Ali Robinson launches debut furniture collection
London-based designer Ali Robinson creates a considered handcrafted 17-piece furniture collection.
Ali Robinson of architecture and interiors studio, Robinson van Noort has unveiled Kynance, his first furniture collection. Developed over the last two years, the 17-piece collection comprises a series of vitrines and tables, along with a selection of mirrors and consoles, a sideboard and a metal totem that records the height of growing children. Kynance also includes two more conceptual pieces – metal stools that incorporate squash balls, referencing Ali’s early life as a World Rackets Doubles Champion. In 2001, Ali formed Robinson van Noort with his wife, Carolyn. The practice specialises in designing distinctive interiors and has a reputation for blending period interiors with contemporary and bespoke design elements.
Ali’s debut furniture collection, Kynance named after a picturesque bay in Cornwall where the designer spent many of his childhood summers, is as much inspired by his early life as an artist as by his years designing bespoke furniture for Robinson van Noort’s residential clients.
Ali has spent more than 15 years nurturing relationships with specialist makers around the UK, from cabinetmakers to glass and metal manufacturers. Ali has created the furniture collection with these specialists working in timber, brass, bronze, patinated steel and vitreous enamel. It is this part of the design and making process that gives Ali the most pleasure, where designer and maker allow time to experiment, test and push standard practices and processes together. This was especially the case with the development of the vitreous enamel panels for the vitrines.
The enamel elements to the furniture originally came about when Ali discovered a sheet of discarded enamel for a London Underground sign at the enameller’s workshop. The sheet had failed London Underground’s standard for surface uniformity and this lead to a discussion with the makers about the specific proportions of pigment, white and thinners required to get a certain enamel finish. Inspired by this alchemy, Ali began mixing different pigments and altering the proportions of white, pigment and thinners while varying the firing time in the kiln. His experimentation eventually resulted in a ceramic-like variegated surface to the enamel, which Ali has used in his vitrines and this contrasts beautifully with the toughness of the steel.
THE VITRINE COLLECTION
Ali’s initial idea to make a series of vitrines came from reading ‘The Hare With The Amber Eyes – A Hidden Inheritance’, by Edmund de Waal. This tragic, socio-political story centres on an object of desire and keepsake; it touches on love, pleasure and exquisite craftsmanship. It describes the glazed cabinets that housed Japanese netsukes or keepsakes that moved around the world from owner to owner over the last 200 years. It made Ali consider how people spent their time discovering, sourcing, owning, inheriting and cherishing artefacts, and how the examination of the making process itself would affect their opinions on how they value and measure things.
Ali looked at a variety of vitrines, from medicinal cabinets to meshed kitchen larder units, and enjoyed looking at the play of light through the glass and the reflections that bounced off polished surfaces and through perforated metal and enamel. He experimented in the workshop with the patination of many types of metals, polishing and dipping, and worked with enamel specialists to mix unusual portions of pigment to achieve a delicate ceramic-like surface quality. The process involved balancing a desire to maintain a handmade feel with subtle imperfections, notches and variable patination in the metalwork, with the functional necessities to produce a simple, elegant piece that could be used daily.
The Vitrine collection includes four designs in polished and patinated steel, from two-door to six-door cabinets, with the vitreous enamel elements available in five colourways.
DINING TABLES: KYNANCE AND CHILWORTH
Ali has designed two dining tables – Kynance, which is fixed, and Chilworth, which is extendable. The form of the dining table is inspired by Finn Juhl’s Judas table (1948) with its pared back celebration of rosewood and gentle touch of silver decoration.
Chilworth was conceived from a commission to design an extending dining table to seat 14. The relative tightness of the space led Ali to conceive an elliptical design with a brass rim. An inner ellipse creates a table for intimate dining and a larger ellipse made from 4 extendable leaves creates a table that can seat 14. These two different shaped ellipses produce a foreshortening depending on where you sit and creates beautiful negative spaces between the inner and outer rim.
Kynance and Chilworth are available in smoked eucalyptus or running match quarter figured sycamore with a lacquered and waxed finish. The external rim is available in either brass or bronze, with an internal decorative ellipse in brass or bronze resin.
CONSOLE TABLES: LILLIAN AND TRANQUIL VALE
The idea for the console tables grew from Ali’s interest in designing a supporting leg that seems to have a precarious stability. Ali achieved the design by hiding additional structural elements to create stability and balance. The result is an elegant console, which is beautiful in its simplicity. The console table tops are part of the series of ellipses that feature in the dining tables of Kynance and Chilworth and are a variation on a classic demi lune console. Two versions, Lillian and Tranquil Vale, are available in honed marquina marble and smoked eucalyptus with a brass rim.
Hugon is a modular sideboard that was originally conceived for a client as a toy storage unit, which could be adaptable as a sideboard in later years. The playful design reflects the idea of children’s building blocks and Meccano.
With patinated black steel legs, two hinged limed oak boxes with a stained interior and black steel circular finger pulls, this striking design includes two mauve grey vitreous enamel drawers with a waxed blackboard interior and two perforated patinated polished steel open boxes with a highly polished steel backing. The vitreous enamel elements are available in five colourways.
HARROW FIELDS MIRROR
Ali’s love of 18th Century convex tarnished silvered mirrors led to the creation of Harrow Fields, a dramatic brass and bronze mirror, made from a series of spun, cut and welded concave and convex discs with a flat polished brass ‘mirror’ element. Harrow Fields has four hanging positions and is also available in polished and patinated steel. The design takes inspiration from Barbara Hepworth’s 1960 piece ‘Oracle’ and Anish Kapoor’s void pigment sculptures where one is unsure where a form starts and finishes.
CONSTANTINE MEASURING TOTEM
Traditionally the height of growing children is measured on a doorframe or wall. However, this presents a problem should a family move house. To solve this problem, Ali has created the Constantine Measuring Totem as an elegant way to record the height of growing children that can easily be moved from one home to the next.
The 2250 cm long Totem is available in either patinated brass or steel. The colour gradation in the Totem, to mark increments of height, is achieved by altering the time the metal is submerged in the patination tank. The Constantine Totem comes with a bespoke etching stylus for marking heights and recording a child’s name and age and a discreet wall bracket to secure away from the skirting board.
The Kynance collection is made to order with a delivery time of eight weeks. Manufactured by master craftsmen in the UK, each piece can also be customised. A price start at £900 for the stainless steel Totem and includes UK delivery and, for the larger items, white glove installation.