AGA LIVING MAGAZINE | MILES GREGORY INTERVIEW
A home to remember us by. Indigo Furniture’s designer and co-founder tells us how British heritage and personal memory fuel his designs.
Even in an age of fast consumerism, nostalgia still holds sway. Memories, both personal and national, feed the imagination and it’s this desire to keep memories alive that forms the basis of Indigo Furniture’s ethos. Article originally published in AGA Living, a quarterly magazine for owners of the iconic cooker.
In our modern world, traditional skills, such as carpentry and furniture-making, are dying out, but it’s this age-old talent that Miles argues puts the ‘life’ back into furniture. “We are so fortunate because we have been brought up surrounded by heritage,” he says. “Most of what I’ve learnt has come from the skilled craftsmen I’ve worked with over the years, [but these skills] have now gone with them to the grave.” For this reason, Miles strives to link his furniture to the past by employing traditional tools and keeping the character of the materials he uses. The key to doing this is ensuring the timber and other materials are ‘natural’ and ‘honest’.
“It’s important to build furniture how it used to be built; how it’s always been built. I’ve always felt that we owe the people who came before us. An AGA is an iconic British piece which I think helps keep those memories alive.”
All the leather used is of English and Irish origin, which has every barbed wire mark and every tick bite marked into the surface. The same goes for the wooden furniture crafted in Indigo’s own workshops. “Why hide it?” Miles asks, “why hide every notch and every ring mark under highly-sanded lacquered surfaces? To sand them out takes away the character.” Indeed, the machinery used adds even more marks to the wood, but it’s these marks that give interest to the finished piece – and first memories in the furniture’s history.
The last of the wax furniture polish made by Miles Gregory’s mother on their AGA.
Miles’ furniture is not just built to carry on the memories and skills that form our national heritage – they are also made to hold the memories of those who buy the furniture. “We build furniture that’s going to last,” he states firmly. “It’s with you for life.”
In other words, his furniture is made to be used and should form part of a relaxed home life. The knocks, scrapes and scratches of everyday use add to the furniture’s charm.
“If someone comes into your house and drops a set of keys on the table, it’s nothing to get upset about. And if your child is doing their homework and writes outside the paper and onto the wooden table top, it’s nothing to cry over either – you just add even more history to the table. We are always surrounded by pieces of furniture that are full of memories and that’s the sort of pieces we want to create in our portfolio.”
THE AGA AT HOME
Key pieces in the home don’t need to be made of wood to hold memories; traditional items such as the AGA can also help keep precious memories close by.
For Miles, the memories evoked by an AGA take him back to his childhood. The AGA was a tool for his whole family – his mother used it to make fruit jams and preserves, and his father used the oven to dry out engine parts to feed his hobby as a steam model maker. Even now the smell of turpentine and wax sends Miles back into his old kitchen with his mother at the AGA making furniture polish, the same kind he uses today.
“The first thing we did is put an AGA into our kitchen, because it does everything and always has done. It’s the heart of the house and it keeps the memories as well.”
THE FAMILY AGA
His childhood AGA held memories in other ways, too. The AGA and its memories have even directly influenced some of Miles’ designs. The Brunel Table, (pictured above) for instance, has a wooden top and a steel base, which complements the cast metal of the AGA. “Timber and cast iron have always gone well together,” explains Miles. “It just brings the past back into our homes.”
But perhaps stronger influences are those personal memories of his family AGA. “On the hobs, my father taught me to steam-bend a little wooden fan, something he’d learnt as a child,” Miles reflects. This memory came back to him recently, and so his team built a steam box. Two days later, they’d steam-bent some ash wood into chandeliers for Indigo’s third showroom, located in Tunbridge Wells. “It’s something with a little bit of ‘wow’, and knowing where the inspiration came from.”, says Miles with a smile in his voice.
“There was never a day that went by without us using it. My brother and I made candles on it – I remember the wax going down the side of the AGA. All those memories… you want to keep them alive as they give the house a soul.”