By 2010, the UK domestic market’s love affair with mass produced designs had reached its zenith and the future of handcrafted British furniture looked bleak. However, success stories are often born from visionaries going against the grain.
Another Country, established in 2010 by Paul de Zwart, makes for a perfect example. As one of the founders of Wallpaper*, arguably the most successful interior design magazine in the UK, de Zwart’s in-depth knowledge of the industry allowed his studio to flourish when others were struggling. Indeed, the parallels between Another Country’s progression and the re-emergence of British design as a global player are striking. And while it’s hard to quantify the influence de Zwart has had on the industry as a whole, Another Country has undoubtedly emerged as one of the key drivers in today’s handcrafted furniture market.
The idea to start a design studio came to de Zwart after several attempts to source a simple wooden stool for his Wiltshire cottage. Unable to find one that was both well made and affordable, he decided to create it himself. Encouraged by the final design, de Zwart continued to draw and soon found himself developing an entire series that along with his stool, included a bench, chair, two tables and a sofa bed. He then proceeded to engage a local artisan, who set to work developing his designs using traditional, handcrafted techniques. Opting to form a partnership with the craftsman and choosing to put his pieces into production, Another Country was born.
The first collection, launched at London Design Week, was an immediate hit. A second series followed which in turn, inspired a collaboration with Heals of a bedroom series. Faced with growing demand for his designs, de Zwart took the decision to transition from a virtual store to a physical one in 2014. Based in London’s Marylebone, Another Country’s headquarters perfectly encapsulate de Zwart’s original vision of producing simple and functional designs. Today the studio continues in the same manner: focusing on developing products that are high quality, affordable and importantly, come with a clearly defined provenance. Influences are both varied and international, drawing inspiration from Japanese furniture, Scandinavian design to Shaker and Mid-century modern styles.
The concept of provenance has proved a critical factor in forging Another Country’s unique position within the UK market. De Zwart explains, “we endeavour to produce our product and run our business at the most sustainable level possible.” What began as a decision to manufacture products via local as well as nationwide craftsmen has evolved into a passion that influences every stage of the process. From the timber (sourced only from sustainably certified UK, European and US suppliers) to their upholstery. The latter coming via Naturalmat: the only UK mattress maker currently using certified organic latex, certified organic coir (coconut fibre) and locally sourced lambswool.
Whilst Another Country makes every effort to ensure their approach adheres to this philosophy, their rapid progression has led them to form relationships with other, like-minded artisans. In 2014, Another Country and Canadian designer Dana Cannam launched their First Light collection at Maison & Objet. The range, which comprised a pendant, floor and table light, was defined by the handmade, cylindrical ceramic shade that features in each model.
Cannam was conscious of designing in a manner that would complement the studio’s existing philosophy. He explains “my inspiration came from mid-20th-century hand tools, specifically an old speed handle I have in the studio. I’ve always been obsessed with the clean and minimal aesthetic, steel and wood construction, and above all, how it demands a certain engagement from the user. This tool was very much the precursor to the timeless yet understated outcome of each design.”
Along with aligning the conceptual approach, the finishes were also selected to complement the studio’s collections. He adds, “I’ve always appreciated Another Country’s use of warm materials; it speaks to their aesthetic which is pared-down and really brings a sense of honesty to each product. Brass and ceramic were the perfect balance between beauty and functionality for a project involving lighting; it seemed like a natural decision.”
Cannam is by no means Another Country’s sole foray into lighting. Working with New York studio, Workstead, de Zwart’s team act as their exclusive UK/EU agents for their collection of lighting formed from reconfigurable metal rods.
Accessories also play an important part in the studio’s expanding repertoire. De Zwart has commissioned several designers to produce collections including a pewter and ceramic pottery by Ian McIntyre and candle holders with handy inner compartments by Marie Dessuant. Similarly, brands that share a similar philosophy are also represented at their Marylebone headquarters. From David Mellor cutlery to bespoke linen by 31 Chapel Lane, every item stocked represents de Zwart’s ambition to create a showroom that serves as a window into the “world” of Another Country.
The diversity of the business plays testament to the popularity of the studio ranging from an exclusive collection designed for John Lewis to custom projects which are carried out in UK workshops. The other half of the studio’s business is made up of trade, with requests from designers, architects and specific projects.
Starting with one stool, de Zwart has not only built a brand with substance and integrity; his efforts have ensured that Another Country belongs to a movement above trends or fads. In an era where constant innovation reigns supreme, Another Country’s ability to twin this with a traditional approach has accorded the studio with an enviable reputation. The fact this was accomplished over only five years makes this achievement all the more remarkable, and clearly this is only the beginning with a Series 4 launching this autumn.