METRO Jun 2018

IF anyone can be described as the British Formica queen, it’s Lucy Turner. The furniture designer has pioneered upcycling using laser-cut Formica laminate with vibrant designs — from pineapples to flamingos. So strong is her fanbase that a piece was chosen for an MTV show and she has created a collaboration with John Lewis.

How does it feel to be a pioneer in British furniture?

Am I? [laughs] I do pride myself on being the original modern marquetry designer to use Formica laminate. There are still few people using the technique because it’s quite time-consuming and fiddly. But that’s what I love and the results are unique.

What sparked your excitement?

I have always wanted to make bright, fun furniture, and I have always loved the Formica brand. One day I decided to cover a British-made sideboard from the 1960s in some laminate. It seemed like a great way to uplift a tired piece. Laminate is so unique; unlike paint you can wipe it clean, it never fades or yellows, it’s heat and scratch-resistant and is very tactile. I was learning how to use a laser cutter, so I started experimenting with laminate. The idea of marquetry using Formica was born. The rest is history.

Where do you get inspiration and do you have a ‘look’?

I’m inspired by nature, vintage fabrics and vintage poster designs. The look is bright, colourful and quite distinctive — I hope.

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve made?

My all-time favourite piece is the foxglove cocktail cabinet. It reminds me of my summers in Cornwall, where the hedgerows are full of foxgloves.

Favourite piece: Lucy’s foxglove design

Any pieces you’ve kept because you love them so much?

I only kept one piece — a nest of tables of glossy black laminate with a cheese plant inlay in pink, gold and sandstone.

Anything ever gone wrong?

Yes. While making a limited-edition run of tables for John Lewis, there was a power cut. The bag press failed and I had to re-do about 25 table tops. They were partly glued and it was an absolute nightmare. I worked on Christmas day. I walked to the pub for a Bloody Mary in my work clothes. I looked very out of place. I like to work alone, with my radio on. I start as early as possible. I always like to finish on a high, ideally by seeing a process or a furniture piece finished.

How are you moving your design process on?

I have used the process on kitchen worktops, fitted furniture, splashbacks, headboards and wall panels, but there is so much more that can be done. I would love to do more kitchen designs and splashbacks.

You make everything in Britain. Why is British manufacturing important?

Manufacturing in your own country is extremely important for the economy. Britain has always prided itself on quality manufacturing and it’s up to the new generation of designers to utilise the skills and knowledge we have in this country in the furniture industry.

What challenges do you face?

The cost of materials has increased, so when selling to trade, margins are extremely tight. It can be a bit of a lottery where you sell your work . However, if you manage to get in a well-regarded store the benefits outweigh the negatives and the kudos and recognition can bring financial gain.

What would you love to create?

I have two sets of walnut folding screen frames waiting for me to fill them with something. The idea being one side will be vibrant and fun, the other subtle and calm, so you can switch them around to suit the mood. I have a lovely orchid design, which I think will work well.

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