Simon James is an extremely busy man, who is working hard to make life simple for anyone looking to buy a gift or a beautify designed piece of furniture. Simon runs multiple businesses; there is the Concept Store which sells everything from Aesop skin care, to a transparent herb planter designed by British brand Boskke. There is also the Simon James Design business that sells furniture and lighting; from a sage green, velvet corner sofa to a brightly patterned side cabinet designed by Established and Sons.
We sat down and spoke about the art of gift giving, and how to shop for an item that will be cherished for years to come.
R Can you explain Simon James Design and the Simon James Concept Store to me
S With Furniture and lighting, people can spend three, six or nine months researching before they buy something. The concept store is probably more impulse buying, smaller things. When someone is buying something for their home it’s a longer process. They’re two separate businesses to a degree; my wife runs that store (the concept store in Herne Bay) and I look after this store (furniture showroom in Eden Terrace). But we’re looking to amalgamate them a lot more with our new website.
R Is there any thing in either of your stores that you think is a perfect, unisex, wedding gift?
S. The UK brand Minimalux manufacture a table lamp. It would work in the living room, the bedroom; it’s something I’d like.
It’s very refined with a clever brass detail on the back. There’s something very simple and refined that I like about it and it could work in a number of spaces. It would work in a new build, but in an old place as well.
R I like this idea that you’ve spoken about where a group of people can get together to buy a larger present for a wedding.
S We have seen that more and more. Quite often when people are getting married now they have all the essential appliances. Maybe people are getting married older. So items like a sofa or a Spar Floor light, which we’ve sold before, people have chipped in for it. The idea for our new site we’re creating a platform that is far more user friendly. At the moment you contact us and we do it for you, but you will be able to set up these group purchases on the site.
R I also wanted to ask you about brides and grooms buying each presents, this seems like a bit of a new thing?
S It’s not something that we drive, but it’s something we have seen more and more. It’s the idea of a forever piece. It might be a vase by Tom Dixon that you literally will have for years, unlike a candle that may have a life span.
Hex Pendent Light by Resident
R Do you have an item, personally that you’re looking forward to handing down?
S You want something that’s not just going to work in one environment if you’re going to hand it down. I think furniture, like a dining table. To me a dining table is something that can look better with age, it develops a bit of character, it has a few stories to tell. If it’s made well it should be something that can be passed down. We look for products that have some form of longevity to them. Although it might be very much of the now, there is something beyond that. Of the now could be through a certain colour or fabric, but in terms of it’s shape and form it could be something that we see lasting for years to come.
R Do you personally have something that you have gotten from your grandparents? It could be a watch or anything.
S Well my watch is something I’ve bought that I plan on handing down to my boys.
R ahhh, a Rolex
S I’m one of those people who would rather save up and purchase something that is going to last a lifetime rather than multiple purchases and regrets of not purchasing something that would last.
R Yes, you want to buy things that last.
Chopping Board by Tom Dixon
R Can you tell me about the bespoke furniture that you make?
S The bespoke product we offer here is more for corporate clients. We’ve completed a number of projects for Air New Zealand. There is so much time involved in taking a product to market and to do that for one item, it doesn’t stack up, where as if it’s something of scale and there are numbers involved it’s something that is feasible, especially if the client gets involved. We’ve done some great projects for Air New Zealand.
It’s quite interesting; I think office furniture is going through huge change at the moment.
R Because of the way people view offices?
S Yes, it’s changed from when you just come in and sit at a desk and that’s you for the day. There is this whole movement towards activity based working, so offices are changing to allow for that. We do a lot of bespoke, custom work for that kind of realm.
R Is your other company, Resident, available to buy in New Zealand as well as America and Italy?
S Resident is based here, you can buy it here, but its focus is on export sales. We have three warehouses, one in Auckland, one in LA, one in London. We distribute to the world from there. When we tried to get into the states people said, ‘why the hell would we import from New Zealand?’ So we tried to flip the whole thing on it’s head and make it as easy as possible to get product to them. We can get product to US customers in five to six days. My business partner and co-founder, Scott Bridgens, is a bit of a logistics mastermind, he used to manage operations at Tom Dixon during a huge phase of growth, so that’s his background, and that’s where we’re trying to be very strong. And we have to be if we’re based in New Zealand.
R Do you have a favorite product from the Resident range?
S I have two favorite products and they’re both by the same designer Jamie McLellan . One would be the Spar floor light, which is the first product we put into production. And the second piece would be the Odin chair, which we released in New York and London about three months ago. I just love the form, it’s a combination of Nordic and Japanese. It took us over two years to get it into production, it was quite a complex chair. It’s nice to see a product like that at the end, it had it’s moments.
R Is there something that you designed for that range?
S The Tangerine chair, it’s a wooden chair, it’s quite a simple chair. But the idea behind it is that a chair spends most of its life facing a table, so we concentrated on the details at the back, which most people don’t look at or think about. It’s almost an every day chair, a chair that can work at home, in the office, it can stack, it has multiple uses. Being in wood, especially oak, it has this nice kind of warmth.
R It that something that runs through everything you do; it has to be useful and beautiful?
S It’s got to be practical. I like things that are uncomplicated and refined. So rather than trying to do many things, like a detail here, a detail there, I pick one or two key things in a product and that’s what the focus is and the rest tends to compliment those details. I’m a little bit less is more. It’s a refined aesthetic that I think is more timeless, and I think as New Zealanders we can relate to, and I think there’s definitely a market for that over seas as well.
Tray by Tom Dixon
Bespoke Sofa unit