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Luke Hughes (furniture designer)

Luke Hughes
Luke Hughes

Luke Hughes (born 11 May 1957) is one of the United Kingdom's leading furniture designers and an accomplished mountaineer. He and his practice (Luke Hughes®[1]) have designed and made furniture for over 50 Oxbridge colleges, 100 parish churches, 20 major cathedrals and 5 Royal Palaces,[2] 2 synagogues and 900 corporate boardrooms, including Diageo[3] Unilever, Bloomberg and Reuters. As a mountaineer,[4] his expeditions over 25 years include exploring unmapped areas of central Tibet.[5]


Early lifeEdit

Luke Hughes was educated at Salisbury Cathedral School and St Paul's School, London before gaining an open history scholarship to Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1974.[6] His final degree was in History of Art & Architecture. Luke acquired cabinet-making skills in the 1970s while working with the harpsichord maker Michael Johnson (then based near Luke’s home in Donhead, Wiltshire) during school and university holidays.

Design careerEdit

Hughes set up Bloomsbury Joinery,[7] a small craft workshop in the back-yard of a house in Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, in 1978, before purchasing the freehold of a former banana warehouse in Stukeley Street, Covent Garden, in 1981 – a building which, in 2013, still houses part of his studio. He established Luke Hughes and Company in 1986,[8] while producing design work and prototypes for Liberty & Co. and John Lewis Partnership.[9]

Hughes's design philosophy is heavily influenced by the principles of the Arts and Crafts Movement,[10] not least about the nature of craftsmanship. Another central principle is that in any quality building, the connection between architecture and furniture should be seamless: most buildings cannot function without furniture, yet inappropriate pieces grossly undermine great architecture.[11] Luke Hughes has written extensively about these issues. He is a regular writer for the architectural profession (mostly on timber and materials) and lectures internationally on sustainability.

Since 1990, he has focussed on design for public spaces, particularly in the educational, ecclesiastical, corporate and leisure sectors – usually for buildings with significant architectural interiors, historic or contemporary. His work is the subject of books, articles,[12] awards and has been featured in exhibitions.

Significant projectsEdit

  • Westminster Abbey - sanctuary furniture (used during the Royal Wedding in April 2011)
  • Sainsbury Botanic Institute, University of Cambridge (winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize 2012)
  • Library and court room furniture for the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Westminster [13]
  • Scottish Supreme Court Library, Edinburgh
  • British Embassy, Moscow [14]
  • Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds [15]
  • Cathedrals - including St Albans, St Giles, St Paul's, Bristol, Exeter, Hereford, Rochester, Winchester
  • Oxbridge libraries - including Cambridge University Library and St Hugh’s College, Oxford, Brasenose, Peterhouse, Pembroke College, Cambridge[16]
  • Hotels - including Mandarin Oriental (London, Las Vegas), Peninsula Hotels (Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok) and Ritz Carlton (Los Angeles, Bahrain, Moscow)
  • Schools - including Eton College, Harrow School, Benenden, Bryanston, Charterhouse, Oundle, Highgate, Denstone College,
  • Corporate boardrooms - including Unilever, Diageo, P & O, Royal Bank of Scotland, Bloomberg, Reuters

In 2010, he was shortlisted for a Walpole Award for British Luxury Design Talent.[17] The award is given to an individual who has maintained the highest standard of British Design talent through innovation and design combined with British craftsmanship.

In 2012, he was one of the winning designers of the Church of England church chair competition.

Contribution to the design and crafts industryEdit

He was a member of the Crafts Council 1991-97,[18] Chairman of their Grants Committee 1994-7, Chairman of the Art Workers Guild,[19] and Honorary Designer for the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. He has been a member of the Fabric Advisory Committee for Southwark Cathedral and was a judge for the Wood Awards (2006-9) and for the Koestler Trust (2010) which encourages art in prisons.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce and of the Royal Geographical Society. Since 1994, he has been a Freeman of the City of London, and, since 2007, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters, and, since 1995-2011, a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers and First Assistant in 2008. He remains a member of the Art Workers Guild (since 1986), the Alpine Club and the Garrick Club (since 1990).

Mountaineering and other interestsEdit

As a mountaineer, he has scaled the North Face of the Eiger (September 1986),[20] climbed within 100m of the summit of Everest (May 1988),[21] and made expeditions to Greenland (July 1992).[22] Over 25 years he made more than a dozen trips to the Himalayas to explore much of the unmapped, unexplored areas of central Tibet.

He spent his gap year before university, in 1975, serving as a midshipman with Blue Funnel Line, during one of the final years before container ships took over from cargo-liners, working in the Far East. In the late 1970s, he was also a volunteer diver on the excavation of the Mary Rose, the Tudor warship that sank in the Solent in 1545.

