Duffy London creates striking pieces that play with the concept of gravity. I chatted to Christopher Duffy about the fine line between art and furniture, his most challenging design and his love of water.
Please describe the Duffy style. At Duffy London we are 100% concept based. That concept then develops, mixing art with function to create truly innovative, show-stopping pieces of statement furniture and sculpture. We work with a variety of materials and manufacturing techniques and are not restricted to just one, which allows us to put together some really exciting pieces.
What is your background in design? I have always been designing and building – I used to make box-carts and recumbent bikes as a child and worked on a number of watercraft and water sports equipment in my teens, sharpening my making and engineering skills. I later attended art college for an Art foundation course before heading to Brighton to study Product Design. I then worked as a furniture buyer and it was at this time that I first started Duffy London (from my kitchen) making small products to sell at markets across London in Spitalfields, Camden and Greenwich. I’ve grown up a bit now and we are currently based in a large studio and workshop in the Royal Docks near Canary Wharf.
What materials do you like to work with? We always work using the highest quality materials for every single piece. The materials I like are the ones that allow us to execute the original concept in its purest form. We are not restricted to one building medium and the challenge of making every single piece in whatever material is required is one that motivates us and propels us forwards as both designers and makers.
Who are your customers? We have a good mix of customers from all across the world. Art galleries and private collectors acquire many of our pieces, particularly from the Solo collection, while certain designs are very popular with interior designers and architects who we work with.
Our Abyss table is on permanent display at the Musee Des Art Decoratifs in Paris and we built bespoke editions of this piece for Four Seasons Hotels and many super-yachts. We have many well-known A-list, royal and high-net-worth clients too. Our Swing Tables and Meeting Pods are very popular with the tech giants in Silicon Valley and lots of start-ups across the world.
Do you view your pieces as furniture or art? I do see them primarily as artworks first, that we have then made practical, lending them a purpose and probably devaluing them by 90%! It does make me wonder if I should let the shackles off sometimes and release something that’s purely sculptural!
What has been your most challenging piece? It would have to be the Up Balloon tables. They are extremely challenging as they have to be both structurally strong and sound and yet, for the illusion to work, there needs to appear to be almost no structure at all. It’s a really difficult balance to achieve and requires a lot of expert craftsmanship and technical know-how, working with lots of different materials and engineering to the limits. It’s next to impossible but we do our best and if I can say, they do look pretty great when you see them up close and in person.
What is your favourite possession? Perhaps my (electric) e-foil. I really love being by or on the water and have always been a keen water-skier. I love my small boat too and have long been fascinated by electric power (we at Duffy London were the first company in the UK to have a fully electric van) so my e-foil combines a few of these passions and gives me some much-needed downtime during the summer months!
Did you enjoy this? You might also like my conversation with furniture designer Tom Faulkner