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Inspirational visit to the Designer Workshop, Basford, Nottingham

By Marysia Zipser and Janine Moore

Janine and I made a visit to the Designer Workshop premises in what is believed to have been one of the stable buildings of the large Victorian Shipstones brewery site in Basford, Nottingham. We parked our car by 21 Eland Street and knocked on the red door.

We were welcomed by visual artist Matt Jordan, who I had been in contact with via Facebook for a few years admiring his art and storytelling.

This was a chance to discover more about Matt and see his artwork displayed over the wonderful spacious showroom. Items of sofas, chairs, mirrors, tables, musical instruments, upcycled by Matt and the team with artistic flourish to become a beautiful showcase of what can be achieved with imagination, whimsical expression and that touch of magic.

Matt explained his background harking back to childhood in Harrow leaving school with no qualifications. He was an artist and doodler from a young lad and dreamed of making it his lifelong career. Fast forward to ten years ago when he made the personal decision to move to Sherwood, Nottingham and he’s not looked back. After Janine and I took some photographs including me sitting comfy in a restored club chair, MD Tan Munir walked in and joined us and the conversation flowed further discovering our mutual connections.

In January 2014 Tan, a Nottingham Trent University business alumni, joined forces with Steve Till, Master Upholsterer, to attract and feed the needs of those looking for something special in their homes, business and hospitality premises.

Steve has had thirty-five years of bespoke craftsmanship in the furniture industry, even working for The Conran Shop in London. That’s when I jumped in and revealed Sir Terence Conran had been my employer, first with Nottingham’s Habitat in Victoria Centre and then being promoted to Press Office Assistant at his Habitat Designs/Conran Associates offices on Neal Street, Covent Garden. What a fantastic period it was for me working there during the 1970s amid all that creativity. I learnt everything about Art & Design and from his iconic House Book which was gifted to me on leaving in 1976 to join BBC Publications and then to BBC Radio.

After reminiscing about our working backgrounds, Tan and Steve gave us a fascinating tour of the workshop, introducing us to their fellow craftsmen, and seeing the whole area filled with furniture items ready to dispatch to their happy owners, those in mid-preparation and reupholstery and those waiting. Such a colourful and comfy array.

Tan spoke about Nash McLean, one of their many clients, based in Derby, and once in Hockley as Nash Interiors. How I enjoyed my regular Saturday visits there following my 1997 return to Nottingham. A cave of delights and decor with comfy chairs and sofas to wallow in; and enhancing artworks on the walls. Imaginations of beautiful house interiors conjured up in my mind.

Design Workshop works with antique dealers, and the Contract Market, offering a range of commercial upholstery for bars, hotels and restaurants, as well as for private homeowners.

“The best upholstery company in Nottingham…” and “These guys work magic!” are some of their testimonials. What else to add? You, as readers, can take the opportunity to visit their showroom on Eland Street and alert your decor senses. The options are limitless.

Janine Moore comments:

“It was a true pleasure to meet the remarkable team at the Designer Workshop in Basford,Nottingham. There is such a talent base of creativity and expertise in one place. Their workmanship and skill set is very obvious as we admired the quality of the products, and it was great to see them at work in the upholstery workshop. The finished upholstered product is of such high standard. Upstairs we had the opportunity to meet and talk with the lovely Matt Jordan and Tan Munir while viewing the wonderfully inspirational artwork created by Matt. We certainly felt very welcomed and inspired by all of the team. I enjoyed discovering the different styles of upcycling and methods used in the making of the bespoke pieces of art displayed in the gallery, such as the way Matt uses lace to create beautiful patterns that are at the same time very tactile. I feel that the humour and detail of his work is very interesting and as he says he loves to doodle, such a fun style. Overall a great experience and a lovely bunch of people.”

It’s fitting to conclude with William Morris’s famous quotation, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not believe to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Marysia Zipser and Janine Moore


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