Books and articlesEdit

  • The Encyclopedia of Wood, Aidan Walker (ed.) – contribution from Luke Hughes, Quarto Publishing, 1989
  • ‘Spoke-shaves, spanners and computers’, Independent, 22 Nov 1989 (text of lecture given by Luke Hughes)
  • Artists’ reactions to the commissioning process, Contemporary Art in British Churches, Laura Moffatt & Eileen Daly (eds), Art & Christianity Enquiry, 2010
  • ‘Mountains of the Gangdise or Transhimalaya of Tibet’, Luke Hughes and Julian Freeman-Atwood, Alpine Journal, 2003


  • Architectural Review/Spectrum Award for Product Excellence 2001 & 2001
  • FX Interior Design Award 2001 – Mandarin Hotel
  • Wood Awards 2004 – Edinburgh Supreme Court Library (highly commended)
  • Stone Awards 2006 (highly commended)
  • Regional RIBA Award 2007 - Theatre Royal Bury St Edmund’s
  • Chelmsford DAC Design Awards 2009 – St Alban’s Romford

Further readingEdit

  • The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Chris Meale (ed.), Merrell, 2010
  • British Embassy in Moscow, Jeremy Melvin, FCO Publications
  • Art Workers Guild: 125 years – Craftspeople at work today, Lara Platman, Unicorn Press, 2009
  • Modern British Furniture, Lucia van der Post, Financial Times, 8 November 1986

Press articlesEdit

  • 'In conversation with Luke Hughes' by Candice Lim (Futurarc - the voice of green architecture in Asia 2012 vol. 27
  • 'Luke Hughes on American Hardwood' (Panels and Furniture Asia, April 2012)
  • 'Exquisite, apposite design (Indian Furniture Journal Jan/Feb 2011)
  • 'A visit to the Supreme Court Library' (Inner Temple Newsletter April 2011)
  • 'King of Theatres' by David Adshead (Country Life 14 Feb 2008)
  • 'Learning with good humour and mirth - Society of Antiquaries' by Christopher Catling (Country Life 3 Dec 2008)
  • 'Unique pieces draw special buyers' by William MacNamara (Financial Times 22 Dec 2007)
  • 'Rewriting history' by Jeremy Melvin (Sunday Times 28 Jan 2007)
  • 'ABK's Moscow Embassy - Britain at its best' by David Taylor (Architects' Journal 18 May 200)
  • 'Carpenter carved out success by going against the grain' by Rupert Steiner (Sunday Times 29 June 1997)
  • 'A master-craftsman on the mountain' by Ian Birrell (Hampstead and Highgate Express 1988)


  1. ^ 'Independent Young Entrepreneur of the Year', Patrick Hosking, The Independent, 2 March 1989
  2. ^ 'Carpenter carved out success by going against the grain', Rupert Steiner, The Sunday Times, 29 June 1997
  3. ^ 'The spirit of enlightenment - Diageo headquarters', Architecture Today, 135
  4. ^ 'Conquering Britons', The Times, 2 November 1987
  5. ^ 'Mountains of the Gangdise or Transhimalaya of Tibet', Luke Hughes with Julian Freeman-Atwood, Alpine Journal, 2003
  6. ^ 'Carpenter carved out success by going against the grain', Rupert Steiner, The Sunday Times, 29 June 1997
  7. ^ 'Contemporary classics', Nicole Swengley, The Times, 8 July 1989
  8. ^ 'Carpenter carved out success by going against the grain', Rupert Steiner, The Sunday Times, 29 June 1997
  9. ^ 'Arts of oak - and steel', Peta Levi, The Times, May 1988
  10. ^ ’The Odd Couple’, Aidan Walker, FX Magazine, September 1997, pg 82
  11. ^ ’The finest seating to complement lighting’, Anthony Russell, Church Building, Sept/Oct 2007, pg. 24
  12. ^ 'Designer profile', Christina Esposito, Architects Journal, November 2005
  13. ^ 'The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom', Chris Miele (ed.), Merrell, 2010
  14. ^ ’From Russia with Love – the Moscow Embassy’, Kenneth Powell, Royal Academy Journal, Spring 2000
  15. ^ ’King of Theatres’, David Adshead, Country Life, 14 February 2008
  16. ^ ’Pembroke College – Foundress Court’, Architects Journal, 12 December 1996
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-11-03. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  18. ^ 'A crafty link with industry; Roger Trapp examines initiatives to bring traditional skills out of the cold', Roger Trapp, The Independent, 9 Nov 1997, page 6
  19. ^
  20. ^ ’Home from the Eiger’, Luke Hughes, Alpine Journal, 1988
  21. ^ ’On the Big Hill – a non-climber’s Everest’, Mark Anderson, Faber & Faber, 1988
  22. ^ ’Lindergs & Lemons – Greenland’, Luke Hughes, Alpine Journal, 1993