Since November 2017 when I first published the following post, B****n has become the nation’s favourite interior design bauble. And even though I don’t wish to fuel the creation of a design cliche, I thought it might be timely this Christmas to see how what might be considered a micro trend can become something much bigger.
Where has bobbin furniture been all my life?! Although it has been creeping up on my ‘interiors awareness radar’ for a while, it isn’t a style of furniture which has been much celebrated or talked about in recent times. Maybe it doesn’t appeal to everyone and has been regarded as ‘country’ furniture – not worthy of merit. I suspect that it has also been one of the many forgotten about but actually rather gorgeous chair designs (mainly dark wood) which languish in antique shops up and down the country.
Fans on both sides of the pond
The scene is very different on the opposite side of the Atlantic. American interior designers have been using it for quite some time, sprinkling smart/casual decorating schemes with their own statement pieces. It appears everywhere from magazines to Instagram feeds and Pinterest. According to antique sources in London, British pieces are now being bought up to meet this demand.
The history bit
Bobbin furniture was made as far back as Elizabethan or Jacobean times in England, New England and Holland. Here, the wooden spindles were made by highly skilled independent wood turners or ‘bodgers’. These ‘bodgers’ were free-spirited creatives who camped out in the woods of the Chiltern hills near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. They made their living by whittling spindles of wood with chisels and lathes creating both bobbin furniture as well as the more famous Windsor chair.
Bobbin works best with artisanal textiles
Anne Dubbs, Creative Director and partner of Blithfield & Co (a wallpaper and fabrics company), is based in New York while her business partner and friend Liz Downing splits her time between the UK and the US. The pair opened an office in London in 1997 and I was interested to ask them with their unique perspective of both the UK and the US interior design markets, what their thoughts were on this furniture.
Peggy Angus Collection
Anne says, “Bobbin furniture works best when it is vintage and paired with lovely artisanal textiles. It is ideal in country houses and cottages and I believe that painted versions of vintage bobbin furniture work best in a scheme.” Blithfield & Co have really many wonderful artisanal fabric designs of their own including the rights to the Peggy Angus Collection (Peggy was fellow student at art school with Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious) which is a favourite of mine.
Why I love bobbin furniture
It is the profile of the spindles which catches my eye, and if I analyse it, there are many things, such as bobble braid trimmings, The White Company’s bestseller Avignon bedlinen collection – even snowballs – which all share the same appealing circular profile. It just creates a quirky dimension and decorative interest to a room. Depending on your scheme, you can either paint it or leave the wood in its natural, honest form (quite often bobbin furniture is made from ebony, a black hardwood or walnut).
Create chalet chic with bobbin furniture
Taking inspiration from ski chalets is a fun hook for designing teenage or guest bedrooms. You don’t have to go very far off piste to find that there are some really fresh fabric and wallpaper designs to help create the look. Just add in lots of texture by way of wood panelling, knitted throws, checked or striped dhurries and antler lighting (thank you Next for making their faux antler lighting at such accessible prices – just wish they did an 8 light version!)
Bobbin along with an alpine backdrop
I love this scheme by Sabbe Interior Design in Nashville. You could set your own alpine chalet scene by looking out for vintage alpine oil paintings and old school trunks in junk/antique shops and on Ebay.
Chalet chic mood board
Take a mid century palette of primary colours to create a nostalgic chalet style.
These images are from the US but bobbin beds such as these do come up on Ebay in the UK occasionally – I rue the day that I didn’t bid on a vintage double bed which I saw only a few months ago, it went for £140.
The Beautiful Bed Company in Los Angeles (IG @beautifulbedcompany) manufacture some lovely new versions of a bobbin bed design which they call spindle or spool designs. Funnily enough, the company is run by Lisa Faulkner who is originally from the UK and whose family made Chesterfield sofas.
Bobbin up and down the UK
There are those in the know in the UK, they include several interior design companies and antique dealers. A handful of these companies are either manufacturing new upmarket bobbin furniture (Clockhouse Furniture in the Scottish borders, Julian Chichester in London), or selling antique: Gear Antiques, Lorfords Antiques, Nimmo & Spooner, Sybil Colefax & John Fowler and Howe (who both make new and sell antique). Are we set to see more do you think? Will it filter through to the high street? I am not sure if OKA have ever had a go at producing any but it could be a good one for them (and us!)
Since 2017, Bobbin has been embraced by many retailers from John Lewis to interior designers and and master craftsmen creating the phenomenon we see today.
Thank you so much for reading this and I hope you manage to have a very Happy Christmas 2021.
With best wishes,