Designer Q&A: Craftwood

This week we stopped by to meet the design team at Craftwood, Designer Managers Kyle Anderson & Dexter Grimaldi joined Designer Tom Johnson explained their design process and talked us through some of their most exciting case studies.

Craftwood’s production office is located at their head quarters in Christchurch with a dedicated sales team is based in Norfolk.  With a workforce of nearly 40 employees, Craftwood is steadily growing their domestic and contract bespoke banquet seating businesses.  Craftwood supply several recognisable restaurant chains; The Ivy, Jamie’s Italian, Gordan Ramsey’s restaurant chains, Nandos and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

How long have you been working at Craftwood?


(Tom) I studied Product Design at Bournemouth University, I have always been keen to follow my Dad into the furniture industry so I accepted the offer to join Craftwood for a 13 month placement as part of my degree course.  I took their offer up straight away as I knew this was something that I wanted to pursue.  During my placement year I learnt skills including new CAD software and production methods, as well as gaining an understanding of the materials used and the upholstery techniques.   Once my placement finished I went back to uni and used my news skills as part of my final degree work which was a fabric rooftop box (the seamstresses even helped me with the sewing.)  I was then invited by Dexter and Kyle to return to work in the team once I had graduated, it would have been silly to have missed the chance to return to the team.  I have now been here for 2 years.

(Dexter) I have a similar story to Tom, I was a placement student from Bournemouth University and was invited to return once I had completed my degree.  I graduated a year before Tom, so have now been here for 3 years.  I wanted to work in furniture design and Craftwood was ideal for the direction I wanted to take.

(Kyle) I also have a similar story, returning to Craftwood after completing my placement year and my degree, I have been here for 4 years now.  There is a longstanding relationship between our business and Bournemouth University which we are keen to continue to nurture.

Could you tell us a bit more about your recent project for The Ivy?

We have been working with designers to supply The Ivy for some time, we are thrilled to work with such a well known brand.  The Ivy specify several bespoke details, deep buttoning and fluted backs and elements of solid oak detailing and capping which is a great challenge.  A traditional and intricate design, but very stylish.  The Ivy have a set scheme design, this is great for us as we have a clear overview of the project and the detailing which is then used in several locations.   This allows us to design production efficiencies including creating templates for the upholstery, this is in contrast to other clients such as Nando’s where the specification varies widely between the different locations.


National Gallery is another project which required oak seats which we were very pleased with.

Nando’s sounds like a very contrasting client?


Nando’s requirements are never the same for different locations.  We often have to work with complimentary suppliers, where possible these businesses are local to us, for example we have out sourced bespoke metal work which we then upholster.  On occasion we work with structures which have been provided by another supplier, on these occasions one of our team will visit the site to template the piece, ensuring that our upholstery fits perfectly.   Each element of seating is completely tailored to the clients requirements.


For Nando’s Teeside we worked closely with Stack Architects.

When you are working on a bespoke piece what is provided by your client?

It can really vary!  If we are working with a domestic client we can be given a hand sketch of what they are looking for.  Other clients provide full in depth drawings, we can then advise on feasibility and use our expertise to find a solution that they are happy to move forward with.  A general assembly is sometimes provided, this gives us a plan layout of the space which we then work from to create drawings of the seating, our knowledgeable sales team are a crucial part of this process as they assist the client in in deciding on the detailing they require to meet their budget requirements.

It is clear that Craftwood nurtures it’s designers as you all returned after completing your degrees, does this ethos run throughout the business?


Absolutely. All of the team in each departments are trained in every aspect of the process, for example in upholstery new members of the team start in prep and then move through into the upholstery department where they are trained in the intricacies of working in leather and the full range of fabrics that we use.  There is a constant process of training and cross-skilling.

Contact Craftwood.


About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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