How a Steam-Bent Home Took Shape in Cornwall

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By Huckberry / Published by Huckberry
For Tom and Danie Raffield, building a family home was a labor of love.

Pay close attention on the drive to Tom and Danie Raffield’s home in Southwest Cornwall. The surroundings are serene—old-growth woods in every direction. As you approach the house, crowds of oak and sweet chestnut trees threaten to swallow the horizon, bending to form a canopy over the road. That’s your subtle hint at what’s to come. It’s precisely this type of bend in a tree that catches Tom’s eye—forms found in nature are the foundation of his design process.

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Tom and Danie’s livelihoods and lives revolve around these woods. First, as the focus of their steam-bent wooden furniture design business, and second, as the site of their dream home. Given that their work depends on bending solid wood to their will, it’s no surprise that bringing the house to life was no easy task. But ingenuity and resourcefulness propelled them over each hurdle.

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All of the timber used for the home came from the surrounding woods, much of it fallen during storms, saving them a significant chunk of change. Danie’s background as a mathematician and civil engineer came in handy as the site’s project manager. During the extensive build-out, they lived in the claustrophobic stone gamekeeper’s lodge on the property, shuttling themselves and their two small children through the cold to the outhouse to wash up.

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"Designing and making and selling something all from under one roof just gives you such creative freedom."

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Fast forward through years of labor in the form of countless long nights and weekends, as well as the arrival of a third child, and the house of their dreams is a reality. It’s said that our homes are a reflection of who we are. For Tom and Danie it’s their artistic vision made tangible. The steam-bent facade suggests the rolling landscape of their village. The furniture and fixtures were all made on-site in their workshop as the business proved successful. And the wood used for the exterior is untreated, changing appearance and showing its age through the years as their family grows within.

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