Metro Home – Meet the designer…
Leftfield designer Steuart Padwick talks colour and making pieces for royalty by Oliver Stallood
Steuart Padwick makes furniture fit for a king (or queen). After 30 years in the business, the left field designer not only has an ever popular range at made.com and designs for Conran Shop, Heals and Mothercare, he also recently created a set of nursery furniture for the Royal Family. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be furnishing Prince George and Princess Charlotte’s nursery with a table and chairs from Steuart, after he scored the commission as part of a competition held by The Furniture Makers’ Company. We caught up with him to talk broken bones, mid-life crisis Porsches and designing for royals the first time round.
Tell us something people don’t know about designer Steuart Padwick…
I’m gobsmackingly untidy. And I’ve broken a lot of bones. Also, as a designer I’m still a one-man band – a lot of people don’t realise that. Sometimes they ask where the design team is, but it’s just me.
How did you break the bones?
I fell out of the sky paragliding. I broke my ankle at 90 degrees, got a punctured lung and broke my back in two places. Then, 18 months later, I broke my shoulder, ribs and punctured a lung again in a skiing accident. In fact, I’ve never been in a helicopter without a collapsed lung.
So you’re quite adventurous?
Yes. People think I’m a bit nuts because in February I got my motorbike license. And I’ve just bought a Porsche – the red leather is what did it for me. My normal cars have been VW camper vans and 2CVs. It’s a mid-life crisis; a cliche in every sense.
A lot of your designs are playful – is humour important?
My favourite all-time chair is the RAR Rocker Chair by Eames (left) and that has real humour to it. It’s not co ical, but it makes me smile and gives me pleasure. Some serious pieces are wonderful, but it’s good to have humour in your work.
You put fun details into your designs, such as an arm rest on a sofa to stop people putting a glass on it, having split wine over a friend’s sofa yourself. You seem accident prone…
[Laughs] If you can’t put something on the arm you’re less likely to knock it over. I was holding the glass of wine in my hand and I think I was so p***** I just spilt it. It was a white upholstered chair and red wine.
What tips do you have for buying furniture?
I always hope ciooour will come through as a trend, but people still by beige. I think a lot of people think one colour won’t go with another, but the tricks is if you just buy things you like, be it bad colours or not, it will reflect you and it will work. Don’t be nervous, if you like it, go for it. If it clashes, so what?
What can we get rid of in the world of interiors?
Pastiche and rehash. There is a fine line between this and retro. Things can have a retro feel, but you often get some dreadful cheap version of something with no integrity and no truth. It has to have integrity.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve bout a plot of land in Tufnell Park and I’m building a house. It will use all the available floor space for the building and have a raised sunken garden on the first floor. I moved out of London 13 years ago and I miss it. I also want to increase the range and amount I produce.
GIVING COLOUR TO THE ROYAL NURSERY
You’ve done work for the royal nursery – how do you design a room fit for a young prince and princess?
Just make it full of my designs – but i’m biased! I wanted to do something bright and colourful. In the main, people don’ buy colour. Everything is white, beige, white, white, beige. Children respond to colour, so I’m glad they went for it. The intention is you have a regular chair – I had an insert made so Princess Charlotte could use it straight away. On its front it’s a bench – or it can be a horse, a train, what ever the children want it to be. I didn’t want it to be prescriptive. It rocks, it can be a canoe, they can sit in the middle of the table. I hope it will be used and abused.
Did Kate and William like it?
They sent me a letter. I promised not to quote it, but basically she said she loved the pieces and they are beautifully made. My first commission out of college was a wardrobe as a wedding present for Charles and Diana and they hated it, so it’s ironic that 35 years later, i’ve designed for their grandchildren.