What do you do if you love old objects, but also love designing new things? With all of the ways you can get into furniture design, we've found Timothy Oulton's career path—not to mention his designs—inspiring and unusual. The Manchester native was born to a father in the UK antiques business, which Tim joined at the age of 18. He spent five years selling restored antiques in the United States, then returned to the UK to expand his father's business locally. So far, so normal.
It was after officially taking the family business over that Tim came to what must have been a difficult realization, and subsequently switched things up. Although he had successfully achieved sales of over one million pounds in the first year of their UK expansion alone, "Tim intelligently decided that there was no long-term future in the antiques business," reads his bio, "and began instead to focus on reinventing antiques."
The result was Oulton's eponymous brand, which covers upholstered furniture, case goods, steamer trunks, lighting, and accessories, all inspired by the past and with the same emphasis on craftsmanship that was once pervasive among builders, but all with a modern twist. Thus we have what appear to be vintage steamer trunks that have been transformed into bookshelves, bureaus or desks updated with modern-day drawer slides:
A stack of what appears to be old suitcases that is in fact a series of drawers;
Storage objects and furniture apparently created from World War II bombers.
On that latter note, we posted about his Aviator Wing Desk for Restoration Hardware here, back when it was first released; seen at the top of this entry is his latest for RH, the massive Blackhawk Secretary Trunk, handmade from polished aluminum and hardwood.
You could spend hours perusing the deep product line-up on Oulton's site, and you'll undoubtedly be struck by how...authentic these modern-day creations look. Part of that is a result of Oulton's background in antiques, which has made him a bit of a stickler for detail and craftsmanship. "Being surrounded by great, handcrafted products most of my life has definitely had an impact on how I now design and create my furniture," he writes.
Each Timothy Oulton piece is handcrafted by a dedicated team of craftsman using only the best techniques and fabrications—from hand carving and traditional joinery to unique hand finishing processes for leather, these time-honoured techniques breathe new life into a range of authentic, raw materials.
"Our goal is to make the best product on the planet... whatever we do, it has to be the best in class, and we do it to the best of our ability," says Tim. Whether it requires sanding down a piece of salvaged wood by hand, or hammering in 700 brass nails one by one, each product is painstakingly created over an extraordinary amount of time in the pursuit of Oulton's high standards.
Irregularities are preserved and individuality is celebrated, and no two pieces are ever alike. Reclaimed timbers and found objects are lovingly restored by hand, while vintage-inspired creations are organically scuffed up just so, resulting in a collection that champions individuality, functionality, and form.