Method Studio archive

Friday 24 January 2014

Method Studio is the brainchild of husband and wife design duo Callum Robinson and Marisa Giannasi. Their pieces fuse the traditional with the contemporary while using native materials


Here at F&C, we like to think of ourselves as having our ear to the ground, being aware of new and upcoming trends, and also knowing which designer-makers are on the cusp of making it big. We like to think we've got a pretty good eye for design and what looks pleasing, and when we heard about the work of Method Studio, a husband and wife design duo from Scotland, we were instantly excited and intrigued.

Taking a quick glance at the portfolio of private clients, it instantly became apparent that we were talking to experts in the field: people with a definite passion for furniture making and design. In this respect, Method Studio are a formidable force, especially given the fact the company was only established in 2009. As well as work for private clients, they have created unique pieces for the likes of Vacheron Constantin, Jaguar Land Rover, Fortnum & Mason, Johnnie Walker, Denham and the Glasgow School of Art. I think you'll all agree that this is quite an impressive list. So where does the magic happen and how did this company come about? I was eager to find out more.

Only the best will do

Method Studio's workshop is situated in the historic Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland. Undoubtedly a team who have massive amounts of passion and drive, given their impressive client list, the team meticulously designs and handcrafts unique bespoke furniture, trunks, cases and other ingenious objects. Established in 2009 by second generation cabinetmaker Callum Robinson and architect Marisa Giannasi, the goal is always to apply a very down-to-earth and practical understanding of the process of making beautiful objects, with a very personal, research-driven and communicative approach to designing them. Unsurprisingly, only the finest materials are chosen to be used within their designs, but they specialise in the combination of native hardwoods, precision engineered metalwork and leather. According to Callum: "Each exclusive piece is the product of a deeply personal development process, before being tenderly and individually handmade by a master craftsman."

A good team

I started off by discovering that Method Studio is very much a team effort. Callum tells me that this was born out of a fundamental desire to work with his - now - wife Marisa, a talented graduate from Mackintosh School of Architecture with a background in architectural modelmaking, as well as full-time practice.

In terms of where it all began, the 'Method Story' was hatched during a walk in Glencoe on a drizzly afternoon back in 2009. Callum and Marisa started discussing business ideas and just how they were going to go about making their vision a reality. Callum tells me that walking and talking in the woods and hills behind their home is still where most of the company decisions get made!

Callum tells me a bit about his route into furniture making and I discover that his career actually began a lot earlier. "I fought against it for many years!" he says, 'Being as I am the son of a skilled and tremendously hardworking designer and furniture maker, I was involved in making things since before I could tie my own shoes - just don't ask my dad when I learned how to do that!" He tells me that the father and son team worked together professionally for over a decade, and they still try to work together when time allows it. Callum's father incorporates his incredibly detailed carving work into some of Method's pieces, as you can see in many of the examples here.


Callum telling me about his father's input fortuitously led me to ask more about the pieces they made and which pieces they're most proud of: "As a team we're tremendously proud of the 'Mack' chairs, which, in the words of Seona Reid CBE, Ex-Director, GSA are "a significant modern re-imagining of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh." These chairs are made from handcrafted ash (Fraxinus excelsior), aluminium and organic leather and are created to sit alongside priceless examples of the designer's original work in the Mackintosh Room at the Glasgow School of Art. I'm sure you'll all agree that this is quite a claim to fame. What I like about their work is that it is classic yet cleverly and effortlessly executed, fusing the traditional with the new. This works beautifully and I love the addition of leather, for example, which really makes the items stand out while imparting a sense of style, and above all, immense quality.

As Callum explains, Method Studio's unique contemporary twists on classic steamer trunks - incorporating fine hardwood and leather elements - have caught the eye of the luxury world internationally, with recent bespoke commissions for one-off pieces from the likes of Vacheron Constantin - the oldest Swiss watch maker in the world - Fortnum & Mason, Johnnie Walker and Jaguar Land Rover. Callum says: "Seeking to understand and respond to the rich heritage of the brands we've worked with is something that's been deeply ingrained from a background of bespoke work, and respecting their rich histories is fundamental. That said, we also love injecting a bit of theatre and magic where we can. People should want to play with the work!"

