We are delighted to be joined for this month’s instalment in our Meet the Creatives series by Toby from Inglis Hall. Toby and his team design, build and install beautiful kitchens across Sussex. They have a well-deserved reputation for exquisite craftsmanship and unique, stunning designs so we thought we’d see where Toby gets his inspiration from, and hear his thoughts on interiors and the design process.
We were intrigued to learn that Toby is inspired by restaurant design and food, the thing he would save from a burning building, and how his team are far more than simply ‘kitchen makers’. Read on to find out why.
Can you tell us what you do, and how you came to be doing it?
Inglis Hall are a bespoke kitchen maker and architectural interiors company. I have been involved in all forms of cabinet making and carpentry since training at the age of 16 at Rycotewood college. It has been a journey of learning for nearly 30 years during which I have trained and worked with many of the country’s most talented craftsman. They have all helped instil in me an innate understanding of how wood works, and how best we can use it. We apply this knowledge to kitchens, staircases, pantries and cellars – in fact, to the whole house. Although we are known as ‘The Kitchen Makers’, we’re actually so much more.
Where do you draw inspiration from, and what do you do if you ever feel creatively stuck?
We have a very creative team, and we constantly bounce ideas and designs around the studio and workshop, discussing new ways of doing something or a new material someone has seen. I am also fortunate that my partner Elisa has been involved in the London restaurant scene over the last ten years, which has meant attending events in many of these establishments. Restaurants combine at least two of my loves: food and design. I often come back with ideas for both. The nice thing is that if I ever have a creative block, it’s the perfect excuse for a visit to Hawksmoor!
What are the most exciting developments in terms of interiors (furniture, product design, sustainability, interior design etc) that you see coming up in the future?
I think the future of good design is as bright now as it has ever been. Our focus is on longevity and quality. Indigenous timbers play a huge part for us, and our role is to turn them into something that will be valued by generations to come. With so many products today destined to be in a skip tomorrow, we see this as our strongest environmental responsibility. If a chair can last for hundreds of years, then it was truly worth making. If it also brings joy, pleasure and comfort every day, then you have the winning ticket.
What do you love most about your job?
The most enjoyable thing about my job is the team I work with, and the reactions from our clients. The only way to be successful as creative makers is to have a team that genuinely cares. This ability to care must be for all things, whether they be big or small. Caring for our customers, for each other, for complete strangers. If you have this, then every day is enjoyable, and every process is enjoyable. If you don’t have this, then every aspect will be hard work. Luckily, because we function as a team who are aware of and nurture this, we can truly say that we enjoy our work.
What are your most treasured household objects?
My most treasured household objects are a coffee table I made when Inglis Hall was first founded, and a lamp made by my French grandmother. If the house was on fire I would grab the lamp, as I have a feeling the table would survive, being made from a slab of Burr English Oak 2 ½” thick, approx. 5’ x 2’. It is such a complex knarled block of pure nature that it appears indestructible. The lamp on the other hand is a handsome piece of pottery very much in the Leach style and era. My grandmere was a talented potter amongst many other things, including being the finest cook I’ve had the good fortune to have known. I would therefore prize this above all else and would definitely save it first.
What are the main challenges you face in your professional life, and how do you try to overcome them?
Our biggest challenge is to maintain this illusive quality in what we do. Whether it be a relatively modest kitchen scheme, right up to a country mansion, each deserves and requires the essence of my Burr Oak coffee table, or grandmere’s lamp. That thing that makes something timeless and enduring. There often is no budget for this, or client brief. So it’s our role to somehow get it in there, despite other constraints.
If you could visit any house/ building in the world, where would you go?
I have always dreamt of visiting Scott of the Antarctic’s cabin. Built exactly one hundred years ago, I was always fascinated by how they actually managed to build such a robust and inviting space. I have been creating cabin like spaces ever since, in a secret homage to this building that I have never set eyes on, so to visit it would be a real joy. I often think that the simplicity of living in a cabin would bring me more happiness than any other way of living. This has lead to a love of timber walls, which Inglis Hall incorporate into projects whenever we have a willing client!
Thanks so much Toby for these fascinating, thought-provoking answers. You’ve got us dreaming about cabins in the woods and the objects that we really treasure.