Livingetc Discovers: Pinch

Who's behind Pinch?

Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon launched their business 15 years ago from around their kitchen table. Today, Pinch is celebrated for its pared-back pieces – from tables and chairs to sideboards and lighting – that ooze understated elegance and showcase the pair’s passion for craft.

The studio now has stockists from Sydney to San Francisco, an exclusive collaboration with Heal’s and its own store, opened two years ago, near London’s smart Pimlico Road design destination.

What drew them to working in design?

Russell worked as Sir Terence Conran’s design assistant after graduating from Ravensbourne College of Design. It was a baptism of fire, learning to transform sketches into final pieces. Oona had worked in TV production before joining The Nest, a brand design agency Russell co-founded in 1999, before they decided to launch on their own.

How did Pinch come about?

Russell wanted to return to designing furniture, so they sat down and mapped out how they could balance work and home life so both felt fulfilled, happy and meaningful. The couple also wanted to work with people whose skills they respected. After launching, their home became a workshop, studio and showroom. They designed for how they wanted to live.

What's the Pinch ethos?

Each piece must meet three criteria: to be a simple but strong, definable shape; have a beautiful materiality; and be expertly made. The couple want each piece to feel poised and elegant but comfortable and effortless to use.

What is their design process?

They design everything with their hands first, sculpting and fashioning pieces out of balsa wood into miniature models, before they work with the makers on refining it back just enough to allow for Pinch's handwriting but without it feeling too sleek. With no money when they first started to mass produce, each piece was made to order by great craftspeople. It formed the way the company still works today.

What are their greatest inspirations?

The pared-back, architectural rigour in their designs echoes the clean, simple lines of American Shaker and Scandi modernism, a Britishness in proportion and quiet timelessness, a warmth and humanity inspired by Arts and Crafts and a colour palette inspired by the changing seasons.

Why is handcraftsmanship so important to Pinch?

It gives each piece a sense of the designer’s eye and the maker’s hand – they love working with people who are nuts about what they do and invest that emotional connection into what they make. It’s how they’ve ended up working with the tree surgeon who makes the Twig side tables and the milliner who makes the Anders pendant light (its shape is inspired by a 1950s Lanvin dress).

Do they have a favourite material?

Wood is core – favourites include oak, walnut, Douglas fir and cherry. They also love beautifully textured velvet, soft leather and ceramics, like a Flare bone-china collection for 1882 Ltd. The Nim coffee table, first sculpted in clay, is cast from Jesmonite; recently they also produced it coated in bronze.

What makes a great piece of furniture for Pinch?

Something made to last – but even though a piece might be classic, it can be finished in something fun like a raspberry gloss.

What makes a Pinch piece special?

The couple have called their collection ‘concrete to country’ because each piece changes personality depending on its use. For example, a wooden cabinet might help a Bauhaus-style apartment feel warmer, while the fine lines of the Avery table and chairs work as easily in a modern space as a Tudor cottage.

Do they have a favourite colour palette?

Russell and Oona are inspired by compound colours of nature, like ochres, burnt oranges and tobacco browns. They mixed ‘Puddleduck’, one of the painted finishes, to be neither a purple, brown or grey. It’s all three.

How has the collection evolved?

The couple are currently working on a new house in Devon, where they've been experimenting with furniture as architecture – for example, the back of a Joyce cabinet has become the balustrade separating the staircase and kitchen.

What’s next?

New pieces include the Elan armoire and Moreau bed. Pinch arealso collaborating on a scented candle with Perfumer H’s Lyn Harris, and another bed, a table lamp, side tables, a round dining table, a new stool and an upholstered bench for the end of a bed are all in the pipeline.

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