Live Tour of The Coal Office

Live Tour of The Coal Office


Live Tour of The Coal Office

Live from the Coal Office, London

Tom Dixon takes you around the Coal Office, our London HQ, and Materiality exhibition staged for London Design Festival.

Introducing Materiality, our theme for LDF'21. The entire building, including our Flagship Store, has transformed into different architectural spaces and installations which explore the materiality in our latest collections.

Featuring the new MASS collection, including the limited edition 4-Poster Bed.

Also showcased is our first ever bathroom range, in collaboration with VitrA, and our new collection of door handles, in collaboration with D-Line.



Tom Dixon: Welcome to the London Design Festival and I'm broadcasting here from The Coal Office which is our headquarters in Lodnon and this season we've decided to focus in on the subject of Materiality which is really something that, as you know, is very close to my heart and is really the departure point of any design process. So I wanted to show you a bit of the materials that we've been playing with and the things that we've been investigating and they take all kinds of forms from cork to glass to aluminium, but first I wanted to show you some of this brass.

So this a whole series of objects called Mass which are made from one single rectangular tube which is used in so many different ways, and the idea eventually is that we will open up this system for manufacturing furniture to architects and designers to make their own, but first I want to show you the things that we've made from this brass extrusion. So they go from consoles to pedestal tables - even here we've got an old British typology called a Whatnot - and a Whatnot is really a corner storage piece for putting your collections. You can see it's super highly-polished brass and it's extremely heavy and destined to last a lifetime.

If you come to the next room you can see a few other objects. This standing lamp that we've made which is an articulated standing lamp here that is using the brass tube also to shine light out of, and a brand new piece over here which is the 4-Poster Bed which really demonstrates the use of this very simple structure - really making archetypes of furniture - perfectly suited for this 4-Poster Bed.

Let me take you now to have a look at some Cork.

So in this room is really an ode to this wonder material which has obviously been used for centuries for all kinds of things - whether that's fishing floats or as a closure for wine bottles - and this is it in it's raw form. So what's amazing about cork is that you do not cut down a tree to get the material. You harvest it and that means that it's one of the very few carbon positive materials. So very beautiful in it's raw form, but what happens in the bi-production of bottle corks is that you get a lot of granules that are then recompressed into blocks of material that you can use in a much more plastic way. So a series of experiments here, you know - this candlestick - but we've been using it a lot for these really massive tables where not only do you get this kind of amazing texture, you get a really strong and delicious aroma as well, but it's very effective material to use in acoustics where you're actually dampening the sound. That's why we've made the whole of this room a kind of Cork room, and even used it on wall panels.

So let's go outside and I'll show you, if you haven't seen before, our amazing office and headquarters. This 1870s canal building which has our offices, the design office; it has The Coal Office restaurant over here which has proved to be really a great place to entertain our people, and then if you go down to the next level which is the level of the canal we get then to the shop where we've got a series of other installlations which again are on this theme of Materiality.

So first I wanna go into - um, too much choice - we're gonna go into the shop and see, I think, we're gonna see aluminium?  Now we're gonna talk about aluminium in a minute. First we're gonna talk about some of the things that really are the departure point of my career. So here the very early S Chair and you can see already my interest in raw materials - in this case recycled rubber and reclaimed rusty metal. This is a wok from a Chinese cooking shop and this is a very early example of my obsession with materials and also with recycling. Not a big commercial success. It then evolved into a much more sophisticated shape using reed and rush from the Norfolk broads and this is when it started to become a lot more popular. Again a material which is natural, it's organic and smells amazing.

There's some other examples of really over expressed materiality in these chairs here which are made from flame cut steel and come with a 1000 year guarantee. I think it's really important for us to use really substantial materials and try and work on this thing that I'm obsessed with which is 'How do you make a thing which lasts forever?'. So that's the flame cut steel.

Now we're moving to the window to talk about some glass. So he we have Puck and we've made a sculpture here just to demonstrate the amazing strength and clarity of glass. So these are a series of cocktail glasses which we call Puck which have really been made in conjunction with our amazing cocktail barmen upstairs, really to try and define the perfect shape for a glass of champagne, a martini, a whiskey and a wine glass here made into these dynamic and quite dangerous looking sculptures showing the strength and fragility of glass.

