Furniture designer Samuel Chan is the founder of Joined + Jointed as well as his own eponymous studio, Channels. In a career spanning 30 years he has received numerous awards, including British Furniture Designer of the Year, and an unprecedented number of coveted Design Guild Marks. He gives us his perspective on what’s important in design.
As a child I was curious about how objects are put together. And I wanted to be an inventor. The person who first suggested design as a career for me was my woodworking master at school – Mr Knock. He was a good teacher and a great mentor. I recently named two of my works ‘Mr Knock’ in his honour.
All your work is made in wood. Why? It’s what I started out using in the school workshop, and it’s stayed with me even when my peers were into plastics. I’m still fascinated by the fact that wood is a living, breathing material that human beings have worked with for so long, but it retains the potential for new expression.
Do you have a design signature? Other people are often better at recognising a ‘signature’ than oneself. Very early in my career, a journalist said my designs have ‘an uncommon logic’. More recently, the design historians Charlotte and Peter Fiell described my work as embodying ‘design purity and craft principles’. In both cases, they pretty much summed up what I aspire to.
Why did you set up Joined + Jointed when you already had your own design studio, Channels? A big part of Channels is private commissions – designing and making one-off works for people who want to create unique furniture that expresses their interests, style or personality. In many cases these pieces stay in the family and get passed on. As a complement to the bespoke emphasis of Channels, I set up Joined + Jointed to offer a standard collection of well-designed, well-made furniture for customers who appreciate quality but want an accessible price tag. As a design company with its own manufacturing, I was confident we could achieve that.
How would you advise property owners looking to buy furniture for the long term? Don’t be dazzled by trends. Buy less and buy better. When my wife and I were first married, our first home was spartan for years because we couldn’t afford the furniture we really wanted. That was before I was in a position to design and make my own! With the Joined + Jointed collection my ambition was to offer furniture you’d want to keep forever at a reasonable price, and I think we’ve done that.
What is good design to you? For me, it’s a convergence of mind and heart. A good design has to make sense to you when you first see it, and have the ability to inspire affection in you over the years.
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