Russell Pinch, Furniture Maker

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

Not many designers can claim to be constantly en trend as well as timeless. Russell Pinch is one of the few. 

His company PINCH, which he shares with his trained furniture designer wife Oona, creates some of the most quietly beautiful and subtly striking interior objects being made today – something a little midcentury, something a little classical French but always completely of its current time.

Renowned for the mixing of woods, such as black American walnut, cherry and oak, PINCH’s sideboards, armoires, shelving, lighting, benches and arm chairshave won the company many awards. These include Best Newcomer at 100% in 2004 (their first-ever show) and three Guild Marks for Excellence in Furniture Design given by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. In fact, Pinch himself has also recently been made a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, which is the British furnishing industry’s central organisation and charity.

‘Every piece has a crazy journey from the first idea to final product, going through the process from sketches to models to prototypes.’

Certainly, one of those ‘full circle’ moments for PINCH, who grew ‘amongst the sawdust and shavings’ of his father’s workshop: craftsmanship is in his blood. After graduating from Ravensbourne College of Design, London, he worked as Sir Terence Conran’s design assistant. In 1995 he became a senior product designer for the Conran Group working on diverse projects from the Concorde redesign, as well as watches and luggage. After five years with Conran, Pinch co-founded The Nest, a multi-disciplinary brand design agency with clients including British Airways and Selfridges. In 2004 he felt the draw of furniture design once more and PINCH was formed.

The company does not make completely bespoke pieces for its customers but will customise its own range to their client’s needs, in fact this is a constant requirement of their work with interior designers. ‘This can be really taken to the extreme of course,’ says Pinch, ‘such as sideboards that house AV equipment and mini bars through to shelving designed to work all round a room (including hidden doors) through to a 3.75m long sofa. On larger projects we do work from scratch, for example the completely newly designed school chair for Holland Park School.’

This is the piece that won them their third Design Guild Mark in May this year, following the relief paneled Alba Armoire in 2008 and the clean-lined Walnut and leather inlaid Yves Desk in 2009. This latest winner was a piece put into production by Ercol to be Holland Park School’s new standard chair.

‘It takes inspiration from Ercol’s heritage and manufacturing techniques,’ Pinch describes, ‘such as the steam bent back rest and arm details, but it also acknowledges Ercol’s original school chair in its design with a small degree of arts and crafts in the arm support detail.’

The customisation process is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job for the PINCH duo. ‘We love working with clients to make sure our furniture works for them, it might be as simple as adding a wine rack, or lining an armoire in raw cedar to keep the moths at bay, but it makes a lot of what we do unique and interesting.’ These collaborations have led to many impressive projects, most recently at Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s Bristol Canteen, The Magdalen Chapter hotel in Exeter, The Coop headquarters and the BBC. They are now currently working on an outdoor furniture range and apparently cutlery, cast ironware and rugs will be coming next!

So, it’s safe to say we can expect a varied next chapter for Pinch and his designs. ‘Every piece has a crazy journey from the first idea to final product,’ he explains, ‘going through the process from sketches to models to prototypes. But they all give me such enjoyment.’



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