Timothy Oulton: The furniture at the intersection of humble luxury and unique eclecticism - Lifestyle NZ
Timothy Oulton: The furniture at the intersection of humble luxury and unique eclecticism

Timothy Oulton: The furniture at the intersection of humble luxury and unique eclecticism

From its establishment in 2008, Timothy Oulton has served a niche in the market: offering classic English furniture with a modern twist, with a dash of eclecticism — for those unafraid to make bold statements with their furnishings.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

DISCLAIMER: This article is based on an interview with Timothy Oulton, conducted shortly before his tragic passing last month. ArchiPro expresses its sincerest condolences to the Oulton family and members of the wider Timothy Oulton company family.

In 1976, Major Philip Oulton opened an antiques shop, Halo Antiques, in a quaint village called Hale just outside Manchester, England.

His son, Timothy, was enamoured with the surrounding tidbits, developing a keen affection for the heritage and history the antiques often provided. When Tim began life as a young teenager at a public boarding school, he enjoyed wandering the old, airy halls, taking in the beauty of the old English leather furniture and oddities that dotted the school.

This is when his passion for English furniture design began, and a few years down the track, he would open his own business: Timothy Oulton, a company focused on furniture inspired by the past, reconceived from a contemporary perspective, and handcrafted with the optimum techniques and materials.

From its launch in Los Angeles in 2008, the Timothy Oulton brand grew, and soon stores opened their doors in London, New York and Hong Kong.

The Apollo.

Discovering a niche

As the company grew, so did its singular brand of style, and soon it delved into truly unique products. From 3.5 tonne cylindrical aquariums to huge stainless steel enclosed restaurant booths, Timothy Oulton carved out a niche in the market: offering classic English furniture with a modern twist, with a dash of eclecticism — for those unafraid to make bold statements with their furnishings.

Timothy Oulton himself says the brand focuses its efforts on one thing: making outstanding spaces.

“It’s all about creating spectacular interiors with a product that's not just furniture — that transcends furniture and moves into a storied life,” says Timothy.

As Timothy Oulton’s sole distributor in New Zealand, Dawson & Co is wholly on board with the company’s vision — a vital part of which is its maximalist approach to unique pieces.

Timothy says the company prides itself on providing furniture that can be seen as ‘out there’ — and this is by design.

“Some of the furniture can be quite extreme, and that’s intentional,” says Timothy. “A pure crystal mirror that lights up, a drinks cabinet inspired by plane turbines — these are not everyday kinds of products.

“But there are always people who want pieces of furniture that are unique and spectacular, and those are the kind of people who are drawn to our brand.”

A prime example of Timothy Oulton’s maximalism is Derek the Diver — a statue of an astronaut, floating inside a 3.5-ton cylindrical aquarium, with actual fish living nibbling around his helmet. Or the Apollo, a giant stainless steel restaurant booth modeled off the original Apollo 11 capsule, with bespoke Tomahawk Camel leather, Alabaster dining table and sheep fur carpet.

“We love our products to smack you in the face,” says Timothy. “We want people to walk in and say ‘what on Earth is that?’”

Derek the Diver.

Classic English sensibilities

Of course, it’s not all just about the jaw-dropping, ultra-unique pieces. The company offers many mainstays of living, kitchen and bedroom furniture, albeit with twists of Timothy Oulton ingenuity.

For example, the Gentle Shepherd collection — a range of chairs, sofas, beds, stools and more, all centred around the theme of high-quality, New Zealand-source sheepskin.

There’s the rugged and muscular Manx armchair, named after a rare four-horned sheep native to the Isle of Man; the Voskos armchair, taking its name from the Greek for shepherd; the cosy Baqtasi sofa and playful Pastekh stool, named after the Kazakh and Yiddish terms for shepherd; and the Ovis bed, referencing the genus of sheep, offering a primal yet modern take on luxury.

It’s these kinds of products, that offer beauty and comfort but with an unmistakable Oulton-esque flair, that truly encapsulate a phrase Timothy likes to use to describe his brand: humble luxury.

“I like the term humble luxury, because the word ‘luxury’ is driven by the quality of the material, rather than the quality of the marketing, as it is with many hyperbrands,” says Timothy. “With those brands, you look at the price tag and you know you’re paying for all the marketing.

“Humble luxury implies that the price is commensurate with the quality of the materials — and that’s what we’re all about.”

This mentality hearkens back to Timothy’s beginnings in his father’s antiques shop. He learned from a young age how to judge the quality of each individual item based primarily on its materiality and historic value.

He took this knowledge, and with it, formed the basis of how to ‘put things in context’, using antiques as a reference — “Because to be good in antiques, you have to understand context,” he says.

This also translates into understanding the context of changing trends, sensibilities and styles. As a provider of items that emphasise old English design qualities and niche unique items, the team at Timothy Oulton work hard to ensure that their offerings strike the balance of taking new trends on board, while staying true to its own core principles.

Learn more about Dawson & Co's distribution of Timothy Oulton products.

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