Luxury furniture design at Villiers Brothers

How Innova Systems customer, Villiers Brothers, are combining traditional manufacturing techniques with SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD to create bespoke furniture and sculptured works of art…

Formed in 1989 by siblings, Harry, Tim and Hugo, Villiers Brothers have built a reputation for creating luxury, nature-inspired furniture and sculptured works of art using fine metals and materials. Their clients include everyone from large multi-nationals, such as The Hilton Group, to luxury “Super-Yacht” companies, interior designers and also homeowners looking to add a touch of British-made class to their homes. We visited Villiers Brothers at their workshop in rural Essex to discover how they’re combining more than 30 years of manufacturing expertise with modern 3D CAD technology to produce their impressive pieces.

We were greeted in the Villiers Brothers car park by several imposing metal sculptures, one of which was finished in January 2020, “…just before the harsh reality of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world”, said Tim Villiers, lead mechanical designer. “It started as an urchin sculpture, which became a starburst and has now come to represent so much more. We’ve renamed it Nemesis”, Tim continued.

Timeless design by Villiers Brothers

It’s obvious that Villiers Brothers know a thing or two about good design, and their passion for their craft is everywhere you look in their treasure trove of a building. Upon entering the reception area we caught our first glimpse of the workshop where new pieces were being meticulously crafted, by hand, using long-established techniques. Every nook and cranny is covered with expertly crafted tables, chairs, sculptures, lamps and one-off test runs, each one adding to the charm and character of the building, which Tim reliably informs us was used by American servicemen during World War 2.

“What we’ve been doing since 1989 is making furniture and lighting…mainly for interior designers and hotel specifiers. We’re very traditional in the way we manufacture and process our materials”, Said Tim, “…because we’re such low volume, but high-end, everything’s crafted with hand tools, our power hammer is a hundred years old and we have a mill that’s probably fifty years old. Our design ethic really is timeless furniture that fits into both old and modern environments”.

 

“We’ve designed things 20 years ago that are still selling in this day and age.

It’s not just the design and the shape – it’s also the finish”

 

 

Villiers Brothers Curve Driven Pattern Tool Furniture Design
Villiers Brothers make great use of the Curve Driven Pattern tool in SOLIDWORKS to create their signature shapes

SOLIDWORKS – not just for the design office

We wanted to find out how SOLIDWORKS aids communication between the designers and fabricators who are usually building to order. “SOLIDWORKS really helps on the shop floor from a drawings point of view and a clarity point of view” said Tim, “…with all the required dimensions that are necessary to make a perfect product”. It hasn’t always been this way, however. Prior to implementing SOLIDWORKS in 2007, Villiers Brothers did everything the old-fashioned way with hand-drawn sketches, which wasn’t particularly accurate, as Tim explains: “It would be an artistic sketch, but it wouldn’t be dimensionally correct, we’d be punting it a bit and It was so slow in comparison with SOLIDWORKS”.

 

“We just had to make that leap of faith and I’m so glad we did.

I don’t think we’d be in business without SOLIDWORKS”

 

SOLIDWORKS is well known for it’s flexibility and it’s something that helps Villiers Brothers when it comes to building bespoke variations on their designs. “Once I’ve built a model inside SOLIDWORKS, if a client requires it to be slightly different from a shape point of view, size, dimension, height, depth, width, etc, because I’ve built in the intelligence using the software, within a couple of minutes you can completely change the size, materials, etc”, said Tim. “One I’m working on at the moment, our most current one, is a console table with a requirement for a mirror above the console table… the depth needed to be a lot less than it normally is. I used a curve-driven pattern – I really had to squeeze that curve driven pattern down to a finite solution in order to sell the client what he wanted”.

As well as SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD Professional, Villiers Brothers are making good use of professional rendering tool, SOLIDWORKS Visualize, which is included with their annual SOLIDWORKS subscription from Innova Systems. As we say at Innova, SOLIDWORKS Visualize is like having a camera for SOLIDWORKS. “Oh it’s fantastic for that!” said Tim, “It really helps our clients if we can present a realistic render of our design intent. A lot of the clients – because they’re professional interior designers, etc, they’ve got a really good idea of what they want. They can give us dimensions, or drawings of the room, or environment that our pieces of furniture need to go into and we can model and render the furniture to be proportionately correct within that environment”.

 

Villiers Brothers Furniture Range
The ‘Brooklyn’ coffee table and ‘Oslo’ side table from the Villiers Brothers furniture range

 

Villiers Brothers also produce a popular range of lighting products called ‘Hercules’ and, once again, the flexibility offered by SOLIDWORKS has been invaluable. “We’ve gone from incandescent to energy efficient halogens, and now to LEDS, SOLIDWORKS makes it very easy for Villiers to make the changes from old to new”. SOLIDWORKS also comes in handy when it comes to inventory management, as Tim explains:  “Our ordering process for raw materials, laser cut parts, etc, thanks to SOLIDWORKS is vastly speeded up, too. We can apply more time to get to doing a job so much better than you’d be able to do in any other way. SOLIDWORKS give us a very competitive edge”.

 

“There’s no other way to go but forward with SOLIDWORKS and Innova Systems.

It just gets better and better!”

 

Take a look around the Villiers Brothers workshop in our exclusive video interview

Call Innova Systems on 01223 200690, or message us below to find out more.

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