Philip Koomen, Furniture and Wood Special Advisor, Sylva Foundation
Designer-maker Dr Philip Koomen has been appointed as the Sylva Foundation’s Furniture and Wood Special Advisor.
Talking about his voluntary appointment Philip Koomen commented:
“I have been involved in the work of the Sylva Foundation since advising the charity in its ground-breaking OneOak project (2009-12). Since then I have been pleased to help the foundation shape the vision and direction of its Wood programme, which came to life in 2015 with the opening of the Sylva Wood Centre. The charity’s work is in line with my own professional practice and vital if we are to foster a new generation of designer-makers using home-grown and other sustainable timbers. I am therefore really delighted to take up the role of Furniture and Wood Special Advisor.”
At the age of 22, Philip set up his first professional workshop at his parents’ home in Henley-on-Thames in 1975, having studied Furniture Design & Technology at Buckinghamshire College. He moved to his current workshop at Wheelers Barn in Checkendon, South Oxfordshire in 1984.
Philip’s vocational path was inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. He is committed to a sustainable approach to furniture design that celebrates wood and contributes to a greater understanding of our environmental responsibilities. Furthermore, he is dedicated to providing training for aspiring designer-makers; many past members have since set up their own workshops in Britain, Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Germany and Australia.
Philip and his team have produced the equivalent of over 120 years of furniture for private and institutional clients, including the stage furniture for the Hay Festival, the choir stalls for Dorchester Abbey and various overseas clients, including the international investment bank Fidelity. He has recently been commissioned by Oxford University to design and make a range of furniture for the new Blavatnik School of Government.
Philip earned a PhD in Sustainable Furniture Design from Brunel University. His doctoral research included the creation of a local cycle, sourcing and processing non-commercial timber from local estates. The resulting furniture was showcased in the touring exhibition Out of the Woods: a Sustainable Approach to Furniture Design that began at the River Rowing Museum, Henley in 2004, and “affirmed his status as one of the finest craftsmen in wood in Britain today.” BBC Homes & Antiques, 2004.
He has been awarded several fellowships, including a life fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts. In 2004 he was amongst a select group of designers invited to Buckingham Palace to celebrate the contribution of the design industry to the nation in recognition of “excellence in design”. In 2014 he was awarded a prestigious Arts Council grant to research his creative practice. The outcomes formed part of his “retrospective” exhibition, Forest to Furniture: Ideas in the Making, at the River Rowing Museum, shown this year. He also initiated and co-organised a successful symposium and public event, Ideas in the Making, on the nature of creativity at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History for over 1500 visitors.
Philip regularly exhibits, lectures and judges at design forums and academic institutions including Singapore,Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, France, Belgium, Dubai, USA and UK.
Philip Koomen’s website: www.philipkoomen.co.uk