British interiors haven Raft Furniture has arrived with a store in St John’s Hill, Battersea, South West London, and it’s a treat for those with an eco-friendly conscience as well as an eye for stylish homes. WORDS: Victoria Smith
Walking into Raft Furniture’s new Clapham Junction store is a calming experience. Muted colours, plump sofas, stylish home accessories and a wide array of fabrics have filled the space since the high-end interiors brand, which specialises in reclaimed teak furniture, arrived on St John’s Hill in September last year.
Chic, luxurious and covetable are words that spring to mind; ethical and green perhaps not so much, however that’s where Raft surprises and excels — it’s one of the leaders when it comes to eco-friendly furniture. In fact, its green credentials form the very backbone on which the company is built.
Looking back 16 years to when owner Mick Quinn co-founded the company with business partner Heinz Frye, and eco-friendly wasn’t top of people’s interiors wishlists, it often didn’t even enter into the equation. However, Mick and Heinz were interested not only in furniture and design, but green issues and reclamation too, hence Raft was born, and the eco-friendly business model began.
‘We don’t cut down any trees, it’s all 80 to 90-year-old wood, and we’re members of the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council),’ explains Mick, who goes on to highlight just how green their production method really is. ‘All timber needs to be kiln dried. Most companies use fossil fuels to dry their timber, but we use solar power. We’re actually the only company in the world to have solar-powered kilns in Indonesia. It’s properly green. We do it not just to save our souls or the planet, but as a business because people want it.’
And it’s true that since they began Raft in 1999, the demand for a product that’s not just stylish and comfortable, but ethically sound too, has increased. ‘People want to know they’re doing good and not adding to deforestation,’ continues Mick. ‘As a business it’s popular firstly because they [customers] like the product — the aesthetic and contemporary look — but the fact that it’s green adds to that. I think that’s why we’re so successful.’
So successful in fact, that Raft as a company has grown to a total of seven stores, the latest of which is in Clapham Junction. But why did Mick feel SW11 was right for the brand? ‘It’s a massively affluent area, and a very discerning market,’ he begins, before highlighting why Raft’s manufacturing methods are particularly suited to the housing stock in this part of town. ‘Because we manufacture all the sofas ourselves (the Raft factory is in Wembley), if we need to get something into a third-floor apartment, or somewhere that’s got an awkward lift or staircase, we can do that. We offer free access visits to make sure the product fits and can break the units down and build them in the house. That’s a big deal in an area like this where there are apartments on the seventh floor with fantastic big rooms, but you can’t fit the furniture into the lift – that’s not a problem for us.’
As he shows me around the new store, Mick’s passion for the products is obvious – demonstrating how a smart corner sofa can be reorganised to form a cube (‘perfect for Friday nights in with a box set. Or for the kids to play on’), he gestures for me to take a seat on the arm, which is fully padded as ‘you can ask teenagers not to sit on the arm of the sofa, but they will anyway, so you might as well make it comfortable.’
Every last detail of every piece has been thought out, and the proof really is in the finished product. A grand extendable dining table is crafted from the one piece of wood, so when you do pull it out to accommodate more people, there’s no change in the grain and the join is seamless. A coffee table (designed by Mick) is perhaps one of the most striking pieces – a glass top perched on an intertwined, solid section of tree root from Jakarta, meaning each piece is totally unique. This bespoke feel is carried though the entire range, with thousands of style and fabric combinations available, customised down to the smallest details such as the scatter cushions.
Furniture that’s as thoughtful as it is beautiful? It seems that Raft on St John’s Hill has got it just right, and that’s evident in its ever-growing fan base. As Mick proudly tells me, ‘Once our customers buy from us, they find it difficult to go elsewhere. We see the same people over and over again.’
62-64 St John’s Hill, Battersea SW11 1AD; 020 3764 1844; firstname.lastname@example.org