Architects move into furniture making

Arthur Quarmby caused a sensation in the 1970s when he decided to improve on what cavemen pioneered in the paleolithic era.He designed the first modern-day, earth-sheltered home in an effort to 'build in a kindly way in a delicate and beautiful landscape so that the house blended as much as possible into the environment.'

This large-scale mirror is part of the Dyehouse range
This large-scale mirror is part of the Dyehouse range

Underhill in Holmfirth, burrowed into a moorland hillside, surrounded by soil and topped with grass and a large glass roof, spawned a series of semi-underground dwellings and continues to inspire green builders and architects.

Now retired and still residing at Underhill, Arthur’s pioneering spirit lives on in the Huddersfield architectural practice he founded, although Arthur Quarmby Associates was forced to change its name to something more cryptic

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“The issue was that we became associated only with underground houses and earth shelters. We did lots of drawings for people who thought they wanted them but only half a dozen of them were built.

Log store from Dyehouse

“We had a reputation for being a quirky company that did hobbit houses, even though we designed lots of other things. That’s why we decided to change the name,” says Mark Lee, a partner in the practice, which is now called One 17, code for its founder’s initials, AQ, the first and 17th letters of the alphabet. Since rebranding, the team at One 17 has built an interesting, multi-disciplinary firm.

It is best known for designing contemporary one-off homes, although it also tackles commercial and ecclesiastical projects. As clients often ask for advice on how to furnish and decorate their new properties, One 17 now also has an interior design service.

Six years ago, Mark and his practice partners, Kevin Drayton and Stuart Beaumont, decided to turn developers in an effort to bring “good design to speculative housing developments”. The 13 detached homes at Delamere Gardens at Fixby, near Huddersfield, fulfilled their ambition and are characterised by contemporary interiors, clever architectural details and built-in storage solutions. Their latest development is Hinchliffe Mill, near Holmfirth.

“The symmetry and the amount of natural light has a lot to do with the success of the houses at Delamere Gardens. People don’t realise it is there but they sense it. What we have learned is that people will pay for good design so we will be building more of our own developments,” says Mark.

The furniture is beautifully crafted

They have also turned their attention to designing and publishing their own quarterly lifestyle magazine, Notes.

The latest venture is a range of furniture, named Dyehouse after the One 17 headquarters, a converted industrial building at Armitage Bridge, Huddersfield.

It’s a move that echoes that of architectural icons, including Charles and Ray Eames, Mies van der Rohe and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and was sparked by the furniture Mark designs to complement the millionaire mansions that he designs.

“Multi-disciplinary practices are not unusual but they tend to deal with commercial projects rather than residential. What we do is very niche,” he says.

Log store from Dyehouse

Designing their own furniture is also easier than finding a supplier

“We could spend hours looking and never find anything that matched the vision we had so designing our own was the obvious solution. Plus, a lot of our designs are of a scale that you can’t easily buy anywhere else,” says Mark.

The 2m by 1.5 metre oak-framed Lea mirror, which retails at £2,250, is a good example of this and, like the rest of The Dyehouse range, it reflects the architect’s quest for a refined, pared back aesthetic

“We have about 30 different products and the idea is that they will be timeless and will fit in a period or contemporary setting. A lot of them are new concepts for old things. We make our own picture frames because we could never find one that was right. We have spent a long time on research and development,” says Mark, whose latest product is a fire pit, which retails at £725. “I bought a fire pit from a garden centre for £150 and it burnt through in the first year. I couldn’t find anything better to replace it with so I designed one and had it built to last. Over time it will rust into a beautiful autumnal colour.” The Dyehouse collection is made by some of Yorkshire’s finest artisans and craftspeople, with the steel work done just up the road in Slaithwaite. The only problem has been moving from prototype to finished product thanks to Mark Lee’s “tweaking”.

The furniture is beautifully crafted

His award-winning home, the Round House, a converted water tower, which won the prestigious RIBA Stirling prize, took him 18 months to build but ten years to finish thanks to his quest for perfection.

The furniture is now available online and a showroom at One17 HQ is in the offing. There are also ambitions for a shop.

Mark, meanwhile, is busy designing garden furniture. He loves a new challenge, much like his mentor.

“Arthur Quarmby is one of the most inspirational individuals I have met, from a design perspective. He taught me the difference between building and architecture.

“Anyone can build something, but an architect and interior designer take it to a different level. They make a home feel special, cosy and inviting,” he says.

n The Dyehouse homeware range is at thedyehouse.com; Some of the Dyehouse collection will be available to view at Nomad Atelier, George Yard, Barnsley, S70 2FA. 9am - 5.30pm Monday – Saturday from 5th March.