Studio Visit: Richard Wrightman

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From his ground-floor studio in Long Island City, Richard Wrightman and his team of seven at Richard Wrightman Design, Ltd., craft sleek handmade pieces inspired by classic campaign furniture, bringing a touch of the exotic to contemporary interiors.


Studio Visit: Richard Wrightman

Photo: Lynn Leonidas

Q: What inspired your decision to become a furniture maker, and what particularly inspired your love of campaign furniture?

A: I started out working in filmmaking, and then I worked in fashion for three years. In my twenties, I explored the world and then ended up doing metal fabrication at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for almost four years. I actually had no woodworking experience at all when I decided I wanted a new life. My love of campaign furniture was sparked when I found a piece of an original campaign chair at a London flea market. The chair was designed in 1890 for the British by the Indian Corp of Engineers. I started my firm in 2000, making 4 different chairs. Now we offer 25 variations.


Studio Visit: Richard Wrightman

Wyeth Bookcase

Q: Why do you think campaign furniture still holds appeal?

A: To me it evokes the romance of distant lands. I love to try to capture the feeling of a past era, but for me, campaign furniture is also practical and elegant. It's transformable, foldable, ideal for apartments and smaller spaces, or for outdoors. It is always being rediscovered by new generations, and never goes out of style. We started with chairs but now produce side tables, desks, bookcases, screens, daybeds, and more. We have a collection of close to 80 pieces. We work in oak, mahogany, walnut, wenge, and a number of other woods, and offer 25 finishes. We make everything, even the hardware, in the studio. So the variations are almost limitless.

Studio Visit: Richard Wrightman

Large Chatwin Lounge Chair

Q: Do you ever create custom pieces?

A: Oh yes. We love working with designers. Of late, we have been creating a number of pieces for Jonathan Reed in London, and we just finished a special order for Jeffrey Alan Marks in Los Angeles. We are always happy to revise and adapt any piece in the collection. In fact, 80 percent of our collection has evolved from client needs. Our array of new fitted trunks came about after Ghurka asked us to devise a trunk that could incorporate two folding chairs. And I will happily work with a designer on creating an entirely new design if I think it is something that I can eventually add to the collection. 

Studio Visit: Richard Wrightman

Lambert Screen Type 2

Q: What innovations do you see ahead?

A: We are doing more upholstered pieces, and are working with more outdoor fabrics. We usually add four to five new pieces each year. You never know how a piece will evolve. We just made a trunk the length of a bench for a project in Mexico City. But we still love creating variations on our classic pieces. We keep a record of every piece we make—right down to the thread color—so that each one can be recreated, matched, or repaired. Fortunately, the interest in handmade pieces seems only to be increasing. When I started out, I felt unique. Five years later, I realized I was part of a demographic, that there was a whole new generation of makers, whether of bread, or wine, or beer. I am so glad that furniture is part of that movement.


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