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In Good Company: Sarah Kay

Furniture designer maker, Sarah Kay, recently won a Design Guild Mark award for the Smile kitchen she designed for Harvey Jones Kitchens. Sarah discusses how mother earth has inspired her designs and why her kitchen is her latest significant achievement, pictured below.

When was the company founded? 1996, when I left college, although you could hardly call it a company. I had to work part-time for other designers for a good year while I got my feet on the ground. It was good training though.

How many staff? Mostly just me, although my husband Pep is a graphic designer and ends up putting in quite a lot of time into the presentation side of my business. I also employ freelance help on a project-by-project basis.

Where is it based? Spitalfields in London where I have a small studio and the south of France where I have a workshop, which is mainly for prototyping – and renovating the house, which is one of those endless ‘projects’.

What is your latest significant achievement/project of note? My kitchen! We lived with the terrible one we inherited for way too long. Pep and I both love cooking and it’s a delight to have a kitchen that’s beautiful, practical and where the worktops are the right height, I’m tall.

What is your best selling product? I mainly sell design consultancy and one-off pieces. However, my ‘Torque’ boxes have been in small-scale production since 1999.

I’ve just discovered… Weaving – Rachel South is a master of all sorts of chair seat weaving and gave me a crash course after we met doing the Heal’s Craft Market last year. I like collaborating with different people and learning a new skill or technique – if it grabs me then I mine it, following the seam and sometimes there are nice surprises. Also, Yuval Noah Harari. I’ve just bought his book ‘Sapiens’ after listening to his TED talk – his thoughts on human evolution, how we’ve ended up here and where we seem to be headed are expressed with beautiful clarity. I would urge everyone to listen to him.

Who inspires me… Mother Nature – for her complex geometries, undulating curves and intricate patterns. I don’t really have heroes but there are very many disparate people past and present whose work I admire.

I’ve always been a fan of… Japanese aesthetics. I love the calm assurance and simple elegance of Japanese design. Also monoliths, from the Egyptian pyramids to the Easter Island figures and massive corn silos. I’m drawn to a certain kind of sculptural volume, how it inhabits a landscape or space and creates a quiet presence.

My highlight of the last 12 months… A few months ago I got a dream commission to design a small cabin which will serve as guest house/ retreat for the artist owners who live near the Pyrenees in France. It has yet to be built, I’ll be sourcing timber with the joiners very soon. It will be made of sustainable local materials, mainly wood, with cedar shingles, a compost toilet and a removable screen for bird watching. I’ve really enjoyed working out how to make the most practical use of the limited space and then also making the whole as unobtrusive and sympathetic with the surroundings as possible.

My next design trip is to… Hopefully Japan, I am hoping to take a few weeks off next year. I’ve been compiling a list of places and people to see for quite a while now.

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