Daniel Schofield: Function and reduction
On a bright, clear day in a quiet corner of south-east London, Sir Plus met with furniture designer Daniel Schofield.
We sit in Daniel’s studio – a suitably modest, brightly-lit space in a former factory building. His walls are lined with sketches, self-designed mirrors, prototypes of light fixtures. Shelves are filled neatly with maquettes of chairs, stools and tables, with the occasional award nestled among the ordered mess. On his desk are material samples, sketches and simple steel measuring instrument.
“I think that some of the most beautiful objects are the ones made purely for function,” Daniel says, picking up the callipers. “Take something like this. There’s nothing about it that’s there to make it look good, everything is simply about making it work. For me there’s a real beauty in that.”
This reductive approach forms Daniel’s signature. Take his Signet table, a minimalist pair of trestle legs designed for modern, nomadic lifestyles. Each splits into two halves, held together by aluminium rings covered in a cork-rubber compound for grip. The joists are slightly tapered, and the ring bears a slight point to ensure that the pieces will always fit together, even if the wood expands. Every feature – though beautiful – exists to serve a purpose.
“It has to be about function and then reduction,” Daniel explains. “Take enough away, so that the object has the right presence. I can’t really do superfluous details, nothing is added for the sake of it.”
Part of the subtle appeal of Daniel's work stems from his innovative choices in materials. In the far corner of his studio are vibrant tables formed from natural volcanic lava stone, glazed in bright red and pale green. In another, a pair of cork stools stacked one atop the other. A former graphic design student and carpentry apprentice, Daniel splits his time between large-scale projects for the likes of Conran, and more personal projects that push the boundaries of his chosen materials.
“It’s an opportunity to use something interesting and new, to see how we can push the material and progress our experimentation,” he says. Turning to the stools, he adds: “People think that cork is really weak, but it’s actually very strong. I try to use natural materials as much as possible, unless it’s something that can’t be done.”
One of Daniel’s recent large-scale projects was the Clam light – a spherical design that splits into two halves, reducing delivery size by 50%. “We couldn’t have done that with glass, so we used plastic,” he says. “If I have to use a non-natural material, I’m always thinking of the end life. This comes apart really easily so it can be recycled. The other thing I aim for is to make things that are the highest possible quality. If something’s well-made and well-designed then they’ll last a long time and people won’t want to get rid of it. In a way that’s one of the most environmentally-friendly things you can do.”
It's this simple approach that sets Daniel apart. Though his designs differ in size, scale and function, each has a clear intent that's evident on first glance. A set of double-sided candle holders, cast by a neighbouring foundry, is a clear example of this. Daniel explained: “I came up with the design and took them the foundry just up the road, had it cast there and then. You flip them over and they can take a tea light, it’s just really simple. There’s a lot of nonsense in the world, a lot of stuff vying for your intention in the Instagram age. I think it’s nice to have things that are quietly beautiful and just function really well.”