NOVOCASTRIAN is our Supplier Of The Week, 29 February – 6 March 2016; their varied backgrounds have led to carefully considered and honest designs, each featuring subtle details and showcasing a true passion for metal.
We talked with NOVOCASTRIAN co founder, Richy Almond, to find out more about the inner workings of the brand.
First off, how do the three of you know each other?
Mark and I grew up as friends in Newcastle and have long been inspired by each other’s work, actively exploring the realms in which our creative disciplines overlap. There were a few failed projects along the way, but in 2013 the initial concept of NOVOCASTRIAN was born.
Having grown up around a family business in industrial metal fabrication, but preferring to choose a path in architecture, I spent much time deliberating over whether the two pursuits were at all compatible. In the end the solution was blindingly obvious, we’d simply begin designing and making things with metal.
Although we had a good understanding of the fabrication process, neither of us had the required level of hands-on experience in metalwork. We wanted to explore this dialogue between designer and maker and so began to bring my younger brother Dean into our conversations. As a metalworker Dean offers a practical influence during the design phases which allows us to work very efficiently.
You’ve all got creative backgrounds, but not specifically product design. How does this mix of disciplines affect your work?
It’s this very mix which is so crucial to what we do. We are not craftsmen or furniture designers; rather an architect, a graphic designer and an industrially trained metalworker. The result of this melting pot, we feel, is the unexpected, a symbiotic celebration of form and materially. It’s what we hope makes us interesting. We’re lucky as designers in that we have an intimate connection with the manufacturing process, and therefore an understanding of the materials that some designers don’t.
Well, with a 20-year-old family business in industrial steel fabrication and a further heritage in shipbuilding stretching back generations, no other material would feel quite as natural to work with. A carefully curated range of Cumbrian slate also permeates our work, and we’re especially concerned with modest, local materials, reinterpreting them to reveal a beauty previously overlooked.
How does your design process start?
Each of our creations is a blend of form, materiality, and process. One of these components tends to spark an initial idea, and then inevitably takes the lead in that respective piece. We’re contextualists, so a place or an existing object tends to act as the trigger.
Richy, how does your background in architecture and interior design influence the way NOVOCASTRIAN work?
Having worked in the high-end architecture and interior design industry for the past five years I have a pretty good understanding of what my fellow designers felt was missing from the furniture market, often struggling to find the perfect piece of furniture to fit the project.
As an architect, I naturally think spatially first and foremost. I consider each piece of furniture in an imaginary context, rather than as an isolated product. My experience in luxury interior design also gives me a good understanding of the subtle details which elevate a piece of furniture from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
I’m very keen on the holistic approach to design, from the architecture, to the interiors, to the furnishings and the styling. As a result I aim to design pieces which feel comfortable in a wide range of settings, without creating something generic or bland. It’s a really delicate balance to get right – to design a piece which demands attention without screaming, which feels coherent in its setting, yet is also a feature.
As a young brand, what would be your key piece of advice for a new studio?
The most crucially important thing to learn is to say no.
It sounds a little strange, but as as new brand you’ll be asked to undertake work which is way out of your comfort zone. In the natural desperation to bring in projects as a new studio it’s very difficult to turn work down, but often it’s the right decision.
Outline from the beginning the specific kind of work you want to be doing, then go out and actively target it. There are many generalists out there, but few specialists.
What’s coming for NOVOCASTRIAN in 2016/17?
As well as expanding the range, we’re currently well underway on a project focusing on Mark’s graphic and print design expertise, with which we’re taking a little side-step away from furniture. The early results are looking promising and we’re hoping to reveal all later in the year.
Finally, Richy is busy working on the interior design for an exciting new boutique hotel in Copenhagen with his architecture studio LIND + ALMOND. Set to open in late 2016, we’ll be hoping to get one or two NOVOCASTRIAN pieces on display in Scandinavia!
Finally, why does design matter?
Design matters because it offers us an incredible opportunity to craft the world around us. It allows us to place our little stamp in the tapestry of time. Of course it also presents us with immense responsibility, and it’s our duty as designers not to abuse this. At NOVOCASTRIAN, we aim simply to make people’s lives a little more interesting, but in the right hands design elevates humanity.