Sebastian Blakeley Design creates unique, handcrafted furniture fusing English craftsmanship with Italian design
Drawing on the years he spent living and working in Italy, furniture designer Sebastian Blakeley has distilled his approach into four key Italian words: “energia” (energy), “anima” (soul), “interazione” (interaction) and “rispetto” (respect), in that order. These inform and describe how Sebastian sets about his designs, what he puts into the process, his relationship with customers and other craftspeople, and his respect for the materials he works with. The result is beautiful, classy, one-off furniture imbued with a character all of its own.
Sebastian was drawn to woodwork from a young age, with a traditional training in cabinetmaking and English craftsmanship, with forays into furniture restoration. “Those early years of working with the traditional techniques and skills were really important to me,” he says, “because they gave me a very clear understanding of the materials that I was working with.”
However, when Sebastian moved to Italy he discovered a very different approach to furniture making and design. “The traditional English craftsman looks at a piece holistically,” he says, “so you design and build it as a complete entity. For the Italians everything is broken down into components. Each component is then sent out to local specialists, such as brass workers, leather workers and so on.” It was a huge learning curve but a process that Sebastian fully embraced. He has now established a UK-based network of specialists who will carry out work for him when and where necessary.
After 12 years in Italy, where he built up a reputation as a bespoke furniture maker, Sebastian moved back to the UK and ultimately to Helston in Cornwall, where his business is now based. From there, he creates furniture for clients around the world, combining the sleek, contemporary lines of Italian design with traditional English craftsmanship.
Every piece is personalized and Sebastian works closely with his customers at every stage. “That collaboration is really important because otherwise there’s a risk that I’m just putting an imposition into their house,” he says. “I want the client to have a very strong relationship with what we’re making.” Sebastian is always refining and redefining how he works. But the Italian principles of energia, interazione and rispetto remain key to his process because this is what gives his furniture its most important component of all: anima.