Ahead of taking her collection to the States, British Furniture Designer Lucy Turner gives Rachel Mead a unique glimpse into her workshop and natural working environment.

‘Dress warmly’ texted Lucy, ‘we’ll be walking through the woodland along an old railway line – and don’t expect a picture postcard spot, it’s a very “working” environment!’ Never one to shy away from

donning my hiking boots and woolly hat, I set off to meet the award-winning furniture designer at her home in a small hamlet in North Somerset and was immediately greeted with a warm welcome. ‘I thought we’d go for a walk down the riverbank first, then I’ll show you my workshop.’

Great British Life: Lucy rears orphaned lambs from the Somerset Levels alongside keeping chickens and growing an abundanceLucy rears orphaned lambs from the Somerset Levels alongside keeping chickens and growing an abundance (Image: Adam Turner @ act_ecological)

Within seconds of entering her four acre small-holding, we are surrounded by five very over-friendly sheep. They are hot on our heels as we walk along the long strip of land, ‘they’re after biscuits, though they like a nibble on clothes and boots too.’ Lucy isn’t wrong, ‘Boujee’ is happily tugging away on my laces as we unhook the next gate which leads us away from her home and on towards the River Cam. The width of Lucy’s land is that akin to a double stretch of train track and is flanked with ancient woodland. ‘The owner before us bought this land and turned it back to grassland which I’m so thankful for, our kids just love it along here.’ Lucy’s enthusiasm for her surroundings is bountiful and as she starts to tell me about the history of the redundant ‘Camerton Branch’ railway line.

we suddenly stall our conversation mid-flow as we spot a couple of deer ahead. ‘There’s aways something to see along here,’ whispers Lucy. ‘We have a resident kingfisher, owls, ad you can see where the badgers have been digging at the ground.It’s an incredible spot.

My Dad and the kids like to try their hand at fishing here too – not that they’ve caught anything yet!’

Great British Life: Wild Oats headboardWild Oats headboard (Image: James Lawley)

As the deer leap through the water and up across the fields, we stop at a clearing which leads down to the river. Lucy points to a small wooden fishing platform, which, as the morning sun is just starting to filter t through the tree canopy, makes the perfect place for us to sit. Lucy reaches into her rucksack and produces a cafetiere of fresh coffee, a glass bottle of milk, two mugs and those biscuits which the sheep were craving. ‘It’s really important to me that we have the right work and home life balance. I want to enjoy my kids and I really want them to be kids. There are so many people who put so much focus on their dreams rather than what’s going on right here and now. My husband Guy and I want our children to be outside as much as possible, we’re keen for them to learn where food comes from, and subsequently we manage to fit our work around them to try and create a healthy balance.’ Lucy explains how she often gets up at 5am to gain a few extra hours in her workshop before prepping that evening’s dinner and taking the children to school. ‘I’ll then get some good practical working under my belt whilstthe children are at school, and then sometimes I’ll come back out to the workshop again in the evening,I’m so lucky that I have a workshop right here on my doorstep now, it wasn’t always this way…’

Lucy’s career in marquetry all began after she was encouraged to go to university by her Design Craft tutor, Ella Machnik from Bath College. ‘I honestly didn’t know that you could do a degree in “making things”. If it wasn’t for Ella encouraging me to do 3D Design at the University of Plymouth I wouldn’t be where I am today.’ After graduating, Lucy had taken a year out before taking a job as a postwoman to save money. ‘It was then that an opportunity arose for me to apply for the Next Move Scheme, which gave me a small amount of funding to develop my own design work whilst having access to design tools and equipment at Falmouth University. The ethos behind the scheme was to encourage designers to do exhibitions and put yourselves out there, it was a huge learning curve – but vital, as it was during this time that I started to understand that my designs needed to be commercially viable.’

Great British Life: Lucy with her 'Oman Hills’ sideboard.Lucy with her 'Oman Hills’ sideboard. (Image: Jonny Green at Zzzone studios)

Lucy goes on to say how her first ‘sale’ happened by accident after buying a six-footlong teak sideboard in a charity shop for £5. On getting it home she realised thatit wouldn’t fit in her house. ‘So, I took it to the workshop and set to customising it. That was the career defining moment because I adorned it with a laser-cut Formica design and after including it in a local exhibition, it sold within a couple of hours so Ijust knew I was on to something!’

That was 20 years ago, and since then Lucy’s relationship with Formica has cemented her place in the marquetry world. ‘What’s not to like about Formica? It’s vibrant, durable, heat and scratch resistant, and when adorned on furniture which is 60 or 70 years old, it creates a piece of furniture which will last a lifetime. It’s the best quality laminate company in the UK and I’m pleased to say that we have a very successful symbiotic relationship. In fact, I’m creating a new wall panel for their London-based showroom at the moment as they are celebrating the launch of their new range of textures and patterns.

They’ve been around for 110 years and its longevity as a product is instrumental in my work.’

Lucy’s unique and functional pieces of art have been displayed at many exhibitions and shows ensuring that her work has, over the years, been desired by outlets such as Marks & Spencer as well as commissioned by John Lewis and Lane Crawford. ‘I couldn’t believe it when I was asked to develop a limited edition of tables for John Lewis – and to see my furniture on display in their Oxford Street window and store was just incredible. Little country-bumpkin me in London! I drove all the tables up in my transit van for delivery, and when the exhaust pipe fell off in Sloane Square, the irony wasn’t lost on me!’

Great British Life: Kitchen designKitchen design (Image: James Lawley)

Since this successful nationwide exposure, Lucy’s unique Formica marquetry designs are now desired in the international furniture arena with 2024 seeing Lucy Turner Modern Marquetry in both the Middle East and the United States. ‘Mohammed Shamsian is a very prestigious master craftsman in Oman and is often commissioned to make bespoke pieces for royalty. Shamsian connected with me via Instagram and we collaborated on a collection which we launched at Clerkenwell Design Week in London last May, and High Point Market in North Carolina in October.

Every piece will be designed by me and handmade to order by Shamsian and his team, it’s very exciting.’ Then next month, Lucy will be flying, along with a container of her pieces, to the States, ‘I’m taking my new collection to High Point Market 2024.It’s the biggest furniture and interiors exhibition in the world and I have put everything into it; my heart, soul and every spare penny.I’m going to be taking pieces that I am so proud of. They are a reflection of years of hard work, perseverance and dedication to my craft – I really hope there is room for a bit of Lucy Turner Modern Marquetry in the US furniture world.’

As we drain our coffee cups and wander back along the old tree-lined track bed, thoughts of further away climes are left behind us as we pass a vintage tractor which although clearly having seen its last days in the fields is now repurposed as a bar, another nod to Lucy’s ethos of giving older things a new lease of life. ‘We knew it would make a great centre piece for BBQ’s and parties, though mostly its kids parties these days!’

Great British Life: Lucy Turner sideboardLucy Turner sideboard (Image: James Lawley)Great British Life: Lucy Turner sideboardLucy Turner sideboard (Image: James Lawley)

With her workshop overlooking her smallholding, Lucy unlocks the door and shows me a series of ongoing projects. A bespoke sideboard adorned with a Formica succulent sits next to a teak cabinet emblazoned with a Formica design of wild oats whereas on a smaller scale, a circular serving tray is adorned with fuchsias in two alternative colourways. Each design has been ordered on request; ‘My pieces are becoming collectors items now. Now and again they pop up on eBay and it’s reassuring to know that they are more than holding their value. It’s our job as designers to create pieces that have longevity and not to add to this throwaway society we live in. Prevention is always better than cure. Although the economy is a bit dire at the moment, I’d love to encourage those people who are actively searching for new pieces of furniture to consider buying local and buying for life.’

As I look out of the window, I can see a couple of Lucy’s free-ranging hens, ‘Whacko and Mrs Chirpy’ and her cockerel ‘Dave’ are busy pecking at the soil around the root of the fruittrees which overhang her burgeoning vegetable garden. ‘It’s satisfying to eat what you have grown,’ says Lucy. ‘We enjoy being as self-sufficient as we possibly can and being connected to nature is key. That’s the beauty of life in Somerset, wherever you are in the county you are surrounded by nature; my designs are usually inspired by nature because as you can see, I’m never far away from it!’.

In addition to designing marquetry furniture Lucy also designs and makes kitchen cabinet doors to create a bespoke finish for your home. lucyturnermodernmarquetry.com lucy_turner_modern_marquetry