In conversation with: Patience & Gough

Patience & Gough create unique, eye catching pieces by upcycling antique furniture and next week they will be launching their own collection. I spoke to Oliver Gough to find out more

Can you give me a brief background to Patience & Gough? We’re a design duo, Alice Patience and Oliver Gough, whose practice and studio is based in the heart of Windermere in the Lake District.

Alice started upcycling furniture in 2013, combining her love of interiors and art. Painting and restoring old pieces gave her an outlet in which to fill her creativity and make a living. Upcycling was a fairly new idea back then and her work caught on quickly. Under the name “Down The Rabbit Hole Furniture” relating to Alice and Wonderland, she progressed her business for three years until I came into the picture. As a professional photographer I helped Alice photograph her work at first, until eventually being handed a paint brush.

From there, we rebranded to Patience & Gough and started to take things more seriously. After building a collection of upcycled antique pieces we travelled down to exhibit at 100% Design in Olympia. Our business was spotted by a buyer from Liberty London and we sold in the prestigious store for two seasons, selling everything that went in.

In 2019 we decided to take on our own premises, a tired looking fish and chip shop, giving it a complete P&G renovation that took eight months. During this time Covid-19 hit and we finally opened the doors to our studio once the second lock-down lifted.

The natural progression for us into the world of interior design happened through requests from clients and meeting the needs of an ever growing business. Both self-taught, we act as a fully-fledged interior design studio, working on some of the largest residential properties in the Lake District. Combining our knowledge of fabrics and paints, we bring a unique Patience & Gough style to our interiors, collaborating with local makers and craftsmen, including a local cabinet maker who is able to produce fully bespoke walk-in wardrobes and kitchens, designed in house.

A chance meeting with the UK side of the renowned Shamsian furniture workshop in Oman, just over two years ago, has meant we’ve got a chance to combine all of their expertise from the last decade of creativity into our very own furniture collection and progress our business into the next stage of being a luxury design house. Shamsian is responsible for some of the most recognisable landmarks in Oman and has been the main joinery workshop for His Majesty, The Sultan of Oman for two generations. The skill and craftsmanship of their workshop is unparalleled in the marquetry world and this skill set has allowed us to have complete creative freedom when it comes to designing the Shokunin Collection, which launches at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, during London Design Week (11-15 March 2024)

Creative duo Alice and Oliver

Do you consider yourselves to be furniture restorers or bespoke furniture makers? Both, we have been restoring furniture for basically a decade and we have learnt so much along the way. When fixing pieces from as early as the 17th century you get to see and learn the age old techniques and building methods from the last three centuries. All this knowledge has shaped how we see furniture and pushed us to make something truly original, when it comes to our own collection. We wanted to expand our ideas into new realms of what is possible in fine furniture making and we have been able to do that thanks to the incredibly talented people over at Shamsian.

We have also been lucky enough to work with highly skilled cabinet maker, Josh Hill, who is local to us. This collaboration has been a true tuning point of our interiors business, allowing us to offer our clients truly bespoke cabinet making services, all designed by combining our love for fabrics, natural materials and ecological building methods.

Upcycled walnut ombre cabinet

Is there a particular P&G style? I would say we were the first upcyclers to really specialise in putting fabric onto drawers, cabinets and furniture. We live close to Standfast and Barracks, one of the largest printing houses in the UK, responsible for printing the great collections of Sanderson, William Morris and many more. We spent every weekend visiting their miss-run store, where they would sell fabrics with slight imperfections or colour mistakes. Having this valuable resource next door was a huge advantage as we could get the latest fabrics for a fraction of the price and use these on our pieces – elevating our upcycled furniture and getting us recognised. It also spurred us on to make eco-conscious choices wherever we can as a practice – whether it’s through the use of bamboo as a choice of wood for a client’s kitchen or from the use of materials in our fabric collection and now the Shokunin collection.  

We’re not afraid to be bold in our design choices, which is what our clients appreciate.

Shokunin bar cabinet from Patience & Gough
Panthera bar cabinet from the new Shokunin collection

You are launching your own collection of furniture exclusively at London Design Week. Can you tell me about Shokunin? Shokunin is a real passion project between ourselves, our graphic designer Kieron Mannix, and the Shamsian workshop. It’s bringing together everything we have learnt from our time as designers and putting cutting edge fabrication techniques together with the age old craft of marquetry. At the heart of the Shokunin collection lies a commitment to originality, starting with the silhouette. We sculpted each piece to speak volumes through its form, ensuring our collection carries a signature that’s undeniably ours.

