July 28 2010
A serpentine garden bench snakes around the outside of an old barn deep in south Oxfordshire. It is the only sign that this improbably rustic setting houses the workshop of one of Britain’s most sophisticated bespoke joiners.
To the small band of collectors who commission contemporary furniture, Gordon Kent is a name respected for a craft in danger of extinction. Not to mention a wit absent from most such design. “If you understand the history you can break the rules,” says Kent, stroking an exquisite oak console table inlaid with ebony (£850). In a trick of trompe l’oeil it is thin enough to fit into a small modern apartment, while respecting the traditional form.
A consultation with Kent is like being measured up by Savile Row, but less intimidating; he makes a house call to inspect décor, lighting and the position the new piece is to occupy. It will literally be made to measure, wood and grain chosen to complement what is there rather than howl for attention.
My own Kent commissions have included a glazed door with gothic tracery, and a handsome box. When I gave my friend Jane a Kent chopping board (from £45) made from 12 hardwoods, rather than use it she hung it on the wall.
Commissions from about £500.