Design Field Notes

Design Field Notes

Design Field Notes

Places & Faces

In His Words: Q&A with Timothy Oulton

Australia was lucky enough to have a rare visit from Timothy Oulton last week to launch his new season collection, inspired by historical heroes, relaxed coastal living and classic styles of a bygone era. With an intriguing history with antiques and a respect for the old, Timothy Oulton as a brand has become synonymous with daring authenticity and unparalleled craftsmanship.

Field Notes sat down with the designer to hear all about the Timothy Oulton creative process, on becoming a brand and his favourite pieces from the new collections.

On the creative process…

We don’t think about shape first because shapes are fairly generic; a sofa is a sofa. We start with the raw materials first such old wood from England, reclaimed timber from Chinese junk boats, beautiful linens, heavy distressed leathers and then go to the shapes. Then we say at the end, will it sell? And in a funny kind of way, it all does.

On becoming a brand…

We started with the global brand about two years ago. Before we were just a manufacturer because I didn’t want a brand until I thought we were good enough. So it really took us ten years to learn our trade in China and make high quality products. I don’t see the point of changing around what we do. People say you shouldn’t have black walls. Why not? I like black walls, it looks great.

On masculine vs feminine design…

Many people say our pieces are too masculine. I had no sisters, I went to an all boys school, my mother never spoke – what did people think was going to happen? You can’t change your DNA. On the new Coastal Drift and Age of Elegance collections, these were two areas we felt we were missing, that really casual lifestyle and the slightly more elegant – but our version of elegant. The Castaway Console is practical – it opens at the top, it’s still got the driftwood on the side, it’s still got the spitfire but its more casual. The Bombee Dresser is a classic piece, everyone loves the shape; a typical feminine shape. We wrap it in leather and it’s ours. There are no handles, it’s push and glide.

On scale and the Australian lifestyle…

We do get criticized for being too big.  You almost need a crane to lift our chandeliers but I don’t see the point in changing that. I think Ralph probably taught me that the best, everything he does has scale, even the small stuff, even cigar boxes are beefed up. I think that’s a great design influence.

Your homes in Australia can handle the bigger pieces and that is a huge advantage for our collection. When I drive through Hong Kong, most of our table lamps wouldn’t fit in their lift, even the rich guys.

On his own home…

I have a mix of antiques and my own products at home. I’ll always be inspired by antiques. I live in China and have a house in Barbados. I lead with the chandeliers because it’s all open and as I pull up at night, all the chandeliers are sparkling. That sets the tone. I have the Axel Dining Table with reclaimed timber but mostly antiques.

The new season Timothy Oulton collection features four innovative collections; Jet, Adventurer, Age of Elegance and Coastal Drift. Available exclusively at Coco Republic, browse the collection online or visit your nearest showroom. Read more about the launch events which included exclusive private dinners and cocktail soirees in Sydney and Melbourne here.

Anthony Spon-Smith