We’re delighted to hear that our Marylebone Chair designed by Wales and Wales has been awarded a Design Guild Mark by The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers – the Mark is a recognition of design excellence for furniture pieces that are made in volume.
Read more about the Marylebone Chair and the inspiration behind its design here
Benchmark has been working on a collection of furniture for Michaelis Boyd Studio. Dinner for 8, a small collection inspired by the traditional English dining room, was announced during the Fuorisalone Milan design week.
It’s a very new initiative for Michaelis Boyd. Whilst they’ve been creating residential and restaurant projects for years including Byron’s Restaurants and Soho House, this simple, elegant and striking collection of a table, a chair and a light is their first foray into designing and producing their own collection.
Michaelis Boyd came to Benchmark after working with us previously on Byron’s and Sophie’s Steakhouse. We helped them refine and engineer the designs and introduced new materials and manufacturing techniques… all in a very tight timescale! The chairs are made from tubular mild steel with felt upholstery. The table has a rigid ply structure and tubular mild steel legs.
We’re extremely proud of Josh, Joe, Matthew, Philip & Harry who are currently in their first or second year of apprenticeship with Benchmark. They have just completed an assignment to design and make a toolbox to house their own collection of tools. We’re really impressed by the craftsmanship and design skills that they have displayed:
Read more about our Apprenticeship Scheme in our previous blog
Next week the sixth annual National Apprenticeship Week will take place. Here at Benchmark we’re passionate about the benefits of apprenticeship schemes so we’re delighted to hear that it looks set to be the biggest and best yet, with hundreds of events expected to take place across England.
Our apprenticeship scheme is the cornerstone of our business and is fundamental to us maintaining our competitive advantage. Excellence in design, and craftsmanship form the foundation of Benchmark yet when the business was founded 25 years ago, by Sean Sutcliffe and Terence Conran, there was no local skill base in woodworking.
Our award-winning apprenticeship scheme has played a key role in the development of a highly skilled and reliable local workforce. Replicating a traditional apprenticeship in cabinet making, the scheme took on its first apprentice in 1987 and since then over 50 apprentices from the local community have qualified in cabinet making and wood machining, as well as accountancy and administrative qualifications. The apprentices learn their skills and techniques on the job and with day release at college. More than half of the apprentices are still with the company and with further training and mentoring have gone on to senior positions including workshop and production management.
Retention of trained and motivated staff is one of the main benefits we enjoy from apprenticeships. As our apprentices qualify and gain more experience and training, there are opportunities for them to progress to senior positions such as workshop foreman, supervisor and even director. Steven Huzzey who joined as an apprentice aged 15, has been with the company for nearly twenty years and is now a director.
The ecological value of apprenticeships in terms of human sustainability is also important. We are training local youngsters in a highly skilled profession that is on their doorstep. They can live and work close to home reducing the need for expensive and lengthy travel time allowing them to spend time with their families rather than sitting on a train or in traffic. They are also spending their money in local shops and with local businesses.
Our message to other British Manufacturers is that apprenticeships are not just good for business but essential. Currently small and medium-sized companies can benefit from a £1,500 Apprenticeship Grant for Employers when they recruit their first apprentice, so there has never been a better time to get involved.
Here at Benchmark we are passionate about sustainability and always have been. We believe in making furniture with a long life, made from wood that is harvested from sustainably managed forests. Our Wales and Wales range of Street and Park furniture is no exception. We are so confident in our craftsmanship and materials that we are now offering a 5 year guarantee – not something that you often come across in the world of public seating where our Northern European climate puts huge demands on durability.
We were recently taking a look at some past Wales & Wales projects and thought these pictures of our Norfolk Bench were worth sharing as a testament to the longevity of the range
The Norfolk Bench was originally designed at the turn of the millennium for Snape Maltings as part of a programme of additions by Penoyre and Prasad Architects to the world famous concert hall. The 15 metre seat overlooks the convoluted progress of the River Ore draining through marshes to the sea about a kilometre away to the east. The only significant man-made object between it and the coast is Barbara Hepworth’s last and unfinished sculpture, ‘The Family of Man’, which while adding to the drama of the landscape, certainly does not afford any protection from the extreme North Sea climate.
The design brief was careful and constrained. The principal function of the seating was to accommodate concertgoers before, during and after facing the music. More than a degree of comfort was therefore desirable. The seating utilises the maximum available length of the terrace and incorporates linking table arms, not only providing generous surfaces for soothing libations, but a means of support once they have been consumed!
The visual quality of the seat is one of robust refinement – appropriate to the place and its use. Subtly tapered cast aluminium legs support sections of oak as horizontal as the East Anglian landscape. Back slats of hefty section are moulded to form a sophisticated profile and perfect ergonomic support all but unknown in most outdoor furniture.
