ACHICA Living catches up with Nick Munro, whose brand has become synonymous with original, modern British design. We touch on the kaleidoscopic style of his newly renovated home and he tells us why ‘safe isn’t safe’. Read our exclusive interview here…
You studied engineering and design at Nottingham University, Imperial College of Science and Technology, and The Royal College of Art. What’s the best thing about being a designer?
Freedom. You can deal with it how you like and no one is going to tell you how to do it.
You launched your career in design by turning bed springs into egg cups – an instant hit which won you the prize of UK Young Entrepreneur of the year. But if you hadn’t been a designer, what career would you have liked to pursue?
Designing was my calling, but if I hadn’t gone down that route I would have wanted to be a racing driver!
It would have to be something physical, so perhaps building too. I like to do stuff that’s real – stuff that you can pick up, look at, walk through, sit on and stand back and appreciate.
What’s your top tip for anyone wanting to be a designer?
You’ve got to feel it with your hand on your heart. I get excited about design and if you don’t, then it’s not going to work. I think the academic route is a good one, but it comes at a price, which can be a negative. But one of the good things about going to college is that you’ll end up knocking about with like minded or opposite people who help you to form ideas and challenge the way you think.
(Nick Munro for John Lewis, above)
You’ve opened your first independent high-street shop in Chester, but have also designed for Wedgwood, The V&A Museum, La Cafetiere, Fired Earth, John Lewis, Bugatti in Italy and Royal Selangor in Malaysia. For you, what has been THE most exciting project you’ve worked on?
I’m always looking to the future and excited about the next project. I’m creating more contemporary furniture for John Lewis and one design might be used for the Olympics, in the hospitality and press areas.
The most exciting projects as a rule are when you do your thing, pitch it out and then it takes on a life of its own. It’s exciting to see what other people make of the work and what they do with it and where they put it – you almost become a bit part. This sort of happened with the egg cups, which quickly became a real hit. I did quite a lot of designs in glass and ceramics too and it’s interesting to see the trends that spin off them.
Who or what has been your main source of inspiration?
In terms of design heroes, Sir Terence Conran for his encouragement, great spirit and mega talent for taste and precision – I love the way he selects colour, shape and combinations. He’s always great to chat to and I admire his entrepreneurship.
Christopher Dresser is also a fantastic inspiration – I love what he did in the 1800s with Japanese style and design.
(Watering Can by Christopher Dresser, Manufactured by Richard Perry, Son & Company, above)
Who’s your favourite artist?
I love American artist and sculptor Alexander Calder for his wit. He always seemed to have a good time – he would have been a great guy to meet.
I saw David Hockney’s work at York Art Gallery recently – it’s also interesting and articulate.
I started off in engineering and the advice I’d give to anyone studying the subject is to go to art galleries and understand what all that incredible intelligence is about. Likewise artists should check out science galleries. I think that design bridges the gap between art and technology.
I’m working on a project at the moment, making some crystal champagne glasses and I referenced Hockney in my design brief, using his Bigger Splash to help visualise my idea: it helped to tell the story of the ripple effect of the glasses.
What’s your most cherished piece of furniture at home?
I’ve got a really gorgeous original Danish leather sofa from 1962, which my wife bought me in a sale at Liberty’s. I couldn’t believe it was in the sale and my wife bought it for me on the spot. I sit and lie on it pretty much every evening so much so the leather is cracking.
Do you ever feel uninspired with ‘designers block’?
Not really! I actually think it would be a problem if you were a designer and got bored with your subject matter. You have to be constantly curious. I’m designing watches inspired by the Japanese railway system at the moment – they have those amazing station clocks and their engineering is world class. I’m also designing some refuse bins, trying to solve the hassle of filling and using them to provide a more efficient refuse solution for the kitchen, which is a worldwide issue. I always find something to inspire me.
What do you think makes a house a home?
Welcoming people. There’s no point having a stunning house if the owners don’t want you to be there.
How would you describe your home’s style?
Fairly kaleidoscopic! It’s a jigsaw. The joy of it is getting all the right elements to fit.
Are you a country or city person and how do you spend your weekends?
I spend a lot of time in London but my wife and I live in Chester, 20 minutes away from the mountains and sea. We’ve just renovated a 1970s bungalow in the middle of a traditional area in Chester – it was considered quite an eye sore when we bought it, but we’ve turned it around.
What three products could you not live without?
My bicycle (I had one specially made), my shoe brush (I like to take care of my shoes – they always pay you back!) and my teapot (I’m a big tea drinker).
What’s your motto?
‘Safe isn’t safe’.
I met up with a guy in the states who had put together a project I was working on and when I asked if we should play it safe and go to the market with something less forward and he replied ‘safe isn’t safe’. This motto is applicable to all aspects of life.
For more on Nick Munro’s inspiring designs visit his website
Not yet a member? It’s free to join ACHICA.com to get your daily dose of shopping promotions.
For beautiful furniture, accessories and daily design ideas for your home and lifestyle,
shop at ACHICA.
Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor