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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: ELEMENTAL FURNITURE DESIGN WITH FRED RIGBY

The designer's Everyday Collection captures the undulating Dorset landscape.

8th Jul 2021

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This summer looks very different to last – restrictions are easing, shops are reopening and there’s an undeniable excitement in the air – but there’s one sentiment we’ve carried with us into 2021: our newfound appreciation of the outdoors. Over the past year, nature has provided us with a much-needed sanctuary at a time of flux, a grounding force at a time when life felt up in the air. And now, with a change in attitude towards remote working, it’s the granite cliffs of Cornwall and the scenic rambles of the Cotswolds that many are heading for.

But embracing the great outdoors needn’t require lacing up your walking boots, especially with British weather marching to its own tune. Instead, bring the outside in and transport yourself to the serene English coastline from the comfort of your own home. That’s what British interior designer Fred Rigby is hoping to do with his debut capsule of furniture, the Everyday Collection. “Our studio’s furniture and interior designs are characterised by organic shapes, natural symbolism and earthy materials to bring a strong connection with nature indoors,” Fred says.

Drawing on his childhood memories spent exploring the Jurassic Coast and running along the sandy beaches of Dorset, the collection echoes his eponymous studio’s signature style; sculptural furniture, the clever use of tactility and a natural palette of materials that create a sense of playfulness, presence and comfort. “The Everyday Collection was designed for our increasingly versatile living spaces. To be at home almost anywhere. I hope it brings ease, comfort and beauty to everyday life,” Fred explains.

Taking a break from collaborating with local artisans, forging bespoke pieces and reimagining interiors, Fred spoke to us about how he fell in love with interior design and the story behind his timeless, sustainable and versatile furniture range.

Can you tell us how you fell in love with interior and furniture design?
Since I was a child, I’ve always loved making things, taking inspiration from the organic forms and natural materials of the countryside in Dorset where I grew up. Since founding the studio in 2008, I’ve worked to incorporate this inspiration into our designs, to instil a sense of place and connection to nature into our work.

Designing interiors has meant we could experiment with a huge range of materials and processes. We apply the understanding that we have refined over the years to our furniture and vice versa. When composing interiors and the furniture that will sit within them, we think about how a space is used and how the furniture will function so they can work in harmony.

How would you describe your style and what are the philosophies that underpin it?
Before setting up the studio, I studied art, product and furniture design at Kingston University in London. My background is why I established a practice at the intersection of art and design. Drawing on a range of aesthetic and technical disciplines, I wanted to work across scales, from complete interiors to sculptural yet functional furniture.

We pursue this goal through partnerships with the best local artisans who share our commitment to British craft – using local materials, suppliers and manufacturers – and time-tested workmanship boosted by the latest technology.

Your new line, the Everyday Collection, is grounded in nature, both conceptually and materially. Why is it important to bring nature into the home?
Materially, natural palettes support our vision for developing functional designs that are built to last and provide timeless character. Over the past year, we have all gained a greater appreciation and affinity with nature. I wanted the Everyday Collection to capture and truly celebrate this, softening the lines between indoors and out – bringing nature into the home and creating objects that reflect the landscapes we have come to treasure – while being kind to them too.

For the Everyday Collection, the durability and finishes of the materials were important considerations; we wanted to prioritise longevity and comfort. For example, with the Cove series of soft armchairs and sofas, the cushions are made of feather and foam for durability, to help them hold their shape and to provide a soft landing. The fabric is a yarn-dyed, low-pile boucle wool, which is soft in texture, breathable and carries antibacterial properties. We used a natural oil finish for grained solid oak, again for durability but also to support a healthy indoor environment.

The range is inspired by the landscapes in Dorset where you grew up. Are there any particular memories that have influenced the design of these pieces?
Growing up in the countryside meant we spent more time outside than in, playing in the fields, watching the changing of the seasons, spending time on the coast in summer and in winter, enjoying the views and surroundings.

Our furniture and interior designs draw inspiration from the beauty of nature. To develop the rich colour palette for the Everyday Collection, for example, we collaborated with Tibor – a family-owned British textile producer with a 200-year legacy – to create custom yarn. It was dyed in colours drawn from the Dorset landscape – woodland green, midnight blue, straw yellow, clay red and cloud white. We paired the tones with grounding organic materials – natural and black oak, ash and steel. Beyond the colours and materials, this symbolism is carried through the three series in the collection: the circular profiles of the Raindrop tables are inspired by the rippling pools of raindrops; the sinuously formed Cove series unites hard and soft materials and mirrors the lines of the Dorset coastline while the curved lines of the Tide dining tables and chairs echo the undulating tides – soft and inviting.

The Everyday Collection was designed with the environment in mind. Can you tell us a bit more about the bespoke furniture’s eco-credentials?
As a London-based design studio, it was important for us to work with UK-based materials and suppliers for this collection, to limit our carbon impact of production. The timber used in all three series were prime planks of FSC-certified solid oak, which have been finished in natural oil for durability and a healthy indoor environment. As well as production, we use recycled packaging, with every order inspected and handpacked by our studio team in London.

The pieces are designed to be versatile. Do you have any suggestions on how to style these objects in a room and how their purposes might evolve?
The collection is made up of three distinct series:The Raindrop, Cove and Tide series. Each series has been designed to be versatile, meaning they can be easily paired and adapt to any interior while still being functional. They are available as both sets and as individual items.

The Raindrop tables come in six different sizes and three different colourways, inspired by the ripple of a raindrop. The size variations were designed to be flexible – they look as good as stand-alone side coffee or side tables as they do when arranged together in cascading forms.

The Cove series includes armchairs, sofas, slippers and footstools. These pieces bring together hard and soft materials in elegant shapes that will keep you lingering. The modular Cove Sofas and Slippers can be arranged in whatever way suits your space best; two- or three seats, with or without armrests.

The Tide Dining Series offers tables in two shapes with rounded edges that all are scaled to be versatile. The Oval table can host six, whilst the Tide Round Table comfortably seats four.

Finally, what’s your favourite piece from the collection?
This changes daily as we make and fulfil orders. Currently, I’m a big fan of the Raindrops. I have a set at home, they are super versatile. I move them and the objects on them daily, almost like a curated display, with books, flowers, candles, pebbles on top.

Browse the Everyday Collection here.

@fredrigbystudio

fredrigbystudio.com

 Photos by Renée Kemps.