Transitioning from our beloved upcycled pieces, we are proud to present a collection that merges our signature design ethos with the expertise of skilled craftsmen. Sculpted shapes draw inspiration from the natural world, each piece has been meticulously proportioned with the golden ratio to achieve a Japanese-inspired aesthetic perfection.  It reinterprets Oriental Chinoiserie for the modern era, weaving historical richness into contemporary interiors with our Panthera design. We’ve got four pieces within the collection; a floating sideboard, an innovative bar cabinet, a stylish plant stand, and a versatile side table.

Transitioning from a background in upcycling to furniture design, it was important to us to prioritise eco-friendly materials. Our research and development efforts have been dedicated to discovering innovative materials uncommon in the furniture industry, emphasising sustainability without compromising on quality or design.

In our quest for sustainable innovation, we sought a base material for our furniture that could be both flexible and suitable for veneering, a niche traditionally filled by MDF—a material often criticised for its environmental impact. Our search led us to Eco-Wud, a revolutionary material from India crafted from agricultural waste husks. Unlike conventional options, Eco-Wud stands out as a carbon-positive choice, preventing these husks from being incinerated and thereby contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions.

We also use bamboo throughout the collection. Bamboo’s rapid growth rate significantly outpaces that of traditional woods like poplar, making it a highly renewable resource. This growth efficiency means bamboo can be harvested every three to five years, unlike hardwoods which can take decades to mature, leading to a reduction in deforestation pressures. Our aim was to create a furniture line that not only endures over time but also minimises environmental impact. Achieving this involved meticulously choosing materials that align with our sustainability goals. This way, when you select pieces from our collection, you can do so knowing they’re crafted with both durability and the planet in mind—offering peace of mind without compromise.

Patience & Gough
Panthera fabric in cobalt blue

And you also offer textiles, are these designed in-house? Yes. As we have always used fabrics in our furniture designs, it has naturally been a dream of ours since the early days to design and manufacture a fabric range of our own. Not only for us to use on our furniture but to share with our clients.

At Patience & Gough we love collaborating with other talented designers and illustrators and we feel this way of working brings to life some of the best works, when a group of talented people come together to create a vision, something beautiful is always going to be produced. The Magistr of Magic fabric collection is the first in our Artist Connection series and is a collaboration between ourselves and an insanely talented illustrator from Ukraine, Yevheniia Vynokurova. Her beautiful tiger illustrations caught our eye when looking through collections of NFT based art online. We were so inspired by her work that we purchased several pieces directly and then got in contact. Since then we formed a fruitful collaboration and continue to work together today.

We’ve got three designs in the collection – Panthera, Tora and Penrose Prowl.  Panthera has subsequently been taken to the Shokunin Collection and to a series of numbered edition Circle Dining Chairs – our collaboration with Overgaard and Dyrman.  Both the fabrics and chairs will also be on show at London Design Week.  In line with our eco-stance, all of our fabrics are printed in Manchester and we use recycled plastic bottles to make the velvet (it feels just like velvet and is much easier to clean) and we also print onto 100% linen, which is far better for the environment than water thirsty cotton.

chest of drawers Patience & Gough
Tora Roisin upcycled chest

As Patience & Gough is based in the Lake District, do you think this gives you a different design outlook? We are both from down south, Alice was born in London and I was born in Hastings. Both of our parents moved up North to escape the hustle and bustle of the city in search for a calmer environment to bring up kids. Alice’s mum was an art buyer and her dad a professional photographer. My mum was a graphic designer and did most of the album covers for The Smiths and worked with other names like Boy George and Duran Duran. They loved the city life but wanted to get away. Their creative backgrounds were a constant inspiration for both of us.

Living in the countryside offers breath-taking moments — hiking up majestic mountains, enjoying endless views, breathing in the fresh air and yes, being among countless sheep. Nature has been our sanctuary and comfort zone. However, the tranquillity of rural life often sparked a yearning for the buzz of urban settings in our youthful imaginations. We’ve endeavoured to merge these contrasting experiences, drawing on the vibrant energy of the cities that fascinated us as kids and blending it with the serene backdrop of our countryside home. This fusion allows our creativity to flourish in a setting that offers both peace and inspiration. We’ve crafted a unique style that intertwines the essence of urban and rural life, incorporating modern interpretations of natural materials and forms. Embracing where we live – we wouldn’t trade it for anything – finding beauty in this harmonious blend of influences.

(image at the top shows the Panthera Circle dining chair)

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