a reflection of the bark underneath, for an extra emphasised effect. The pieces often sit somewhere between art and design, a place he is very comfortable with, ever fearing ‘selling out to clean lines.’

Parnell, who is half French and raised in Hong Kong, graduated from Brighton University in 2009 specialising in Toy Design and Interactive Play. But after some promising meetings from industry specialists, he went to work for super cool reclaimed design specialists Henzdel+Hunt. ‘I quickly realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life getting my ideas to market and sourcing investment,’ explains Parnell. ‘So I locked up my ideas and sought to develop my making skills where I stumbled upon the duo, whom are renowned for their craftsmanship and flair.’ He worked as the primary maker of their team for two years where he learnt much about joinery and cabinet making.

These bespoke shelves are made entirely from reclaimed materials.

His fascination and interest quickly spread itself into contemporary surface finishing which he combined with an obsession for collecting dead wood from the forest floor. Parnell then managed to successfully release some products at his first London Design Festival and following that, set up the company.

The Lifestyle Bronze Lamp gives a natural lift to the room setting.

The range which sees almost constant orders is the expanding, and slightly surreal collection entitled Outside In, a veritable forest of branched products including the Arbor Lamp, which is as versatile as the variety of sizes and shapes the branches can be found in. The latest part of the collection titled 93% Oak was sourced exactly to its title. All the branches are dead oak and the bases are also made from the same material.

Mars Bark and La Noir Lamps

Outside In showcases uber contemporary finishes – Electro Static flock, Atomised Bronze metallisation (forming the Limited Edition part of the range), Acrylic based resin moulding with graphite (seen on Mars Bark) and high gloss polyurethane piano finish lacquer ( La Noir).

The Twobyfour Bench

By nature Parnell’s work is bespoke and it is rare for him to make large numbers of one type of product as they all vary so aesthetically. The final look is so dependant on the random form and texture of the wood so the process is very often tailored and approved by a client rather than pre-made. However, this year will see him launch two pieces with with specific finishes, which will be marketed for retail.

Electric blue & Navy lamps, – Examples of the infinite variety of designs Nic is able to create using natural materials.

‘I love working on bespoke projects; it avoids repetition and can often develop new ideas and techniques,’ describes Parnell. ‘I am essentially a craftsman who is constantly trying to further the development of my aesthetic style and quality, so the reality is that my studio could accept a huge array of commission:  I have re-invented old and tired furniture, manufactured bespoke sculptural shelving and furniture and have even re-constituted a Sycamore tree into a “Hat Stand” for a retail display.’

Parnell’s bespoke ethos is indeed so great it has also seen him resolve marital interior design disputes. ‘I was approached by a client who was renovating her house, but whose husband was not willing to part with his Grandmothers cabinet,’ he explains. ‘They came to the agreement that the cabinet could remain in the house but only if it were to be re-vamped according to her taste. Having already purchased a lamp from me not long before, they in turn commissioned me to save the tired looking cabinet with reclaimed timber.’

The original ‘tired’ Grandmother’s cabinet

Stripped down cabinet

Oak floor boards were tactfully appropriated for the frames of the drawer faces, shelves and glass racks. Roofing timbers were used for the new top, and all the many flocked stripes of cleft wood were reclaimed from old 2”x4” battening. ‘It was simply an amazing project to work on,’ says Parnell, ‘I certainly put some punch into it and the clients couldn’t have been happier.’

Finished cabinet, revamped to the client’s taste.

He is currently working on developing and refining the existing Heiro lamp which will be launched this year to be sold internationally via retail as well his off the record plans for new solo exhibitions. And the Nic Parnell world definitely sounds like a fun one to be in, with workshop days starting with plenty of coffee and Hungarian pastries with a backdrop of soul and blues mix tapes. ‘This gives us the energy to clean up and arrange the work shop from the previous evenings mess of work,’ laughs Parnell. ‘We always seem to be too busy to eat  lunch before 3pm.

I have a bunch of friends who also use my studio who are painters and illustrators, so there’s always a good crowd. We grab some lunch alongside a few games of ping-pong and the day resumes. If anyone stays after 6pm, then we might crack open some beers, to ease the long hours working with our hands.’ Can we be in the Nic Parnell gang please?

This console top features a variety of Nic’s signature finishes

The Lifestyle Green Lamp and La Noir make a refreshing change from formality

Nic Parnell –

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