Bethan Gray on her first living and bedroom ranges

The award-winning British designer’s instinct for marrying contemporary shapes with artisanal techniques is on full show

bethan gray ripple furniture
Julian Abrams

‘I started both collections three years ago, but because of everything it’s taken longer,’ Bethan Gray tells me from her studio. It might be a familiar story for the design industry by now, but delays have done little to dampen the British designer’s enthusiasm for the launch of her first ever collections of living and bedroom furniture, which include fresh iterations of her ‘Nizwa’ and ‘Dhow’ patterns as well as new upholstered pieces. She tells all...

Tell us about your new living lines, ‘Ripple’ and ‘Shell’...

I’ve wanted to design my own range of seating since I launched the studio in 2010. The ‘Ripple’ sofa, my first modular piece, is based on my own way of living – I love huge sofas where everyone can come together, though I’m always fighting with my son over who gets the cosy corner!

The two collections are connected by an undulating ripple – a reference to scallop shells. A lot of my inspiration comes from the natural world. I've worked with shells in the past for the ‘Nature Squared’ collection and I think they’re amazing.

My favourite piece is probably the ‘Shell’ armchair. It's a swivel and makes a great combination with the cocktail cabinet. Mine’s a margarita...

bethan gray furniture
Julian Abrams

What were the challenges of introducing upholstery?

We produced the pieces with Coakley & Cox in Norfolk. Working with craftspeople is a big part of what I enjoy about designing, and it’s all about knowing how far you can push things. It took two people to upholster the three-seater sofa in this huge piece of heavy leather, but it’s so worth it for that seamless end result. Those little details are important to me.

We’ve selected some fabrics, but we use customers’ choices too. The alpaca bouclé from Rosemary Hallgarten is the softest I’ve ever felt. The frame will outlive the fabric – that’ll last forever. Coakley & Cox reupholster a lot in their workshop so there’s a real sense of longevity.

Why did you decide to launch a bedroom range?

I knew I wanted to expand into different rooms and I’d had a lot of requests for bedroom furniture. It can be quite complicated, as standard sizing varies between markets, but this is all made to order by Shamsian in Oman, whose workshop is set up for making bespoke pieces. We can do it in a relatively short period of time, six to eight weeks, which is very unusual for the furniture world.

bethan gray furniture
Julian Abrams

They introduced me to these incredible metal marquetry techniques. My ‘Nizwa’ pattern is inspired by the castellations of a fort there, while the ‘Dhow’ traces the undulating lines of a sailing vessel. It’s incredibly intricate work. Customising is really important, and we’re not prescriptive in the way that we expect people to use these pieces. We’ve got 48 different variations that you can order the cabinets in, including three metal finishes and new colours including ultramarine blue.

It’s beautiful, but it must be useful, too – adjustable feet, cable management. I want people to really live with these designs.

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