38 minutes with Sheridan Coakley
The transformation of Shoreditch is a tale often told. But who are the characters that pioneered the change? The artists? For certain. And so too SCP founder Sheridan Coakley.
Born on Curtain Road in a derelict upholstery workshop in 1985, the fledgeling interiors brand evolved in symbiosis with East London’s rise to fame. Now SCP stands proud as a household name with a passion for creating modern British design, beautifully made to last. Who better to partner on creating a collection of finely-conceived urban dwellings, than this internationally-respected Hudson neighbour? Here, Coakley talks craft, collaboration and contemporary design.
The pull of the East
“I got to know Shoreditch in the ‘80s. I’d come over from Notting Hill where I had a little shop and get things re-chromed on Rivington Street, which is where Lee Broom’s showroom is now. I noticed this fantastic empty space with steel columns, like a New York loft – it was an upholstery factory, and really cheap because the area was deserted. Hackney Council wouldn’t allow any change of use, and this was still all light industrial, so nobody could actually do anything other than make things in the area.” The rise of Shoreditch artists, designers and people like me started gradually moving in and took over the area. You couldn’t buy any food, you couldn’t get anything, pubs closed on a Friday and they closed in the evenings, which was interesting. It was not a good place to do business from, just a great place to build things and make things. We were mainly selling abroad and to a few architects and designers. It was a very small market – the complete reverse of now. We went from being a warehouse-workshop to a showroom; an architect might come and have a look around, people would come in to buy a proper stool. Shoreditch, the world, everything changed around us.”
A hub of creativity
“At one time people were saying that there were more designers in Shoreditch than thewhole of South London. It’s still regarded as a design area – not necessarily furniture designers but lots of creatives. The whole thing of it being a cultural centre is good for us and you can still get a lot done in this area. There are still people with model making facilities, people with workshops. I think Shoreditch has shaped the character of the company, the fact that all these people have grown up with us around here. It allowed us to be who we are.”
Good design lives on
“We’ve been making the Balzac armchair for 30 years, and that shows how good design can be timeless. Upholstery can be quite interesting to develop because it’s always made in such a traditional way, with traditional materials. The most important thing is that it’s comfortable, but when it comes down to it, they’re all wooden frames with different layers of materials on top. We have a woodwork shop that makes the frames and then they’re all built by hand. Wood was good enough for the Greeks, so it’s good enough for us.”
A collaboration of talent
“SCP is a real shop. We do lighting and textiles, ceramics, plus furniture. And we’ve collaboratedright from the start. Interior designers and architects were our first customers really. There are a lot of key people we’ve worked with who we always work with, but we tend not to do the whole job. But to actually work on something as local as The Hudson, where we’re involved in the whole project? This is a very nice idea.”
Coakley believes in form following function, giving longevity to beautiful design. A principle that applies no less to his work with The Hudson.