The Alan Peters Online Furniture Award 2021 – showcasing the best of British design & making

Overall winner of The Alan Peters Online Furniture Award 2021: Andrew Lapthorn’s ‘Remnant’ table in bog oak, oak, maple, sycamore, utile, holly, teak, wenge, cherry, plane, fir, walnut, ash, pine, mahogany, yew, poplar, elm, beech, rosewood and iroko – 1,375mm long × 880mm wide × 340mm high

With the 2021 award, despite having to rethink the structure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to move the award to an online platform actually turned out to be incredibly positive, broadening its reach thanks to the powers of social media.

This inclusive award was also selective, and the judges had a tough task on their hands when it came to selecting the final five. With a focus on hand craftsmanship, machining could be included, and entries were in some way expected to echo the Alan Peters ethos. The judges were looking at craftsmanship, aesthetics, use of materials and originality, so design was therefore a strong and integral element.

Seeking a balance between variety of furniture pieces and techniques, the final five comprise both relative beginners and experienced makers, building on the value of the original award whereby beginners – winners – had the opportunity to exhibit their work alongside that of seasoned professionals.

With COVID-19 in mind, modest pieces of furniture were encouraged this time round. An important theme running throughout the 2021 entries was a focus on narrative/storytelling, which the makers were able to skilfully weave into the design and making of their pieces. According to the judges, this storytelling element seems to be a prevalent feature in the work of today’s young furniture designer-makers, whereas in the past, the focus was on rapport with material or rapport with the client.

The 2021 award, despite the obstacles encountered along the way, was a real success story, both for COVID-19 and also the furniture making industry as a whole. By continuing this award, we were able to unearth new and existing talent across the country during a time of unprecedented crisis, and that, along with Alan Peters’ legacy, is definite cause for celebration.

The judging and prize-giving ceremony for the 2021 was held virtually, along with an exhibition of winning entries, which can be viewed here.

Jeremy Broun – Organiser Designer-maker and co-exhibitor with Alan Peters from 1978–2002 Hattie Speed – Guest judge Furniture designer-maker, educator and founder of the ‘This Girl Makes’ community
Andrew Lawton – Designer-maker who worked with Alan Peters as well as on his last commission
David Barron – Maker of fine contemporary furniture and long time admirer of Alan Peters’ work

Event organisers must be like salesmen; thick skinned, persistent and patient, whereas furniture makers are often somewhat milder, introverted characters! Organising this award over nearly two years, changing it from a physical to an online event and creating an online judging ceremony and virtual exhibition from scratch, was akin to trying to send a rocket to Mars with just a JetX fuse – for those young enough to remember! It wouldn’t have been possible, however, without the support and enthusiasm of this magazine and its prolonged PR campaign, both in print and on social media.

But I must admit to being baffled: despite the amount of advance warning given over the award and constant reminders for applicants not to leave it until the last minute, there were just a handful of entries up until the last day and then they came piling in – a record number of 27 individual entries – whereas the previous award – hosted at the Cheltenham exhibitions – only averaged around six each year.

Apart from thanking the many applicants, all of whom are helping Alan Peters' valuable legacy live on, especially during this time of COVID-19, I have one important message: when applying for an award, please ensure to give the application requirements the same detailed attention as you do when choosing what fine grit paper to use for finishing as well as the pitch of your dovetails! I am pleased, however, that the award was inclusive across the British Isles, reaching as far as The Shetland Isles. While lockdown prevented some from entering, especially colleges, almost everyone who applied is included in the virtual exhibition alongside the winners.

One of the collaborations for the 2020/2021 award was for the winners to exhibit their pieces at The Wilson – Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum in the heart of the Cotswolds, where a small collection of Alan Peters’ furniture aptly resides. When the award was changed to an online event for 2021, The Wilson, while unable to host an online exhibition on their own website, agreed to participate here. This formed a space for the winners to visualise their furniture pieces sitting alongside those of Alan Peters, and for online visitors to enjoy. Jeremy Broun – Organiser

FIRST PRIZE: Andrew Lapthorn’s ‘Remnant’ table – £1,000 Axminster Tools voucher


Andrew putting the finishing touches to his winning ‘Remnant’ table

Meet the maker
In the years preceding attending Rycotewood College, Thame, in 1979, to study Furniture Fine Craftsmanship and Design, Andrew worked as a shipwright.
   In 1981, he was awarded a Licenciateship of the Society of Designer Craftsman (SD-C), which he passed with distinction – Alan Peters was his assessor. In the same year, Andrew set up his own business as a furniture designer-maker and 40 years on, unsurprisingly, his order book is still full. Historically, 60% of his work has been for the domestic market, while the other 40% has been split between the ecclesiastical and corporate commissions.


Assembling the staves

Elected a Member of the S-DC in 2011, Andrew is a part-time tutor at the Furniture Craft School on the Scotney Castle Estate. The project currently on Andrew’s workbench, commissioned by the Woodland Trust, is a large-scale outdoor memorial for those who lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland. You can see more examples of Andrew’s work on his website.

Maker’s statement
Inspired by Donatello’s sculpture, the table uses reclaimed/salvaged timbers from around the world. ‘Remnant’, while showcasing the wide variety and inherent beauty of wood, its haunting demeanour alerts us to what we have to lose. Employing a fundamental skill required in working wood, planing true and square, without the need for a complex framework, 21 different timber types are free to move as one, the top and apron holding each other flat through the use of a long mitre joint.


Gluing the top to the apron

Supported on a single leg made from 4,500-year-old bog oak, once consumed and now given up by the earth, it is testament to the strength and durability of wood. The timbers used are bog oak, oak, maple, sycamore, utile, holly, teak, wenge, cherry, plane, fir, walnut, ash, pine, mahogany, yew, poplar, elm, beech, rosewood and iroko.

Judges’ comments
This is an arresting and original piece reflecting the stack lamination technique used by Alan Peters in his bowl tables, which allows the wood to shrink and expand as one. It is an intelligent use of offcuts and timely in minimising waste, which results in a visually striking design. The piece is almost sculptural in appearance, but demonstrates fine craftsmanship and imagination without being outlandish. Achieving such a long mitre joint without a visible glue line is no mean feat, and viewed from behind this table really does become something else.

The piece has the approval of Alan Peters’ widow as recipient of first prize – a big congratulations to Andrew!

SECOND PRIZE: Aidan Donovan’s ‘WAGA’ table – £500 Triton Tools voucher


‘WAGA’ table in English elm – 900mm long × 550mm wide × 350mm high

Maker’s statement
My coffee table, made in solid elm, explores the idea of contrast and harmony. An irregular hand-carved surface texture is juxtaposed with the precision of double sliding dovetails. The dovetail form is often seen as emblematic of precision, high craft, and refinement. This is contrasted with the hand-carved fluted surface, which is irregular, organic, and closely associated with vernacular and folk craft. The piece, inspired by Japanese and Mid-Century design, derives its name from the reference to Wagatani-style carved trays.


Top detail showing irregular hand-carved surface

Judges’ comments
This piece reflects the spirit of Alan Peters’ work excellently in both technique and aesthetics, exploiting the unique properties of solid, home-grown timber. Traditional, yes, with its 1950s splayed legs – it’s interesting the maker was inspired by Japanese design, as was Alan Peters. Aidan has injected some of his own individuality into the piece, which is appropriately well crafted and has an everyday appeal.

THIRD PRIZE: Nick Newlands’ ‘Art Chest’ – £300 Judges’ cash prize


‘Art Chest’ in cherry and sycamore – 60cm wide × 28cm high × 37cm dia.

Maker’s statement

​This three-drawer art chest was inspired by drawing office cabinets used to store large format velum sheets, although the form has been reduced in size to accept A3 sheets. The drawers increase in depth from top to bottom, the carcass sides gently curved to give weight to the base. Integrated drawer handles provide a natural flowing continuity to the front. These are formed from the solid drawer fronts using a combination of spindle moulding, table saw cuts and careful hand shaping with spokeshaves.

A small lip on the underside is formed to allow the user to retract each drawer. The carcass is made by first constructing a thick-walled mitred base unit – using Dominos – which is then ski’d on a router jig to produce the curve and re-align the mitres. The drawers – a piston-fit to the carcass sides – are supported on cherry slide runners. Classic hand-cut dovetail joints are present, both front and back. The carcass and drawer fronts are made in cherry; the drawer side and bottoms in sycamore – waxed – and contrasted by slips in cherry. The piece is finished in Danish oil.


Drawer detail showing hand-cut dovetail

Judges’ comments
This is a refined and understated piece of cabinetmaking with added interest provided by the sculpted drawer fronts. It is immaculately made and judges’ opinions differ as to whether the carcass joints should be dovetailed instead of mitred – less is more, perhaps? There is plenty going on to fully digest, and much detail and subtlety. The carcass sides flare and the drawers are deeper towards the base, as is found on large carcasses. Overall, it is very much an Alan Peters piece.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Thomas Eddolls’ ‘Dune’ hall table


Thomas Eddolls’ ‘Dune’ hall table – solid oak carcass with solid cherry legs – 900mm long × 450mm wide × 900mm high

Maker’s statement
This hall table, featuring an oiled finish, incorporates a carcass with through dovetails in oak and solid compound curved solid legs in cherry; these are shaped on a spindle moulder before being finished by hand. The hand-fitted dovetailed drawer features a sculpted front.

Judges’ comments
This piece combines functionality, sculpture, cabinetry and echoes the Cotswold School (tradition) in its exposed carcass joints. While a modern take on an old theme, the curved legs give this piece a dynamic feel although they could be slightly less bowed. The mitred top corners of the dovetails look good and add a degree of quiet refinement.

The undulating front – referencing the Cotswold Hills – makes this a tactile piece together with the visual delight of the distinct figuring in the wood. A particular subtle feature is the lack of a visible carcass base, similar to Alan Peters’ table, which can be seen in the collection at The Wilson – gallery – in Cheltenham.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Phillip Garner’s ‘Hajime’ stool


Phillip Garner’s ‘Hajime’ stool in English sycamore – 475mm long × 250mm wide × 390mm high

Maker’s statement
An exploration of planes of intersection between curved and straight lines, I took inspiration from traditional Japanese carpentry and conic-section geometry. When viewed directly from the front, there is a resemblance to a traditional ‘torii’ gate found at the entrance to Shinto shrines. It is made using hand tools – planing flat surfaces, spokeshaving curves, trimming mortises & tenons with chisels and block-planing bevels on the ends of the legs.

Finishing was carried out by hand, sanding with fine 320 grit abrasive, followed by three coats of Danish oil, cutting back with 600 grit between each coat. My primary influences are Scandinavian Mid-Century Modern and traditional Japanese architecture/design. I’m particularly inspired by pieces that are simple yet clever; these show you don’t need to force timber. I am keen to keep at least some work affordable, as I firmly believe that good design should be accessible to all.

Judges’ comments
An unpretentious, simple and understated piece, which fulfils its function with a touch of panache. The use of sycamore, a fine-grained wood and the chamfering of the top with its Japanese influence, adds interest and refinement, elevating the piece above the commonplace. It is well photographed and perhaps best appreciated from floor level.

The maker is keen to make some of his furniture affordable, but the time involved in achieving just a mirror finish on the close-grained sycamore would rack up the price – could it therefore be batch produced? This is what made Alan Peters’ smaller items affordable and the commercial design challenge is to cut down the number of hours involved in the making without compromising the piece’s quality and essence.

“With thanks to promoters, prize sponsors and judges for helping to ensure this important legacy continues” – Jeremy Broun – Organiser

The online award ceremony and virtual exhibition – including selected applicants – can be viewed by clicking here.

The Alan Peters Furniture Award 2022