Q&A with Tom Raffield: (Steam) bent on bringing nature indoors

Oliver Heath Biophilic design, Healthy spaces, Natural stuff

Oliver was pleased to meet ground-breaking designer, Tom Raffield at a recent event where they got talking and quickly realised that both company ethos had a strong likeness. Both with a love of nature and the idea of bringing it to the forefront of spatial design, we sat down with Tom to pick his brain about his biggest inspirations and how he incorporates Biophilic ideas into his designs.

Here’s what he had to say…

What do you do in your own life to connect yourself with nature regularly? 

Being fortunate enough to live in Cornwall means that I’m constantly surrounded by nature – by the rugged coast, vast woodlands and green fields – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our house and workshops currently lie in the Trevarno Valley, an ancient woodland in South West Cornwall, so we’re lucky enough to be immersed in nature every day. Walking on the beach, building dens with my children in the woods or even going for a swim in the ocean are all pursuits that make me feel connected to nature, it’s so important to every aspect of my life – in work and play!

What would you say is the biggest inspiration for your work and how do you incorporate it into the pieces? 

As a company, we take a lot of inspiration from natural formations and shapes. Our creativity stems from anything, it could be from a piece of seaweed or an angle of a tree growing in the wild. Our Modum Lighting Range, launched last year, celebrates the symmetry and patterns found in nature, something we’d like to explore in more of our upcoming designs. Making our entire product range from wood (obviously a natural material) makes it simple to experiment and showcase the inspiration behind our ideas. Wood is such a pliable and flexible material when steam bent that the possibilities for designs are endless.

How did you develop your love for steam bent timber and the organic way you seem to produce your pieces? 

I became hooked on steam bending wood at Falmouth School of Art, when I was at College there. Designing products and experimenting with natural materials was always something I’d loved doing, having grown up on Exmoor. When I first tried steam bending I was just amazed that something so natural as steam – just water and heat – had the ability to change the malleability of hard wood. I began trying all sorts of bends with different kinds of wood such as ash, oak, elm, beech and soon developed by own methods through practice, trial and error. I haven’t looked back!

 In your blog you mention sustainability, longevity and biophilia as trends for 2019. How do your products fit in with these subjects and why is it important to you? 

Sustainability, longevity and biophilia are all integral to our brand values and what we strive to create. We aim to produce high-quality products that will stand the test of time and be passed down through generations for years to come. We don’t agree with ‘fast-furniture’ or base our products on trend-driven demand. It’s important for us to make sustainable products that don’t harm the environment we live in, and we do everything in our power to create our collections without having an impact on the natural world. Biophilia is also an important subject. Despite being surrounded by nature where we live, we love the idea of bringing nature inside and reaping the health and wellness benefits of doing so. Bringing plants and natural materials into the home or workplace should be something everyone is actively engaged with, especially with so many of our population living in urban settings. For us it creates a sense of tranquillity and belonging.

 What does the future look like for you, what can we look forward to from you for 2019? 

We like to think that the future holds more experimentation, learning and fun. No day is the same at Tom Raffield and that’s what keeps it interesting. We are currently working on our Main Avenue stand for Chelsea Flower Show 2019, which features a handmade, steam bent courtyard space purely created from reused, repurposed and recycled materials. The stand will also feature an array of medicinal and edible plants that aim to highlight the importance of connecting with plants and promote the link between horticulture and good health. It’s going to be another busy, brilliant year.

Here at OH we will be excited to see more from Tom and his team and what they’ve got in store for the future. We are pleased to see such wonderful, like-minded designers spreading the word on Biophilic Design.

Discover more about Tom Raffield’s world and his designs from their online blog:  https://www.tomraffield.com/blogs/blog