12 April 2024, 21:27
By Furniture News Apr 15, 2015

The Hat Tree, Ben Fowler

Extending the perfect welcome for anyone coming in out of the cold, Ben Fowler’s bentwood solid steamed beech hall coat and hat stand has been awarded a Design Guild Mark by The Furniture Makers' Company, and is now on display in the Brighton and Tottenham Court Road branches of Futon Company.

Ben Fowler MDes RCA MSCD left The Royal College of Arts in 1984 before establishing Fowler & Co in 1986, and has designed and manufactured furniture for his company ever since.

Ben’s broad portfolio includes the best-selling Sonoma range for Marks & Spencer as well as products for Futon Company, John Lewis, Habitat and Ercol. As well as receiving the Design Guild Mark, Ben’s Hat Tree has been shortlisted for a 2014 Wood Award.

“The idea came when I was out sketching," says Ben. "I saw twigs sticking out of a hedge and thought of branches that you might hang your coat on when out gardening, then the concept was refined.

“The Hat Tree is made from steamed beech that has been cold-moulded and free bent to form natural curved hooks. Beech is a common, sustainable and under-used wood grown widely across Europe.

“Each unit comprises eight connected strips of solid beech wood, bent at differing heights. The individual units can be placed together to suit the space available – perhaps one, two or three for a wall at home, or even in groups of 10 or more to kit out a commercial cloakroom.

“We decided to manufacture the Hat Tree in Turkey – a first for Fowler & Co as we usually make everything in-house at our workshop in Brighton. Having sold out of our first batch, our next will be part assembled by us here in the UK. We should be making things locally where possible.”

Ben’s design approach is driven by clean, unfussy functionality and classic joinery. Proper use of sustainable timber is central to Ben’s practise at Fowler & Co, and his expert materials knowledge has led to some extraordinary commissions, from the full interior of a major opera house in Germany, to a giant operational sundial and even the Royal Barge Gloriana’s doors. Ben’s lifelong love of rowing and professional experience in boat building winds its way into much of his drawing, most obviously for the boat seat he designed for Sir Terence Conran.

“Designers are professional imaginers," says Ben. "Some of the best things that you do come out of teasing out ideas that people want to get made, into things that are practical and gorgeous.”

This article was published in the January issue of Furniture News magazine.

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