By Laura Goldstein
The importance of cultural heritage, sustainability and the responsibility of the designer to contribute to a healthy environment are foremost in Sholto Scruton’s mind when he approaches furniture design. In conjunction with Vancouver Design Week, he’ll be speaking on these subjects on Saturday, May 12that 1:00 p.m. and showcasing his intricately crafted furniture at SwitzerCultCreative 1725 West 3rd Avenue in Vancouver.
“I tend to make things that are purposely built with an intention to solve a problem,” he explains from his workshop, Sholto Design Studio in the Strathcona area of Vancouver. “For example, right now I’m working on benches commissioned for the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale by Vancouver landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander. We just got the approvals but it’s built on uneven ground from the Napoleonic times so the benches have to be stabilized to accommodate the landscape.”
For another project, he’s designing 53 jewellery cases for the Bill Reid Gallery from 16 cedar logs pulled from the Sunshine Coast that will honour Reid’s Haida culture. Scruton is collaborating with renowned Haida artist, Corey Bullpitt to ensure cultural authenticity on all of the work.
Born in Northern England into a family of furniture makers specializing in antique finishing (Sholto is a Gaelic name,) he’s a graduate of the Masters Program in Industrial Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. “I always thought I’d be working in plastics and metal,” he admits. Scruton immigrated and was raised in Northern B.C. and is married to Scandinavian graphic designer, Berit Hansen. “We come from cold places,” he laughs, “but the mix of cultures has shaped the way I design furniture to warm a space.”
His Emerald Collection began when “I wanted something unique and thought of the ‘emerald cut’ of a gemstone.” Both the coffee table and side table, hewn from solid walnut or oak in a hexagonal parquetry wood top, “were designed to feel both light and strong, angular yet soft, organic and logical and hand-rubbed with non-toxic natural oil and wax finish,” Scruton explains. Legs are available in solid wood but conceived in plated rose gold, chrome or brass instills a really modern vibe to the piece as a whole.
His rectangular Emerald Dining Table available in three sizes (or custom,) has been in great demand at Canadian Embassies and private residences in Barcelona, Brussels, Hanoi and Tanzania to name only a few.
“I first built the Emerald Credenza for my wife who wanted something in which to store files, says Sholto. “But then I thought, ‘why not a beautiful cabinet that could also store records, a wine rack and even as a bar?’” And voila! Like a magician’s box, the sleek cabinet, assembled with light-reflecting mortise and tenon joints in white oak, walnut, black oak or fir, cleverly conceals the aforementioned options. Should you choose the cocktail service, The Emerald Credenza top opens to reveal a cutting board and compartments for all your bar-tending needs.
Teaching the business side of industrial design part-time at the Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic in Richmond, Scruton hopes he can impart a sense of social responsibility through sustainability and good manufacturing process to his students.
“I like to practice what I preach,” he says of the importance of durable, easily repairable furniture over trendy throw-away products.
Instilling those values in his students also includes his 7-year-old son, Finn who is already handy with a hammer and drill and has built his first chair.