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Shaping nature

Words by Dan Warden

Drawing on traditional methods and the shapes of nature, Tom Raffield finds a way to sustainably push the envelope in the world of interior design.

First founding the business in 2008, experimenting with steam-bent wood in his Cornish workshop, over the years Tom has been fortunate enough to meet more likeminded and creative thinkers. Over the course of that time, those individuals have helped the Tom Raffield brand to grow and evolve into what it is today – a household name for home design not only in Cornwall, but around the world. Recognised and cherished for their combination of traditional craftsmanship and timeless design, this strong team of skilled artisans craft heirlooms that are a joy to incorporate into any home décor. Indeed, the Tom Raffield name has come a long way from those humble origins back in 2008, and as we speak with Tom himself, he provides an insight into what continues to drive this much-loved household name.

How would you describe the design aesthetic and philosophy of Tom Raffield?

The design aesthetic of Tom Raffield can be described as organic, sculptural, and nature inspired. We draw inspiration from the natural world, incorporating flowing lines, curvaceous forms, and a sense of movement into our designs. Our philosophy revolves around the belief that sustainable design can be beautiful and functional. We strive to create pieces that connect people with nature and evoke a sense of awe. Whether it’s graceful celestial forms enjoyed on beautiful summer nights, or the unique pattern found on a seashell by the shore side, we interpret these organic shapes into our designs. By embracing the wonder of nature, we aim to create products that evoke a sense of calmness, serenity, and connection with the environment.

Why is steam-bent wood used in the designs? What are its benefits?

Steam bending wood is a core technique used in many of our designs. It involves exposing wood to steam, which makes it pliable and allows us to shape it into intricate forms. There are plenty of benefits to steam bending. Firstly, it allows us to create our unique, sculptural designs that are not possible with traditional woodworking methods. Additionally, the process enhances the strength and durability of the wood, allowing us to craft designs that will stand the test of time in bustling households or commercial spaces. Whilst often a little unpredictable, steam bending allows us to get to know the limits of our sustainably sourced timber, whilst being an ecological method of crafting.

Where does the innovation come from for your designs?

Innovation is at the heart of Tom Raffield designs. It stems from a combination of influences, including curiosity, experimentation, and a deep understanding of the materials we work with. We constantly push the boundaries of what can be achieved through our craft, exploring new techniques and applications. We are consistently soaking up inspiration from all the wonder found in our natural surroundings; whether it be the forms of nature, or striking architecture, Cornwall is always offering us such a beautiful array of brilliance to infuse our creations with fresh ideas. Our innovation also comes from within our extremely talented team, who play a crucial role in expanding the limits of each design with their expertise and unique points of view.

How do you incorporate sustainability and eco-friendly practises?

Sustainability is a fundamental principle for us. From the beginning of a design journey, all the way to being placed in its new forever home, every piece has sustainability at its core. We are committed to minimising our environmental impact throughout our design and crafting process. We only use sustainably sourced wood from ethical suppliers, ensuring responsible forestry practices. Additionally, we aim to use only energy-efficient production methods and strive to reduce waste, whilst offsetting any carbon emissions. Once crafted, our designs are packaged in 100% plastic-free, recycled packaging, allowing for a safe, sustainably packaged arrival. We also ensure every design is crafted to honour a long lifespan, allowing our lovely customers to only have to buy once, and treasure forever.

Can you tell us about your new collections for 2023/24?

Whilst we can’t reveal too much, we have some exciting plans in store. We are continuously developing new collections that expand our range. We hope 2023/24 allows us to showcase a selection of statement furniture designs that further push the boundaries of steam bending. We are always exploring collaborations with like-minded designers and brands to bring fresh perspectives and unique offerings to our customers.

What are the goals at Tom Raffield for the year ahead?

We have plenty of exciting goals that we cannot wait to achieve. A continuous Tom Raffield goal is to educate and inspire others about sustainable design practices, fostering a greater appreciation for craftsmanship and the natural world. Whilst maintaining the high standards of craftmanship and sustainability that defines us, we would love to further establish our brand presence globally – it would be great to see Skipper Pendants all across the globe!

Crafting pieces that stand the test of time and which bring that ethereal beauty of the natural world effortlessly indoors, it’s exciting to know that after 15 years of business, Tom Raffield remains determined to continue pushing the envelope. As Tom himself puts it: “We have come a long way since our small workshop nestled in the woods, but our journey has been an unforgettable one that I am extremely proud of and cannot wait to continue.”

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