A Q&A with revolutionary furniture designer Jules Sturgess
A designer with a passion for cars and racing, Jules Sturgess’ individual style incorporates both to create, in his own words; “minimal, clean and proportional designs”.
Many aspects of his designs are focused on form following function with a clear utilisation of engineering and supercar manufacture techniques such as the use of carbon fibre. The aesthetics of his designs are undoubtedly unique and certainly challenge what is seemingly possible.
Jules talks to us about how he has adapted as a designer and where his designs are today.
You have told me that you began designing architectural/sculptural furniture as an escape from the confines of function involved in the designing of mechanical components. Why did you decide to do this?
You can concentrate much more closely on how the end product will look rather than if it will perform its function to the fullest. I prefer this because it gives me far greater freedom to design beautiful forms and keep the final product true to its concept. It’s a change in the starting point I suppose. I start with how something would look cool and then see how I can make that work.
I guess you still have speed on your mind while designing… or not?
All the time! Sadly, time is restricted these days to go out on the circuit but I’m lucky enough to be with supercars everyday. We run a second business to do with supercars so the engineering and beauty of these cars is never out of my sight. I’ll always love cars and any time I get free, when the weather is good, means I have to get out in one of my own cars… or the helicopter!
Are there any specific ideas or procedures from the car universe that you apply to the other?
Yes, the materials and processes used to make my pieces come directly from motorsport. Also the idea of pushing the materials as far as they will go is a very ‘motorsport concept’. I suppose another similarity is pushing boundaries through using the properties of an advanced material to make something that shouldn’t work, work. I also like the idea of taking inspiration from the purely functional beauty of mechanical components in the automotive and aerospace industry and bringing their pure aesthetic to more sculptural forms as detail.
What other ideas do you have in mind while imagining a new product?
Firstly, is it going to be possible to make it work? Then, does it challenge convention? Is it unique, and will it look seriously cool?
You told me you like the challenge of making things that looked like they wouldn’t work. Is this just an aesthetic issue or a personal challenge?
It starts off an aesthetic issue and invariably becomes a personal challenge. I’m very stubborn when it comes to keeping true to the original concept.
How long does it take you to create a new product, to imagine the idea, finish the design?
Well the Marea chaise took getting on for five years from the initial sketch to exhibiting at Tent London but there was a lot more to getting that off the ground than just designing and making it. Now it just depends on how difficult I make it for myself to produce a product that stays true to the concept. Currently I am working on a few different products including a light, a bowl and clock. Working on more than one thing at a time means that they take a little longer. I’m working on a previous product at the moment doing a bespoke piece for a client but can’t say anymore…
Since you try to defy and challenge physics, is there something you have imagined that hasn’t been possible to make?
Haha, not yet. Although the Monolito table has proved particularly tricky at times.
You were presenting the Marea chaise recently. What were people’s reactions to it?
The reaction was overwhelming. People loved it! Almost everyone who stopped to touch them stayed for a chat. It was really nice to hear so many people’s positive comments. We are developing new editions of the chaise so people can see and experience a variety of finishes.
Do you think your designs have a specific audience? If so, which is it?
No, I don’t think so. At the start, I thought my designs only appealed to people with similar passions and interests as me, such as luxury cars and motorsport. However, the variety of people who appreciate the minimalism, getting the most out of a design or a component and the materials and processes are far more diverse than only motorsport enthusiasts.
All of your products are limited edition. Is exclusivity a part of your philosophy?
Because of the extremes the designs impose on the production methods and materials, they have to be handmade, making production very time consuming. Customers like that; their purchase hasn’t just come off the shelf but has spent the last month or more being lovingly crafted to perfection. So by their very nature, any of the pieces we sell would not lend themselves to being made in anything but very small quantities.
Are you trying new materials and technologies that could suit you?
Of course, carbon fibre is just a material but it doesn’t define my design. It just happens to be the toughest material at the moment and perfect for making the very thin sections in my designs very strong. I love materials; my design is more about materials than anything else. I just like pushing them as far as they will go! Although carbon will feature in my designs a great deal in the future it will be much less obvious. I want to use the structural properties of this amazing material and not necessarily it’s aesthetic.
To finish, are you thinking about some new stuff already? If so, can we know something about it?
All the time! I carry a small sketchbook round with me and I’m constantly filling it full of rubbish little sketches that remind me of bigger ideas later when I come back to them. All I can tell you is that there’s an amazing gold leaf light coming soon as well as lots of cool designs flying about and one will go to the next stage fairly soon!
You can take a look at all of Jules Sturgess’ current range on his website. All products are available to purchase online. In addition, the Poleiro bar stools are available to see and buy at Nicholas Anthony stores.