Best of Bri­tish

A de­sign trio’s fur­ni­ture evokes New­cas­tle’s in­dus­trial her­itage

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Novo­cas­trian (or ‘na­tive of New­cas­tle’) is a ft­ting name for a frm that draws heav­ily on its North­ern her­itage by us­ing lo­cal ma­te­ri­als and skills. Es­tab­lished in Au­gust of last year by the child­hood friends Richy Al­mond and Mark McCormick, the com­pany spe­cialises in in­dus­trial-style fur­ni­ture made from black­ened steel, Cum­brian slate and brass.

Al­mond’s fam­ily has a long history of work­ing with metal – his fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were both ship­builders – and Novo­cas­trian was in­spired by this proud tra­di­tion. His fa­ther now runs a metal-fab­ri­ca­tion busi­ness, which man­u­fac­tures all Novo­cas­trian’s prod­ucts. ‘I grew up in and around a fac­tory and making metal things,’ Al­mond says. ‘Af­ter I moved to Lon­don and be­came an ar­chi­tect, I still had a really strong con­nec­tion to the fam­ily busi­ness, but I didn’t see what I could add to it un­til I started ex­per­i­ment­ing with fur­ni­ture de­sign.’

Nei­ther Al­mond nor McCormick, a graphic de­signer, orig­i­nally trained in prod­uct de­sign, but they do not see this as a dis­ad­van­tage. ‘We both have slightly difer­ent takes on it, and I think a bit more spa­tially than a typ­i­cal fur­ni­ture de­signer about how a piece re­lates to the whole in­te­rior,’ Al­mond says. ‘We feel that the mix of difer­ent dis­ci­plines – de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture and met­al­work – makes some­thing in­ter­est­ing.’

This ex­per­i­men­ta­tion has re­sulted in pieces such as the

‘The mix of difer­ent dis­ci­plines – de­sign, ar­chi­tec­ture and met­al­work – makes some­thing in­ter­est­ing’

Staiths shelv­ing unit, in­spired by the struc­ture of the same name that juts out on to the River Tyne. This vast tim­ber lat­tice frame­work, much dam­aged by fre in 2003, was once used to load coal from trains on to ships. ‘We cre­ated a steel lat­tice­work,’ Al­mond says, ‘then we started strip­ping away el­e­ments to rep­re­sent the fre and de­struc­tion that has cut away parts of it.’

Al­mond and McCormick set up the busi­ness to pro­vide be­spoke so­lu­tions for in­te­rior de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects, and each piece is made to or­der, al­low­ing cus­tomers to mod­ify sizes and fnishes. While their client base is mainly in Lon­don, Al­mond’s younger brother Dean does all the weld­ing and fnish­ing in New­cas­tle. ‘It’s been a process of trial and er­ror, but it’s been in­ter­est­ing work­ing with the guys in the fac­tory who are trained in met­al­work, ver­sus me trained in ar­chi­tec­ture, and see­ing them in­ter­pret­ing our de­signs,’ Al­mond says. ‘You get th­ese really refned de­tails, but with a slightly in­dus­trial edge.’

Pho­to­graphs by Christophe­r Nunn

Mark McCormick, Dean Al­mond andRichy Al­mond at Novo­cas­trian’s New­cas­tle stu­dio.

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