The Nature of Wood Cuts Through in Philip Koomen’s Furniture

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A traditional Windsor chair made in 1946 by Jack Goodchild starts the story of Philip Koomen’s Forest to Furniture: Ideas in the Making exhibition at the River & Rowing Museum.  Jack Goodchild was just one of a handful of craftspeople who made a Windsor chair from the beginning to end.  Philip took inspiration from the Windsor chair for his semi-bespoke range when he started furniture making over 40 years ago. Philip said, “Each Windsor chair is a uniquely designed piece of furniture craftsman made from various local woods. I used this creative idea to develop my own contemporary designs inspired by vernacular design.”

The beauty of nature, caring for environment, and creativity shines through this remarkable exhibition, which explores three elements of Philip’s creative process – collaboration with clients and artists, using locally sourced wood and experimenting and learning new ways of exploring surface and forms.

Creating a local cycle for sourcing and processing timber became an important part of Philip’s creative journey in the late 1990s. He developed a forestry project which promotes greater collaboration among woodland owners and sawmills within 30 miles of his workshop in Checkendon, converting timber, which didn’t have a market, into planks that he air dries at his workshop. After several years of drying these planks then become suitable for furniture making.

Philip’s furniture making was first recognised as cutting edge when he developed sculptural forms of furniture which took inspiration from nature in the 1990s.  These are shown off with replica models on display of his first iconic ‘Pondlife’ bench and two major commissions from the International Hay Literary Festival, the stunning ‘Wave & Splash’ bench and the beautiful stage furniture.

His recent experiments are showcased in a dedicated section called “Ideas in the Making”. These experiments began with playing with different approaches, asking questions such as ”What if I cut, shape and join wood differently?  Is furniture making, art, craft or design?”  These have been questions Philip has been exploring and experimenting with over the last 18 months.  An award of an Arts Council England grant has allowed Philip to free himself of the design process and focus on the interplay of wood and random ideas to discover new creative portals that he can develop further.

Philip said, “My goal now is to develop what I have learnt through experimentation and create furniture that has the purity and appearance of sculptural forms.”

Whether you love the wonders of nature, art or design, this exhibition can be enjoyed by everyone.  The exhibition at the River & Rowing Museum runs until 7 June.

To see more of Philip’s beautiful work, visit his website at

Philip will also be running a Symposium on Creativity: Ideas in the Making on 25 April at the Oxford University Natural History Museum when the public are invited to come along and explore creative thinking and practice through a wide range of creative activities, lectures and expert-led workshops. To book a place go to