British furniture brand PINCH was founded in 2004 by husband and wife team, designer Russell Pinch and creative director Oona Bannon. They design furniture and lighting with an understated elegance that makes each piece perfect for passing down to the next generation. The duo splits their time between their south London studio and their two shops in the Pimlico Road district where they sell their products. In this month’s Where I Work, co-founder Russell Pinch takes us inside the company’s design world to see how and where it all happens.
What’s your studio/work environment like?
It depends on who you ask – I think it’s creative, but others might think it’s a wee bit messy. There are always a lot of ongoing projects with samples and prototypes half built or being adjusted. To the untrained eye it looks like a collection of Frankenstein models, legs missing – half finished starting points of ideas, long forgotten though to me and my team they are crucial markers of where we are with a project.
How is your space organized/arranged?
There are 2 business locations I work from – the studio in south London and the shops on the Pimlico Road. The studio is the main design office and my real home. It’s a 19th century railway shed with 30’ high tongue and groove timber ceilings, stained glass windows, and is a beast to heat – or cool. We built a mezzanine with a cast iron spiral staircase in the corner and this is where the design and procurement team sits in one long row. It’s more like the helm of a ship than an office and the Victorian era feeling is exaggerated by wood burning stoves providing smoky smelling heating in the winter.
How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?
Oona and I started working from our Brixton home 15 years ago where we turned the house into a showroom and everything was for sale. That worked really well up to a point. It gave a really intimate and fully domestic way of viewing the furniture but it had its downsides when people came visiting from all over the world walking up at strange hours and buying our dining table and sofa literally from under our feet. We moved into the studio about 10 years ago. About 2 years ago we opened our first store and this year our second.
If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?
I wish the real estate in London would allow us to have the design studio and shops all combined. Alas we need the shops to be where the customers will visit – in a smart part of London and we need space and to be able to create noise and mess in the workshop / studio which can only be afforded south of the river.
Is there an office pet?
There will be shortly, Joni is only 8 weeks old but will be a permanent shadow to myself or Oona between all our spaces.
Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?
Oh yes, music is hugely important, something to retreat to but also something to change up the studio vibes when needed. The week starts off quite somber with some Nils Frahm, it starts to get a bit more Velvet Underground midweek, and then ends up with Moderat and Jon Hopkins Friday afternoon with the volume following suit.
How do you record ideas?
I have a sketchbook which I try to keep ideas in but to be honest it ends up with any corner of paper as a starting point. I use a combination of Tombow pens, which are like drawing with watercolors and a very specific fine line black pen.
Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?
No, we are not really into Pinterest or magazine tears (though Oona sometimes has weird images she collects that convey a feeling rather than a product characteristic. You might argue the whole studio is a mood board, we do have photos of exhibitions we’ve seen, graphics we love mixed with bits of found stone, shells, strange salvaged materials from all over the place. Somehow all these things converge and inspire from within, subliminally and other times directly.
What is your typical work style?
The work is varied, we’re running a mid-sized business that requires a pretty scheduled approach for all things “business”. Creative is where it goes more off piste.
There is a sadly predictable cycle that we have to go through. I usually need to take myself away to start on sketches – headphones on at the kitchen table. Day 1, I think I have no more ideas and just can’t do this anymore. Oona raises her eyes to the sky (she’s heard this all before for 20 years) and patiently suggests I keep going. Day 2, there’s a flurry of inspiration and I am itching to get straight back into the workshop and start model making to see if any of the ideas fly. Then there days and days of refining and restarting.
What follows is a much more structured cycle of commercialization involving lots of the team following the project through its development to production.
What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?
Always the same as above, sketch followed by a huge amount of modeling all at 1:5 with full-size details and material exploration. We try and make a full-size model in the workshop before even starting to talk to our workshops about prototyping which is multiple in its phases.
What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?
There are a lot of found objects – I have parts of wooden model airplanes on my desk, a parrot mask, some French and Dutch graphic signs, countless models, molds, samples bits of rock, and strange shells. It is organized chaos. Everything has meaning to me.
Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?
Yes in the model making workshop we have most small-scale machinery, from bandsaws to bobbin and disk sanders and a lathe. We all spend a lot of time in the workshop.
What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?
A 10 A Scalpel – I think I’ve been using this since I was about 14 years old and have been making models ever since. It has to be very, very sharp and there’s not much I can’t sculpt with it.
Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.
Just 3 key things: iPhone 10XS, mostly for photos and music; Bose speakers (the music again) & Bose headphones because they’re so good; and a very powerful MacBook Pro – I’m not very patient so I need my machine to be efficient.
What design software do you use, if any, and for what?
CAD Vectorworks, all things model making related, most of the Adobe suite for playing with color.
However when it comes to a beautiful curve I have to draw it full size in pencil as I think there is a difference and the hand drawn line still has its place.
What’s on your desk right now?
Pots of paint, color mixing, and model painting. Receipts I should be filing.
Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?
They are all our children and you just can’t have a favorite. I’m usually in love with the project I’m working on at that moment in time, which as I write is a four poster version of our latest bed – Christo. However, once it’s out there it’s old news creatively and I’m onto the next.
Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?
It’s simpler to ask do we have anything in our house not designed by us. From the sofa we sit on to the dining table we gather around, to the bed we sleep in. It’s important to actually use the furniture we design and test it on children and shortly on dogs.