A Conversation with Designer Tom Dixon

Last week I had a chance to sit down with Tom Dixon in San Francisco. He was talking at Arkitektura as part of a vision set out by Arkitektura Assembly to create a community around design in San Francisco. Tom looked dashing—and very British—in a perfectly yellow sweater and a quirky tailored wool suit. Tom's year is off to a strong start—he was recently awarded Designer of the Year at Maison & Objet 2014, he is working on a 350-room hotel in London, and he has just published a comprehensive book on his own work called Dixonary (Violette Editions, 2013). But most of all, Dixon seems quite focused on creating a singular vision for his brand through lighting, furniture, and, increasingly, accessories. In his presentation, Tom discussed his frustration with Chinese manufacturers, knock-offs, and his belief that computer-aided manufacturing may eventually outsmart this blight on the industry.
dwell founder lara deam and designer tom dixon portrait

Dwell founder Lara Deam sat down with designer Tom Dixon at Arkitektura in San Francisco, California.

It’s impressive that you are self-producing and distributing. How is it going?

It’s more difficult than I thought it would be, but it's getting to a critical mass now. Most manufacturers are specialists for a reason. I’m more of a generalist and most generalists are retailers like Pottery Barn.

Do you miss the days in your welding shop?

I have a welding machine and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to spend time making things soon since I’m hiring professionals to do things that I don’t want to do.

Can you tell us about your hotel opening soon in London?

It’s a Morgans Hotel. It’s been kind of nice to approach spas, rooftop bars, and conference rooms—a whole different scale. Hoping that it will open in July.

What are your plans for Milan?

We’re going to surprise everyone again by going to the fair for the first time. MOST was a lot of work, we did it for two years and it was very exciting. But it will be interesting to see what happens in a more commercial context.

You’ve been described as having a British design sensibility—what does that really mean?

I’m sort of making it up—it's a peculiar thing, the British aesthetic, particularly in furniture and furniture accessories. It was so nostalgic when I started that a lot of what I was doing was a reaction against that. But if you are creating your own label then I think it’s quite good to have an identity. I’m like Land Rover of the furniture world—a bit chunkier, not particularly stylish.

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