Detail defines the work of an interior designer. You can detail to your hearts content but if you cannot rely on the company making and/or supplying the product then its hopeless. Hopeless I tell you!
Any concern about detail is eradicated when dealing with Cox London and Cox Workshops (both founded and directed by Nicola and Chris Cox) in whose knowledge and expertise about furniture and lighting I completely trust. Cox Workshop as the name implies often work to custom designs by the designer and Cox London produce a beautiful range of high end products also made in their workshop.
The usual communication between us consists of specifying finishes (Cox Workshop) and requesting prices and sizes (Cox London) and it is with great pleasure that I write this post after they gave me the opportunity to ask them a little bit more about what they do.
Q: Your father is an antique dealer and your grandfather was as well. How much did this influence your career path Chris?
A great deal. When I was 8 my father had me stripping medieval wood carvings, uncovering the original polychrome. By the time I was 16 I had my first gas torch and was welding any early iron work he dared to let me practice on. My grandfather began dealing in 1950 and had a very broad knowledge and appreciation of art and antiques. Ahead of his time, his book shelves would house publications of early metal ware alongside obscure 20thC sculptors. He would be equally enamoured by the primitive carving of a medieval gargoyle as he would later more sophisticated European wood carving. In all, about 10 members of the family were dealers in art, antiques and jewellery so good looking period design has been part of our lives for my brother and I ever since we can remember.
Q: What period of lighting or furniture design do you particularly like and why?
Up until I was about 20 I loved the flamboyant Italian carved wood furniture my father dealt in and a handful of 20th century designers. When I left Art school I worked for eight years in a good London metal restoration workshop and was exposed to such a variety of styles I started to appreciate a whole lot more. When you get to take something apart (for restoration) whether it’s a 1920s coffee table or an C18th candelabrum, you feel like you’ve shaken hands with the maker. Nowadays I tip my hat to the best design of any era.
Q: What are you most inspired by when you design new items for your collection?
Both being sculptors at heart we are drawn to form. I think we both love processes and compositions that stand alone; objects that would look exciting in both a clean white gallery space and a domestic interior. We make a tree like chandelier from hundreds of pressed oak leaves which I am told has sat beautifully in a modernist white space in Turkey but also looked perfect in a dilapidated Venetian Pallazo. This is the very essence of what we hope for our designs.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the process of making this mirror?
Yes the glass leaves are hand pulled with veining tools and each has a piece of wire pushed into it while molten. These are arranged and carefully pinned over a silver gilt wood cushion frame. We usually supply these with varying degrees of antiqued glass mirror plate. We currently custom making a huge one, 160 cm in diameter.
Q: How many staff work for Cox London now. How does the design process work in your design studio?
We have 8 full time staff. Nicola and I do all of the designing and it used to be that we did all the making too. We are now fortunate enough to have staff with great diversity of skills. We have mould making facility alongside a forge and brass and copper fabrication is complimented by traditional patination techniques. This makes it possible to prototype a design from start to finish. Nicola and I will draw up an idea and nurture a piece through each making stage in our workshop. Some ideas take two or three years to come to fruition another may happen in a week. We still occasionally get involved in physically making our own designs and its hugely rewarding when we find the time too be hands on again.
Q: Are you adding to the collection at all this year? If so what?
Yes we are making a monumental sculptural bronze chandelier based on the sort of ancient vines you’d see attached to a Georgian manor house. It’s going to be spectacular. We are also producing new mirrors and lighting which will show for the first time at Decorex.
Q: Do you plan to exhibit in any of the fairs this year? If so which ones?
Yes decorex in autumn. We are really excited about sharing a stand with Giovanna Ticiatti. We love her contemporary range and we work together really well. She has a really good eye and stops at nothing to get her design dead right.
Q: I have just come across your Caravaggio wall light. I really admire Caravaggio’s oeuvre and the dramatic chiarascuro technique often seen in his paintings. Apart from the supper at Emmaus, was the fact that Caravaggio’s use of light such a defining feature of his work another source of inspiration? Do you have any interesting stories about the making of this fitting?
I think that’s a smart link you make. Essentially they were always about capturing light in the cast glass weights that they originally supported and yes Nicola says that the element of light in Carravagio’s paintings were always their defining success for her. Nicola sculpted three hand gestures from three famous biblical paintings and originally they supported cast glass plumb bobs of different form and colour. This was sold as a one off tripdich in 2005. Since then we felt that they could be introduced to interiors as unique but playful lights and so the huge oversize bulb was introduced. They are cast in bronze and silver plated, the bulb can be dimmed to such an extent that the piece becomes an art work as opposed to a utile light. Then again we had one at home that worked well as a reading light above an arm chair.
Q: Is there anything that you would like me to say about the company that perhaps isn’t answered above.
When Nicola and I first started out we worked in a lean to in rented accommodation. We are hugely proud of how far the business has come over 12 years. In 2002, Nicky set up lost wax bronze casting at home and we would set the kiln timer for the middle of the night. One night however, seeing wax smoke was pouring out all four corners of our garage, our neighbours called the fire brigade. Nowadays we have the ideal premisis and brilliant staff and we are more enthusiastic than ever about designing and making in London.