The concept of sourcing materials wholly from the local urban environment has been a trend among chefs for some years (viz, Salon Brixton), but it’s a fairly radical concept for a carpenter. Robert Brain of RHMB creates furniture almost exclusively from wood that has originated from London trees – he has spent years forging relationships with local arborists, developers and park managers to source felled trees, which he turns into beautifully detailed pieces in his southeast London studio. “I often know the street or park where the tree stood,” says Brain. “Commercial timber is scientifically nurtured to grow straight and clean to maximise yield and profit. Using non-commercial timber that has grown naturally means that the material has more character.”
All of Brain’s furniture is made to order and takes between eight and 12 weeks to complete. Prices range from £400 for a mirror and £550 for a side unit to around £8,000 for a dining table. He also uses his locally sourced timber in bespoke joinery projects (from £1,800 per m), creating fitted elements for kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms and libraries.
The designs are contemporary rather than crafty; pared down in terms of line and silhouette, they bring the grain of his material to the fore. “I’m drawn to modernist design,” he says, “I find Finn Juhl and Børge Mogensen particularly inspiring. And George Nakashima’s reverence for wood is also always in my mind when I’m selecting material.”