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Crafted by design

Words by Hannah Tapping

Cornish craftsmanship, combined with bespoke designs, achieves a richness of detail in furniture that is built to last a lifetime.

When it comes to interiors, there has been a renewed focus over recent years on how we fit-out and furnish our homes. We are no longer satisfied with an off-the-peg solution, preferring to look to a bespoke, handcrafted approach that delivers in terms of design and longevity. As designers and makers of wooden furniture, kitchens and cabinetry for over 30 years, Rozen’s work is truly handcrafted from start to finish; each piece a unique creation by a Cornish company, gracing homes not only in the Duchy, but across the UK. I met with owner Alan Pearce and designer Gareth Jenkins who, alongside their 14-strong workshop team of craftspeople supported by skilled fitters, painters and administration staff, design and create unique, one-off pieces at their workshop in Ruan Minor on the Lizard Peninsula.

Having visited Rozen’s workshop last year, I was keen to find out what the team had been working on over the last 12 months. Every attention to detail is always maintained at Rozen, down to the very meeting table we sit around to look at concept and design drawings for some new projects that Alan and Gareth are keen to show me. As ever, they exemplify the exceptional quality, versatility and craftsmanship that continues to define Rozen’s work and style.

The first is for a kitchen where the layout of the room and the owner’s brief required some careful thinking and planning. Rozen were involved from the start of the design process right through to completion. With full-height geometric ceilings the space was vast and so the design needed to create a flow between the different areas, while maximising space. As all of Rozen’s work is bespoke and each element is made by hand in Rozen’s workshops, the team were able to integrate a number of design elements that would not have been possible with a mass-produced model. The doors are tulip wood, with oak carcasses: “We use tulip wood as it’s a sustainably forested, fast-growing tree which is particularly good for the environment as it sequesters one of the highest levels of carbon of any tree,” explains Alan. “It is also a very stable wood and a good paint base due its slight furry surface.

The internals are all oak veneer and solid timber (90% of our kitchens are such), the same with the drawer boxes… dovetailed of course!” The client wanted everything to have a place, hidden from view to prevent clutter and to have more drawers than normal. This was easily achieved with the addition of drawer dividers and a large pantry. The addition of a solid oak island unit created a focal point at the centre of the room.

Alan goes on to explain that the fashion for modern kitchens is to have them painted, which Rozen do in a two-part finish. The units are sprayed in the workshop to give an even tone and then hand-painted once installed on site to create a nice soft brush stroke appearance rather than a flat one – this maintains the hand-crafted finish rather than a manufactured one. When it comes to colour, there is an endless palette for the client to choose from. Rozen’s design process offers as much attention to detail as the finished product. Either Gareth or Alan will meet with the client to understand the required design and how it will work functionally within their home. Gareth then creates working 2D and 3D visuals. Each design has a very high level of bespoke detail as Alan explains: “I have measured a client’s existing olive oil bottles, a whole drawer of mugs and even individual knives to ensure that they all fit perfectly within the new kitchen.”

Once the client signs off, the technical specification drawings go through to the workshop for production to start. A single cabinet maker will take ownership of smaller jobs, while for larger projects there will be a team of two or more Rozen cabinet makers who will be responsible from start to finish. Whether it’s bedroom furniture, a kitchen chair or table, each piece is handmade and then assembled in the workshop. With kitchens, they are laid out in the exact footprint in the workshop as they would be in the client’s home, to ensure every detail is double checked before it is carefully dismantled and taken for finishing, with the whole build process taking approximately 12 weeks.

If a colour finish is desired, the furniture will be sprayed in Rozen’s own spray bay and will leave the workshop in the careful hands of one of their experienced fitters. They can also supply electricians or plumbers, although are equally happy to work with the client’s or developer’s own. Alan tells me: “50% of what we do goes into existing properties, however we are now taking on more commissions from architects and designers who involve us from the get-go. These have tended to be out of county and the kitchen we currently have made up in the workshop is off to Edinburgh.”

The second set of plans we look at is for a unique floor-to-ceiling bookcase. This was installed into a newbuild property and was designed to maximise the high ceilings in the open-plan living space, while creating a focal point in the room. The design not only encompasses traditional bookshelves, it also has a set of deep drawers, detailed by the client who worked from home as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to a modern filing system. Brass detail was added to the painted oak veneer, with a ladder rail for accessing the higher shelves and back lights for ambience at night.

Thirdly, we look at an impressive media wall and drinks cabinet designed to fit around an existing fireplace. Made of walnut, it is fluted to give a textured effect, while the drinks cabinet and display shelves are oak. These materials are used throughout the house; particularly reflected in the contemporary oak staircase with glass balustrade and timber handrail. Another Rozen design, it has been configured to allow natural light to penetrate through the risers.

The Rozen team has seen a massive shift in how consumers are furnishing their homes over the last 15 years with interiors now being much more considered and clients more deeply involved in commissioning furniture. There is a huge rise in the awareness of what is possible when it comes to interiors. Gareth explains that: “The second strand of our work comes from architects and designers who contact us to fit out new homes in their entirety. Clients are now much more discerning and want their interiors and furniture to be designed in as much detail as the house itself. With the advent of intelligent homes, the furniture and joinery needs to work seamlessly with the wiring and so we often find ourselves commissioned to not only build the furniture but also the wall cladding, ceilings, internal doors etc and, with the advent of more home offices, these too have to sit well within the interior space.” With between 30 and 40 projects in progress at any one time, whether that be at the design, production, build or finish stage, the Rozen workshop is always a hive of industry. The design quality and craftsmanship here is a beauty to behold and what is being produced here at Rozen are surely heirlooms of the future.

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