John Makepeace and Parnham College

September 2017 is a momentous time for John Makepeace, marking 40 years since he founded Parnham College – the institution that inspired a generation of designers and furniture makers, influencing the world of contemporary design. Parnham College  was ahead of the game, encouraging students  to learn practical skills and processes among designers across all disciplines. In celebration of his work,  the Design Museum are hosting a talk entitled Parnham and the Matter of Making.

Parnham college

The history of the college is an interesting one. In 1976, John bought Parnham House in Dorset, (that sadly has been in the headlines recently due to the devastating fire), the purchase of this eighty-roomed Tudor manor house was to achieve three objectives: to provide larger studios for the growing team he employed, to establish separate residential, workshop and teaching facilities for aspiring furniture makers, and to open the historic house to the public with exhibitions of contemporary art and design.

Konstantin Grcic

Konstantin Grcic

The College gave a lasting legacy to the world of contemporary design through the ongoing work of its illustrious alumni that include world-famous designers such as Konstantin Gric, David Linley, Sean Sutcliffe, Juliane Trummer, Jake Phipps, Verena Wriedt and many others.

Sylvan Chairs John Makepeace

John Makepeace has been a challenger of design throughout his career, of this he said, ‘The history of British design in the twentieth century has largely been shaped by the drive to reduce costs. This has resulted in an impoverishment of furniture as an expressive medium.’

Trine Chairs John Makepeace

Trine Chairs John Makepeace

John continues to create fascinating work. Having completed a set of seven ceremonial chairs in 2016 for Plymouth University and more recently, exclusive commissions for Rosaline and Henry Wong in Hong Kong and an international legal practice in Malibu; John Makepeace Furniture also works in series, where a theme is developed in each piece, a good example is the ‘Flow’ set of four chest-of-drawers, all made from the same tree of ripple ash, one of the few uses of wood featured in the momentous V&A exhibition, ‘The Power of Making.’

For information about Beyond Parnham, please visit

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