During Covid our homes became sanctuary, playground and office. Nights out became nights in. More than ever Timothy Oulton and his team confronted the question of how our homes make us feel. That visceral feeling is at the heart of what Timothy Oulton creates with its furniture designs.
‘We only have one life, so we must elevate each moment to the utmost,’ says founder and creative director, Tim Oulton. ‘Whether we’re alone or relaxing with loved ones, working towards a better world or celebrating joyfully, all these moments are heightened when we’re surrounded by beautiful materials, finishes, forms and craftsmanship that connect deeply through the senses via stories and meaning.’ An example of this is the Noble Souls sofa collection, which makes use of natural linens and vegetable dyes to appeal to what people increasingly want in their homes – furniture and textiles that are natural, simple, trustworthy, comfortable and beautiful.
During lockdown, Tim was adamant he would not lose touch with his customers, so he hosted Friday night Zoom drinks with them. ‘I really enjoyed that face time with customers,’ says Tim, ‘and they’d turn their cameras round to show us their homes with their favourite Timothy Oulton pieces. It was brilliant.’ Brand ambassadors also offered video tours of products in the gallery – or even whole gallery tours – enabling customers to shop from home.
Typical of Timothy Oulton was the way it launched Live Chat. While many websites also have Live Chat, the brand wanted to improve on its offering so came up with a real face-to-face experience, instantly connecting customers, whatever time of day or night, with a real-life sales ambassador, who had personally met Tim. While the brand recognises digital is fast and responsive, the human touch remains key to the brand’s identity: ‘Our brand will never become an online-only experience at the expense of our galleries and Ambassadors,’ says Tim. ‘Yes, we’ve adapted our way of working, but our core focus is unchanged. We want to build relationships with customers, understand their needs, and guide them to create distinctive spaces to suit them. We believe that the future will be a hybrid of digital and real-life interactions.’
Innovation is crucial to the brand, so this year the Rex mirror and lighting collection did really well, as did the home bar collections, like Bio Hazard and Hudson. These will be added to, alongside more exciting innovations, in the 2021 Collection that launches in February.
Despite all the challenges of 2020, the year saw Timothy Oulton expanding to 40 galleries, with new openings in Glasgow, Hamburg, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Barbados among others. More openings are planned globally this year.
Rather than adapting to market forces, Timothy Oulton’s success lies in the brand’s unwavering focus on creating a visceral connection with its clients through extraordinary design. ‘We’re in it for the long haul,’ says Tim. ‘Our vision is clear and consistent and our strategy hasn’t altered much in response to either Covid or Brexit. Our mantra remains, “Be relevant or be dead”.’