Timothy Oulton, founder and creative director of his eponymous brand, is renowned for his elegant furniture creations, which blend traditional craftsmanship with innovative design. Inspired by an exposure to the antiques industry from an early age, Timothy has spearheaded the brand on an international level, supplying his pieces to over 60 countries and opening showrooms worldwide. Timothy speaks with Hospitality Interiors’ Katie Sherry about career turning points, the international nature of being “quintessentially British” and the importance of individuality.
What drew you to the world of design?
When I finished school at 18, I wasn’t very sure what I wanted to do. When I started working for my dad in his antiques business I thought it would just be a stopgap, a year’s worth of life experience before I became a banker of all things. I can’t imagine living that life now. My childhood dream matured, I guess. I’m very grateful for the way things developed, for the creative life I get to lead.
How would you describe the Timothy Oulton signature style, and what has inspired it?
The re-interpretation of timeless, classic designs using a fresh perspective. Bringing our personality to the piece.
[The Timothy Oulton signature style is] driven by an ongoing commitment to traditional hand craftsmanship. Timeless designs are refreshed and reinterpreted with a fresh perspective, resulting in uniquely authentic and distinctive pieces that exude the perfect balance of tradition and modernity.
“Surrounding yourself with design because other people tell you it’s good doesn’t make sense to me. I make pieces I like”
Please describe your design process.
Good design needs to be relevant, to you and to your life. Surrounding yourself with design because other people tell you it’s good doesn’t make sense to me. I make pieces I like – you probably think it’s good design if it’s something you like too.
I do believe in classic design – the kind that stands the test of time. Our pieces will do that, like those older classic designs that have proven their relevance. They are still great today. Ours will still be great in the future. Actually, I hope that most of our pieces actually improve with age.
What have been the key highlights in your career so far?
We had started in the antiques trade, and I truly never thought that we would have a mainstream furniture company that supplies to over 60 countries worldwide and are business partners to many of the furniture greats.
The opening of the new showroom in Gaoming, China, has been my proudest moment – it’s the culmination of years of hard work from me and the great team with me, and truly the start of a new era. The new showroom is designed to be the ideal venue to debut and showcase our repertoire of products and ranges, and also comes complete with a sophisticated kitchen and bar for hosting guests.
What do Timothy Oulton’s recent London showroom openings [at Barker & Stonehouse in Battersea and Harrods in Knightsbridge] bring to the brand?
It’s always great to see that what you do is appreciated in your home country, even more so in London where the retail level is very high.
Opening at Harrods is fantastic – who wouldn’t dream of having a gallery in the world’s most famous department store? We love that people can come to our gallery, feel the quality of our leather and timbers and see the craftsmanship that goes into every piece, and then leave under the iconic lights of the Knightsbridge store.
The aim is to open galleries in the world’s best and most global cities – we’ve already got a good start.
“I’m very grateful for the way things developed, for the creative life I get to lead”
Why has the quintessentially British aesthetic has proved so popular internationally?
I am British. So at least in some sense I guess my work is British. However today, we all travel – we see things from all over the world, and we create an individual style that often rests on pieces from different cultures and periods.
And perhaps that is British also – when you think about it, British heritage is truly international in some respects, as it embodies a curiosity and fascination with different cultures. I love visiting old flea markets around England – the faded grandeur and the quirks of history often provide great starting points for a new idea. But equally, the flea markets of Paris, Europe or the US are just as fascinating.
What makes the Timothy Oulton brand stand out?
What we offer is unique. We dare to go to great lengths to achieve an authenticity which is rare these days. People want furniture that is beautiful but also practical, appropriate for the 21st century. That makes sense.
I wanted to provide something that bridges the gap between these things. Creating something new and useful that honours the past, maybe in design or in materials, but that is relevant for today.
In your opinion, what makes for a successful business?
We often remark that our brand is not for everyone, but curiously that’s just what makes it successful. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are – everywhere there are discerning people who can appreciate what we do. We are successful because those people want furniture that is made with passion for design and detail. Furniture with stories people can relate to. And we have an incredibly hardworking team.