We’re thrilled to welcome Christian Watson to our platform, the furniture brand set up by the eponymous British design talent. Starting out as a cabinetmaker, the charismatic creative and entrepreneur founded his label in 2021, offering a collection of furniture pieces that share a minimalist aesthetic defined by geometric lines and subtle industrial-style influences.
Since launching last year, the brand has created a buzz in the UK industry. Trend editors picked his pieces to fill the pages of Elle Decoration, Rum and How To Spend It, while everyone who saw his collection recently at a trade fair praised the craftsmanship.
At first, the brand’s pieces were selected for high-end residential schemes, while recently, they noticed gaining traction in the hospitality and workplace sectors.
To mark the arrival of a selection of Christian Watson pieces on Clippings, we’ve caught up with the founder discussing his journey as a designer, maker and start-up owner – and where he wants to take things next.
Why did you want to start your very own furniture brand?
As a self-taught designer, I never had a traditional approach to product design. Before setting up Christian Watson, I’d been making bespoke furniture for a long time. I studied fine cabinet making in Newhaven, where I learnt all about the traditional techniques – but I always felt the urge to design my own work. And I believe you can’t really design good work without knowing how to make it. I wanted to understand the materials first, which ultimately helped me develop my style.
How do you sum up the Christian Watson style?
I call it contemporary minimalism. Our first pieces mostly feature straight lines but always mixed with curves. There’s a particular challenge combining the two, which I knew from studying antiques that my dad collected. Growing up, I loved Queen Anne and Regency styles, even Art Nouveau. Early in my career, I did a lot of bespoke work. In terms of style, so many of my clients always asked for more and more and more: ‘Add gold onto it, make it shinier! Can we have more leather?’ That pushed me the opposite way. I still wanted to use the highest quality materials, but without embellishments – it needed to be pared back. Now, my style is all about a strong form, defined by the thinnest, most delicate lines possible.
Why do you like to present your collection in black and white?
I feel drawn to a monochrome colour palette. Black and white accentuate the profile of a piece and create quite a blank canvas. However, all our furniture collections are customisable – we have up to 50 colours available in our catalogue.
How did you select the materials for your collection?
Achieving a minimal style using timber is challenging because wood is not as strong as metal. I couldn’t create the forms I wanted to in wood, so I had to move into metalwork. In the beginning, I did all the welding myself. I wanted to learn how the process works and to see what’s achievable. Now we have a community of makers, most of them based around London and the South East, that create our pieces.
What does the relationship between the makers and you look like?
I love making things with my hands – hence I want to find the best artisans to produce our pieces. The makers are independent of us but part of a thriving, creative network. Every one of them brings something new to our design thinking. Speaking to people who excel at what they do is massive for us because they are the experts, not us. They tell us where the boundaries are, and whether an idea is possible.
How was it to launch your brand and share your work with the wider industry?
As a designer and artist, it felt weird to present your work at fairs and shows – and get immediate reactions. What struck people the most was the quality of every piece. Regardless of whether they liked or disliked the style, nobody could take away from the fact that it is genuinely high quality – because the attention to detail from all the craftsmen is so high. That’s what it was always about. Growing up in a house with antiques, I was surrounded by things that would last the next 100 and 200 years. The idea of everything we produce is that we’re not making it for now, but we’re making it to last the next few hundred years.
Which designs turned out to be the most popular?
The recently launched Abinger chair – that one people like universally. I guess because it is a successful mix of straight lines and a minimal profile with a slightly chunkier side. Plus, it got curves as well.
Have you seen a growing interest in your pieces for commercial projects?
Absolutely. As businesses return to the office, what they need from the workplace has changed. The office has become smaller but of higher quality. Instead of churning out just large, non-descript boring floor plans, companies want a more homely feel. In addition, we are a British brand and people like buying locally, even for larger projects. We’re currently testing some of our armchairs, chairs and coffee tables to get them certified for commercial use. And should a client be interested in a specific product that’s not yet certified, we can get that done within two weeks.
What’s next for Christian Watson?
We’ll show that we’re more than just a furniture brand: we’ll launch our first lighting pieces next year. When it comes to materials, I find cork absolutely fascinating. It’s a beautiful material, and I loved working with it in the past. I don’t think anyone has gone far enough with it yet. So watch this space.