Industrial elegance

So how do they define their style? According to Callum, 'industrial elegance' sums it all up perfectly. By this, he means creating objects that are considered and refined, but also very carefully engineered.

And at the heart of this company are ethical considerations. For example, provenance and the use of local timber is hugely important to Method Studio, and coincidentally, they actually source most of the timber they use from a man with the same surname as Callum - Robinson! "Jonathan's yard and sawmill is less than 10 miles from our workshop.

It was with great satisfaction that we recently created a 'living table' and series of dining chairs, where the deep, chocolate-coloured elm (Ulmus procera) was felled at Shandwick Place in Edinburgh, sawn and dried at the yard in Winchburgh, made into furniture in Linlithgow and then delivered back to Dean Bridge in Edinburgh. A total of less than 40 miles!"

Architectural influences

So, by this stage I had learnt a lot about Callum and his route into furniture making, but what about the other half of Method Studio: Marisa. Callum tells me that she has a real passion for modernist and brutalist architecture: Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Tadao Ando and Glasgow's Gillespie, Kidd & Coia. "That clean, restrained, minimal style has really rubbed off on me too over the years," he explains. According to both of them, one of the distinctive aspects about their work is that they often like to think of the pieces as little buildings.

"Of course we'd be remiss not to mention the impact that designers like Hans Wegner and in particular Jean Prouve have had. We're also intrigued and inspired by the ingenious work of traditional malletiers like Goyard, Moynat and the ever playful Pinel & Pinel." So, as you can see, in terms of the range of influences, it is far and wide. But perhaps it is this differing of routes into the industry and alternative types of aesthetic and style that make for such a perfect fusion of skills? There is no doubt that Callum and Marisa's tastes complement each other in such a way that they are able to create such stunning pieces that combine both sets of values.

The future

So what of the future? It is clear to see that Callum and Marisa are on the very brink of becoming hugely successful, if they haven't already. Callum says that the team are excited about incorporating new materials, techniques and influences into their work: "But it's important to us to always strive to sensitively combine these things with the best of the past; the finest of natural materials like local hardwood and leather, and nods to traditional detailing."

It is reassuring to see that Method Studio have undeniably got their feet on the ground. As well as embracing modern materials and processes, they have an obvious respect and love for all things old, things that they can incorporate into their designs to produce something that will not only last the test of time, but is also produced ethically and with a tremendous level of passion and skill.

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

Method Studio , Callum Robinson , Marisa Giannasi

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Callum Robinson On David Robinson

Throughout my life, and this still ruthlessly permeates everything we do as a company, the influence of my dad - designer, landscape architect, furniture maker and woodcarver, David Robinson - can be strongly felt.
His playful, contextually sensitive work is unlike that of anyone else, and I ought to know; I have sanded my fingers bloody on countless occasions getting up close and personal with it over the years!
Every day - and I do mean every day - there is such an overwhelming need to be creative; a gleeful enthusiasm and uncompromising drive to make things, and to see the job done properly. It is something that has evolved from a thousand unusual places.
Amongst other things, and while also holding down a full-time job, he has hand-restored the family home and workshop from a derelict, roofless shell - now a lovingly converted stone Farmsteading in East Lothian - it did take him nearly 30 years mind you - comprehensively re-built a stunning stone mill on the Isle of Coll in the Hebrides, exhibited sculpture at the Royal Scottish Academy and seen his furniture featured in the design press literally dozens of times. But perhaps most impressive of all, he has managed to pass down some of that attitude towards style, detail and getting the job done properly, even if it is impossible. It must have been gruelling on a Sisyphus-esque scale! See more of his work here.

David in his workshop, customising a very special Method piece (PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT ROBINSON)

Leda & the Swan by David Robinson (PHOTOGRAPH BY DARRON COPPIN)