In conversation with: Rupert Bevan

Rupert Bevan’s keen understanding of different styles and materials has allowed him to build a successful business creating bespoke pieces for both residential and hospitality projects. And now he has launched his own furniture collection

Tell me how it all began? I wanted to be an architect, but then took a holiday job as an apprentice to a furniture restorer, I got completely hooked and stayed for four years learning everything from sanding and painting to marbling and restoration lacquer work.

Eventually I set up my own studio restoring furniture, but also using the skills I had learnt to create pieces. I became very good at replicating originals. If a customer had a set of four sixteenth century chairs and wanted two more to match, I could make them, I was a legal faker!

We have a workshop in Shropshire and gradually the business has morphed into creating more contemporary, one-off pieces. I don’t think of myself as a furniture maker, as they tend to be woody people. We use lots of different materials – metal, glass, painted finishes – I like to explore their potential, I see myself as a craftsman.

Rupert Bevan worked with interior designer Isabella Worsley to create the bar for Notting Hill pub The Walmer Castle (photographer Helen Cathcart)

How does the bespoke service work? I’m the ideas man the interior designer and their client come here and we go on a creative journey together. I make absolutely no judgement on taste; my job is to translate the client’s ideas and turn them into reality. You learn very quickly what they like and don’t like, their preferred colours and textures. By the end of a session I could take them to a shop and pick out clothes for them.

The biggest reward I can have is when the client sits around their finished dining table and tells their friends all about the materials used and how it was made, they have taken ownership not just of the table but the whole process.

What is the most unusual thing you have ever been asked to make? A crib, but this was no ordinary crib, it was carved, gilded, with a canopy, an amazing thing. The client had it in hospital for the baby’s first couple of nights and then it was put in storage and never used again. I have also been asked to make a circumcision chair.

Cocktail cabinet from the new Rupert Bevan Collection
Atlas cocktail cabinet in burr oak from the new Rupert Bevan Collection

And now you have created your own collection? Yes, after years of creating bespoke pieces for particular projects, we now have the Rupert Bevan Collection. This covers seating, tables, mirrors and there’s a cocktail cabinet. It’s a culmination of all the pieces I have worked on over the years very much material based.

In Shropshire we have a glass and metal workshop as well as a finishing studio, we are virtually self-sufficient and these skilled craftsmen come together to make each piece of furniture, sharing ideas and appreciating each other’s skills and limitations.

Your mirrors feature gorgeous cathedral glass tell me a bit about that. My background is classical and I like the honesty of traditional materials, but re-purposing them for contemporary use. We are currently teaching ourselves to mirror glass so that we can experiment further. You don’t have to be quaint to be a craftsman, these skills can be kept alive by using them in a contemporary way.

Rupert Bevan craftsman and furniture maker

What is your favourite possession? A Japanese spear cover called a Yari Saya. I saw a very expensive one at an antiques fair years ago and really wanted it. Then I worked for a client who, surprisingly, had a collection of them. I bartered with her to get one. It’s made from bear skin. I have a table at home of odd items that you wouldn’t, at first look, know what they are for.

You can visit the Rupert Bevan showroom on All Saints Road, and some of the new pieces are also currently in Luke Irwin’s Pimlico Road showroom

(image at the top shows suede Croft chair, Denver dining table and green Morier mirror from the new Rupert Bevan collection)

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