designjunction ✕ James Burleigh

This week we speak to London based furniture designer and manufacturer James Burleigh, founder of James Burleigh.

Keep up-to-date with James Burleigh on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Why James Burleigh?
    It seemed a good idea at the time! But if I’d thought we’d come this far I might have chosen a different name for the company – something a bit less personal and a lot more relevant.
  • What does design mean to you?
    Having spent over 20 years making furniture, the most important thing for me is form and that comes down to the right proportions and choosing the right materials. Obviously, function is key too, it’s not a piece of sculpture.
  • Where do you work the best?
    As a designer/maker it’s got to be in the workshop.
  • What motivates you?
    Freedom. The whole design and creative process. I don’t think I could work for anyone else so being lucky enough to do something I love gives me a spring in my step.
  • What does James Burleigh bring to the design world that other brands don’t?
    The combination of laminate and solid wood has been our signature look for over 10 years. I think a crucial element is the options we offer within the range in terms of size, colour and shape, together with our commitment to quality. Simply put, our products look good and last.
  • What is the biggest challenge facing the design industry?
    Too many near identical products that don’t offer anything extra. I recognise that generally a table has 4 legs and a top but we need to strive to retain individuality and integrity within design and focus on environmental credentials in terms of supply chain processes and longevity of products.
  • What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far in your career?
    Always make it the best you can and always endeavour to produce it on time.
  • What’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in the industry?
    I suppose try to be original, not just for its own sake of course. Also do it because you enjoy it not for financial reward, as that can be a long time coming.
  • What do you wish you’d designed?
    We have a sofa by Terence Woodgate at home that we’ve had for at least 15 years. Despite me falling asleep on it on numerous occasions and our many cats enjoying it to the full, it still looks great and is extremely comfortable. Ok, we have had it reupholstered in that time.
  • If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
    Well I’ve got an MSc in Hydrogeology so that might have been a possibility at one stage but I think in the end owning a furniture company has given me more freedom and the ability to express my creativity.
  • What’s your biggest weakness?
    Red wine

Quick fire questions

  • Traditional or contemporary?
  • Instagram or Twitter?
  • Sketchbook or computer?
    The workshop
  • Form or function?
    Form but only just
  • Early bird or night owl?
    Early bird but it is getting later and later
  • Favourite design product?
    My Terranova light weight tent. It has kept my brother and myself dry for the last 20 years amongst some of the worst storms the Highlands of Scotland has to offer.
  • Best spot in London?
  • Best place to get away?
    Shingle Street
  • Best restaurant?
    Hard choice between Baozi Inn or Trishna
  • Best hotel?
    Either the Fairlawn in Kolkata when Mrs Smith was there or the Crask in Scotland

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