The site may be frequented by the genteel and well heeled, but it is an open, public space. The seat has now been in service for thirteen years and despite the inevitable depredations of time is still providing as solid, though perhaps more silvery service, as when first delivered. Longevity of design is assured through the quietly considered proportion of detail and the whole, balancing strength, finesse and comfort. Longevity of construction is achieved through rigorous craftsmanship and the choice of first class materials, fixings and finishes.
Since that first installation, the design has been continually developed and is now a comprehensive range of bench seating, including backless benches and wall seats, all with various back and arm configurations which can be seen here.
We’ve talked in previous blogs about our involvement in this great project which combined design and sustainability and involved RCA students designing and making a functional chair using American Hardwood here at Benchmark’s workshops. The really exciting part of the project, from our perspective, was that the production of each chair was carefully monitored to prepare an accurate life cycle impact report to inform the students of the full cradle-to-grave environmental impact of their design and material choices.
Sean Sutcliffe, Benchmark’s MD, will be representing the Out of the Woods team at a Pecha Kucha tonight. He will share stories about the week’s camping experience at Benchmark and the invaluable experience the students took away with them.
Place: Berns Salonger, Stockholm, Sweden
Date: 5 February, 2013
Time: Doors open at 19.30, talks start 20.20 sharp,
Party & DJ:s ’til late
List of Speakers
Mark Dytham, Klein Dytham Architecture (UK)
Mark van Iterson , Manager Global Heineken Design & Concept (NL)
Alisa Andrasek , ARCHITECT BIOTHING (UK)
Ross Lovegrove, designer (UK)
Sebastian Jansson, DESIGNER Beacon (FI)
Stina Nilimaa Wickström, Design director Volvo Construction Equipment (SE)
Mette Rode Sundström, CEO La uritz.com (DK)
David Wiberg, artist, actor (SE)
Sean Sutcliffe, designer Benchmark (UK)
Emili Padrós & Ana Mir, Industrial designers Emiliana Design (ES)
Daniel Ayuso, Creat ive Director Clase Bcn (ES)
Anton Alvarez, DESIGNER (SE)
PechaKucha nights, the presentation format where the speakers show 20 images, each for 20 seconds, are informal and fun gatherings where creative people get together and share their ideas. PechaKucha was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture and now exists in 530 cities throughout the world.
If you’d like to find out more about the Out of the Woods project there is a book written by Ruth Slavid Out of the Woods: The Creation of 12 Hardwood Chairs which tells the fascinating story of this project with detailed design information for each chair as well as the life cycle impact results. The publication is available at the Out of the Woods exhibition at the Stockholm Furniture Fair (ÖH:18 and ÖH:05) and can be ordered free of charge at www.americanhardwood.org
Out of the Woods on your iPad – The results of the project are available as a free iPad App on iTunes. The iPad App tells the pictorial, fictional, scientific and factual stories of the 12 chairs produced for Out of the Woods. It can be downloaded free of charge from the app store here orby searching ‘Out of the Woods’ in the App store.
We’re delighted to introduce a new chair to our Furniture range – The Marylebone. This elegant and beautifully proportioned chair is designed by Wales & Wales, who have also designed our outdoor public seating collection. We asked Rod Wales to write a piece about his chair and here’s what he said about his journey down the Marylebone Road….
As with much of our work, the design has its origins in bespoke projects, but as when using the eponymous Road, the journey to the current destination hasn’t been that quick.
The chair is an essay in contemporary solid wood construction. It is unusual, if not unique, in having as a major feature a solid wood seat directly jointed to the legs and making no reference whatsoever to the Windsor chair tradition. This is not a country cousin of a chair, though it could hold its own in any floral-swagged or rush-strewn interior. It is a deliberately modernist, logical and reductive take on the All Wooden Chair. It also happens to be a good looking, good feeling piece of kit. Sharp on the eye, feel good to the rest of the body, and in particular, your back and your rear end.
It makes a visual virtue of structural necessity through its exceptionally precise expressed jointing front and back. Though no song-and-dance, these not-so-little details are poetry of manufacturing craft. The solid panel of the seat gently curves – carved to reduce weight at the same time as increasing comfort. The composition is completed by its downward curve reflecting the uplifted lower edge of the back support above. More than the sum of its parts – as any good chair should be, to look at and to use, it is an altogether uplifting experience.
So why did he call it the Marylebone? Rod’s answer made us smile. ”We originally made it for a client who had a place there. We could probably have done better for a name, but I expect we had to think of something quickly. Though it’s a bit of a mouthful, it is a ‘good’ area. Could be worse. Could have been Penge or Tooting or Mudchute!”
The Marylebone chair is available in oak or ash and has a retail price of £575 inclusive of VAT. See our website for further details.
Our showroom will be closed from 12pm on Friday 21st December and will re-open on Wednesday 2nd January.
Wishing you a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2013.
Over the last few months, our furniture has been receiving lots of interest in Singapore as a result of a collaboration with Pomolo Home store. Founded by Raymond and Karina Quah, Pomolo is all about “good design, made well” – classic and contemporary brands sourced from all over the world.
Here’s a few shots of our furniture in situ in Singapore homes: