Furniture competition celebrates design talent

A competition set by a leading British furniture manufacturer has tested the skills of young designers and makers.

Hands of Wycombe, which designs and manufactures commercial furniture for the workplace, set the challenge to students on the BA (Hons) in Furniture Design and Making at the Rycotewood Furniture Centre, which is part of City of Oxford College.

Students were tasked with creating furniture pieces that could be used for short meetings between work colleagues. On Thursday (14 April) the students presented their work to a panel of judges, including team members from Hands and specially invited business partners.




The winner of the competition, which is sponsored by The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers, was 22-year-old Sam Bolt.

Sam’s design featured a three tiered, elevated work platform and footstools. Announcing the awards, Rob Hamilton, Head of Business Development at Hands, said: “This was a difficult decision. We were blown away by the interpretations of the brief and the quality of the students’ work. They have all done exceptionally well and look set for successful careers in the industry.


“Sam’s entry was exceptionally strong because of the quality of manufacture and execution of the brief.”

Sam said: “I wanted to create something on more than one level which could help colleagues feel elevated as they worked together. The intention was to provide a space for short conversations, which wasn’t overly comfortable or relaxed. I took inspiration from hard textures in the natural world, like brambles and pebbles, which inspired the form.

“I wanted to create something on more than one level which could help colleagues feel elevated as they worked together”

“The freedom of this project has made it particularly enjoyable. While we were working to a brief, we had real freedom to develop our ideas and translate these into creative solutions. Getting the perspective and input of those working in the industry also made it really valuable.”


Second place was awarded to Charlie Nash, who created a workspace using coppiced wood, sourced from woodland owned by the Michaelis family, who were the founders of Rycotewood.

Charlie said: “I am really interested in using coppiced wood as a sustainable source of creating furniture. It is a means of protecting our valuable woodlands and reducing the possibility of timber shortages in the future.
“This course has been an amazing experience. In fact it has been the best three years of my life. I came having only really put up fencing and pergolas, and now feel confident in applying for jobs in the furniture making industry.”

Third prize went to Rosie Salt and highly commended awards were made to Jan Waterston and Oscar Winter.


Rob added: “Working with students in this way provides us with new sources of inspiration. When you are designing and making in the commercial world, you are often operating within tight parameters. The benefit of this sort of competition is that it encourages people to push the parameters to explore what is possible.

“We are a skilled, craft-based business and developing new talent in this way is essential to protecting the future of the industry. That is why courses such as these are so important and why we are delighted to be involved.”

The judging panel was supported by two invited guests from the design industry; Ian Matthews, Head of Design at Architects CJCT and Bud Goldston-Banning, Creative Director for the International team at Tsunami Axis.


Rycotewood College students will be exhibiting in London at the Furniture Makers Hall on 12th July from 6pm.


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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