Tailored to perfection
“This is very exciting for us, as it’s the first time we’re putting the design in the customer’s hands,” explains OKA co-founder Sue Jones on the eve of the launch of OKA’s first made-to-order sofa collection, Tailored by OKA. The collection is comprised of four classic styles, one footstool, three fabric options and 18 colours, so no two pieces ever need look the same.
“We’ve always been known for creating modern heirlooms, so it was important that the sofas be exceptionally well-made so they could be loved and passed down for generations,” explains Sue. “Of course, the key to longevity is quality; they really needed to be as good on the inside as they look on the outside.”
As simple as the brief sounds, it took many years to find the perfect sofa maker to help bring the vision to life.
We really wanted the sofas to be made by hand, using traditional methods. And since OKA started out as a small English brand, with a love for beautifully made pieces, we wanted to collaborate with a company with the same background and ethos.Sue Jones
The family-run business eventually chosen is staffed by some of the most passionate and skilled craftsmen in the business, who have been hand-making sofas for years. Every step of the process happens in the father-son duo’s workshop, a creative hub nestled in the English countryside; a light, open space, with tools, benches and vast windows that let the scent of freshly cut wood mingle with country air.
To ensure quality and ownership, a sole maker – with in-depth knowledge of everything from furniture construction to fabric upholstery – is responsible for making an entire sofa, a process known in the industry as ‘frame to finish’. The antithesis of a production line.
When it came to design, the main goal was to keep things simple. To create sofas that could truly fit into anyone’s home, regardless of size or style. “Each of the four sofas is very different to the other, but what they do have in common is that they are so beautifully uncomplicated and extremely comfortable. You can find embellishment and print in our core sofa range, but with Tailored we really wanted craftsmanship and comfort to take centre stage, through the shapes, structure and even the stitching,” explains Sue.
The designs were also guided by patterns in the industry: “the traditional English sofa is definitely in the spotlight at the moment, with a huge increase in demand over the past couple of years,” explains Sebnem Barker, OKA’s Head of Interior Design. “Our customers were telling us they want softer seats, curves and a really good balance of classic and contemporary, that works in real ‘lived-in’ spaces.”
The four shapes available at launch are a combination of classic and contemporary styles, with the construction varying to give each its signature look. The Beale’s short, tapered, oak legs, square arms and low sitting frame give it a modern, clean-cut aesthetic. The Highmore, on the other hand, has rounded arms and a classic curvaceous silhouette. If it’s contemporary versatility you’re after, meet the Egerton, which features gently sloping arms and sumptuous seat cushions. Last, but not least, is the Radcliffe, the embodiment of minimalism, with simple lines and flared arms. Completing the collection is the Fanshawe footstool, a simple, elegant all-rounder, whose two shapes can also be made to match.
All styles are available in three fabrics: Belgian linen (stonewashed or laundered) and OKA’s exclusive range of sumptuous cotton velvet. With 18 shades, ranging from a neutral oyster-hued linen to a dense charcoal velvet, and a whole spectrum of bold hues in between, you’re bound to find a colour that perfectly complements whatever interior scheme you’re planning; or refresh your existing one.
Back in the workshop, the pattern cutting and sewing all happens in-situ alongside the sofa construction. As soon as the covers are complete, the maker can apply them to their handiwork. Then it’s time for the finishing touches, like the seat, back or arm cushions, and removable oak legs. “A lot of work went into the construction of the legs, they are such a key component and they are so often overlooked,” Sue says.
I couldn’t be happier with how the collection has turned out, but I think the best is yet to come. The point of Tailored by OKA is to give our customers the chance to create their dream sofa, so I can’t wait to see what they come up with, and how the designs look in real homes.Sue Jones
You can view the Tailored by OKA collection online, where you can also order up to five complimentary fabric swatches. If you want to take a closer look, you can visit our stores in Chelsea, Knutsford or Guildford to view samples.