So moving on - I wanted to talk to you a bit about Press. So we've used glass, obviously in Puck, in a very thin and elegant way, but for the ast year we've been working on this much, much thicker industrial glass. So here you see Press as an accessory - this bowl, candlesticks, vases - where this extremely thick, but very clear glass really is used for it's optical characteristics. It really catches the light. So we decided that we'd move this series into lighting and work on two shapes which are as reduced and minimal as possible, still using this very expressed ribbing which diffuses and refracts the glass and stops the glare, but allows the maximum amount of luminosity through the lamp as well. They're extremely heavy and, actually, probably dishwasher proof as well. So I wanted to - the display is, as a backdrop, has been sponsored by a 100 year old British paper company called G. F. Smith. They've donated this vast stack of yellow paper, and paper's a material which obviously we use a lot - not just for sketching, but also for making three dimensional, very quick prototypes. I like to drag the designers off the computer and get them to use paper so it's kind of nice to have this here, really also as a resouce for all of the visitors during London Design Festival to come and draw their own version of the Mass table. Last word on Press: These wall brackets shown, again, the refraction which was inspired I think from the lenses you see on lighthouses.

So let's move on to the next material. My next material - and quite recent material obsession - is actually aluminium, so I'm gonna carry this extremely light Hydro chair which is a collaboration with a Norwegian aluminium company. See aluminium's a kind of interesting material because it's one of the very few materials that you can infinitely recycle, so although it's quite energy inefficient in extracting it from the ground, once it's made into metal you can recycle it forever and it's said that 75% of all aluminium ever made is still in use today. So we've used it here on the Hydro chair in a very high-tech way. This chair is made by a sub-supplier of Tesla in Canada and the aluminium is heated until it almost melts and then blown into a mould. We've also used it for a series of handmade products. So this is Cloud which is a hand beaten aluminium dish and vase series which are showing the marks of the hammer. In the silversmithing trade you often smooth it out, completely removing any matks of the craftsmen, but here we've allowed the aluminium to really show how it was made. So you can see not just the platter here, but the vases which make these very naturalistic forms out of a hyper-industrial material.

Moving on through the shop where we've laid out a series of different objects in their material groups. We'll go through to the final - the penultimate arch where we've done a couple of collaboartions with some amazing partners. First I wanted to show you this collaboration with VitrA who are a Turkish bathroom manufacturer making these monumental sinks and brassware for taps where I've tried to use this extremely rounded aesthetic to do something which both looks like a traditional Victorian bathroom suite, but also acts as a very kind of space-age asesthetic - really working on a theme. The range is called Liquid which is talking about how the material is moulded from slip-moulding where it's made from a cream of clay and poured into moulds, but also talking about the flow of water. So these series of bathroom equipment also include the stool: incredibly heavyweight industrial ceramic, almost impossible to lift, but again riffing on this theme of durability and long life. So the bathroom set comprises of not just sanitary ceramics - it also has brassware and taps and showers. It's also got these tiles which are also made from ceramic, accessories from toilet brushes to little shelves, urinals that you see over here  so they can be used in contract as well and smaller accessories like hooks and mirrors as well.

Another collaboration we did with a Danish company - expert in architectural iron-mongery is D-Line, and here these stainless steel handles, door knockers with a very pop-art aesthetic and door handles here which we've called Fat is really about the over expression of the functionality using this quite huge radius tube to make things which are hyper-comfortable and out of this hygenic stainless steel. So you see that Fat theme repeated in the Hydro chair, in the Press glass, in the sanitary ware - all in these extraordinary generous amounts of material.

We're just gonna finish off here in the jungle. So this is the perfumery which is a fragrance space where we talk more about the intangibles in interior design which is sound and smell and think a bit about how we complete a space. So what's been nice here is really using plants as decor and smell to create a complete ambience.

So that, really, is the end of the tour. If you're in London please come and see us. I'll be open until the end of the week and you can see for yourselves all of this amazing Materiality which uultimately I can try and describe on Instagram live, but you have to come and touch and feel and smell all of these objects, so looking forward to seeing you and goodbye.