Designer Tom Raffield has honed his skills in steam-bending wood and now creates extraordinary pieces for the home that are inspired by the Cornish landscape where his workshop is based.

Since graduating with a degree in 3D Sustainability & Design, designer Tom Raffield has honed his craft in steam bending wood, an ancient skill, and remastered it in innovative and contemporary ways for these modern times using sustainable materials to create beautiful interior items, handcrafted in Falmouth.

Great British Life: Tom Raffield became obsessed with the process of steam bending wood Image: Kirstin PriskTom Raffield became obsessed with the process of steam bending wood Image: Kirstin Prisk

Tom and his team of master craftspeople are driven by a shared passion for handcrafted design, long lasting quality and an understanding of sustainable practices as he explains: ‘I was obsessed with developing and understanding the process. It allowed me to create intricate curves and twists, mimicking organic shapes and celebrating nature. I could see a really interesting contradiction between these shapes and the strength and functionality of the wood being used in homeware. I started off with a Chaise Longue No. 4 and then explored other pieces of furniture and lighting. All whilst ensuring the design and production process was sustainable and caused as little environmental impact as possible along the way.’

Tom relocated his business to Falmouth in 2019 to create a larger and more efficient space for the design studio and workshop. His purpose-built space is a BREEAM excellent rated building (expected to reduce carbon emissions by 33%) which provides economic, environmental and social benefits. Renewable energy is sourced from solar panels and any additional energy comes from a 100% renewable supplier who invest in future technologies.

‘It’s been great to return to the same area where I studied at art college, as inspiring now as it was then. We have a dedicated design and prototyping space where myself and a few team members will be problem-solving and designing through to making. We’re not far from the sea, several beaches, gardens and woodland walks, and fully appreciate how lucky we are to have such beautiful, natural spaces and inspiration on our doorstep every day’, enthuses Tom.

Sustainable interiors is a trend here to stay, people are becoming far more eco-conscious and care about the items purchased for their homes. From beautiful kaleidoscope lighting including floor and table lamps, pendants, and chandeliers to sophisticated shelving, simple yet striking furniture and gorgeous plant pots and mirrors – every item demonstrates quality craftmanship, designed to last a lifetime. Part of the brand’s DNA is within looking at every part and process for each design to consider the sustainability credentials. Tom admits that it’s not the easiest route to take when creating homeware, but the one he and the team feel strongest about.

Great British Life: The Arbor armchair and May coffee table Image: Kirstin PriskThe Arbor armchair and May coffee table Image: Kirstin Prisk

Passionate about pushing the boundaries and exploring the latest techniques to pioneer innovative products and sustainable practices, Tom’s products have been designed to create a new way of living. He explains: ‘I create pieces that celebrate nature and bring the outside in; in terms of aesthetic, I am inspired by organic shapes, natural forms and more recently, the relationship between wood and other natural materials like ceramics.’

Tom’s passion for designing and creating sustainable interiors stems from the need for better quality, sustainable homeware, to be cherished and passed down through generations and the team are constantly forging new and greener ways to run the business.

Tom smiles: ‘We started this long before the word ‘sustainability’ was fashionable. For us, this is a calling and not just a business. A calling that we put our heart and soul into - and have done now for over a decade. As a team, we strive to inspire a like-minded conscious community and have a positive impact helping to create a world where people and nature thrive for future generations to enjoy.’

Growing up in the southwest, Tom draws inspiration from nature and the surrounding environment that he calls home.

‘Cornish influences are in every design, it is such a natural part of the design process we go through; the twists, the bends and curves always have some sort of connection to the landscapes, objects and areas I’ve explored in Cornwall.’

Great British Life: Tom likes to design through making, often experimenting in his workshop Image: Kirstin PriskTom likes to design through making, often experimenting in his workshop Image: Kirstin Prisk

His sustainable designs have certainly captured the market and have been included by John Lewis as part of their lighting collection. Tom shares: ‘It’s great to know our iconic curves and ethos have grabbed people’s attention. We also pride ourselves on giving amazing customer service, whether it’s our helpful team giving advice on the phone or our lifetime guarantee; customers feel confident in their purchase and are delighted when it arrives, knowing it has been handmade in our workshop especially for them.’

Tom likes to design through making, meaning that he will often experiment with shapes and forms using scraps of wood, card and various other bits he can find in the workshop. He explains further: ‘These will become small maquettes to show the wider design team and other members for feedback. They are great at envisaging what things will look like in people’s homes and interiors. We’ll then discuss scale, use, and where it sits within the range before we take it to the next stage.’

Tom’s own home is kitted out with some of his favourite pieces including the No. 1 Pendants, Artus Table Lights and Green Range Planters.

‘I often use my own space to test designs, I’m lucky to have a small workshop area and so this gives me the freedom to create concepts at any time of day! I have a few of our Tilow Wall Lights, I love the larger scale of the arch and the ambience they bring to longer rooms, instead of pendants. Alongside this I have some furniture and of course, several Beeble Pouffes, they are really useful and can be moved from room-to-room.’

Great British Life: The Shore pendant light from the Comber range Image: Kirstin PriskThe Shore pendant light from the Comber range Image: Kirstin Prisk

With the pull of living in a more sustainable environment leading the way, the collection is set to grow; Tom is keen to design more furniture as well as continuing to widen the categories, working with like-minded partners where the design requires.

‘I do love to design furniture, so I am often drawn to this category - I’d particularly love to create another showstopping piece, something like our Amble Seat, perhaps an iconic lounge chair. There are some exciting designs on the horizon, that’s all I can say for now!’