Cambridgeshire car enthusiast Jules Sturgess on his eye-catching approach to furniture design
Changing careers and running your own design business sounds idyllic, but the reality is not as rosy as one might imagine. As with many other small businesses, it hasn't been an easy ride for Jules Sturgess Design, a ground-breaking Foxton-based company which specialises in designing and manufacturing unique, minimalist furniture.
Heavily influenced by the structural design and ever more advanced materials and manufacturing processes used in the making of racing and supercars, Jules, a former student at Cambridge Arts and Sciences (CATS), has now turned his considerable talents into creating sleek, gravity-defying pieces of furniture, in which the innate beauty of the materials is revealed.
“Design is really what I want to be doing full time,” said Jules who also studied industrial design at Newcastle University. “Despite developing products and committing as much free time as possible to the furniture business for the last eight years, the demands of life meant that it had to go on the back burner.”
Jules emphasised that he is a designer first and foremost. Only recently, his partner and business manager, Ruth Blomiley, gave up her teaching career to run the organisation, giving Jules more time to focus on the practical side of things.
This has given the company momentum and with this full-time input, things are starting to take off. “I wanted a career change and took the risk because of how exciting this is,” explained Ruth. Jules has his own fully-kitted out workshop (all the prototyping and finishing is done on site) and stated: “Our furniture is innovative and totally unique.”
He continued: “I’d say it’s very modern, but the idea behind it is to use the structural properties of other materials, not just carbon fibre. There are plenty of very strong structural materials and a lot of furniture is way over-specified. I am really enjoying working with different materials and finding that contrast between very modern manufacturing and traditional finishes – woods and leathers, nice soft finishes.
“Many of our pieces, like the bar stools, if they were made of any other material, they wouldn’t work in that exact shape. All the products are tried-and-tested and a lot of people look at it and say it doesn’t look very comfortable because it’s hard and there’s very little padding used – but because of the nature of the material, it’s got an inherent amount of flex built into it and they are actually much more comfortable than they look.”
Currently, there are four main products available, including the striking Monolito table and the Marea chaise longue, and the line will continue to grow and develop. Jules, who used to race cars as a teenager, specialises in the use of carbon fibre, a light, strong material used in car manufacturing and engineering which is an obvious link to his long-standing love of – and involvement with – supercars (after racing as a teenager he subsequently worked in motorsport instruction).
The design process starts with a hand-drawn sketch, before CAD designs are put together. Moulds are used to manufacture on site, although larger products have to be outsourced.
“Working with local businesses is important to the ethos of our company,” observed Ruth, Jules’ collaborator. “All finishes are bespoke and only the highest quality leather, alcantara, wood veneer and paints are used. The designs are meant to challenge expectations.”
Jules added: “The furniture doesn’t look like it should work – that’s part of the appeal.”
The pieces are certainly contemporary in style and anyone with a modern property would surely be keen to acquire what is really a very creative work-of-art – particularly pieces like the Marea chaise longue.
Already the company has started to fulfil its enormous potential and its quirky Poleiro bar stools are currently on sale in Nicholas Anthony Kitchens in Cambridge. The business is growing and is employing a part-time specialist carpenter to help with the continual demand, though Jules is adamant where the firm’s priorities lie: “Potential deals with companies in LA and China are exciting, but we don’t want to lose sight of our roots. We are a Cambridgeshire company and we want to establish ourselves in the UK first.”
Poleiro bar stools are available at Nicholas Anthony in Cambridge, or from Jules Sturgess Design (go to julessturgess.co.uk or email Ruth at email@example.com). The Marea chaise longue is also on display at Nicholas Anthony.