Colourful Language: Thomas Coward on iso chairs and basins
WORDS BY MAX BENGTSSON IMAGES BY SAM WONG
Thomas Coward is a multi-disciplinary designer whose commercial and personal work challenges the norm and focuses on the relationship between a person, product and the surrounding space.
During our chat, Thomas unpacked everything there was to know about the design world of bath-ware (hit ‘play’ on the podcast link above to listen in and hear more) as well as an old design project that’s taken on a new life in our new world. He has a really unique take on colour, always thinking of fresh ways to use it in wet areas like bathrooms, for instance.

He discussed the more conservative colour palettes of the spaces he works in, and the materials linked to those spaces. ‘I suppose there's two materials that I tend to use: solid surface and natural stone. Solid surface is an acrylic blend with natural minerals in it — It's like a soft touch material. But it can be cast into basins. They’re generally white, because they can be cleaned easily.’
He tends to go for more timeless, muted tones to complement those base colours, because ‘you've got a responsibility to create a timeless product that people are not going to want to rip out.’ It’s an interesting take, because even if you love colour, you may not always be able to use it in a particular setting (especially if you’re a designer!). That’s why Tom makes sure he can have fun with colour in other places — like his branding and personal projects.
With my branding, I always wanted to do something quite conservative but then be quite playful with the colour, because it’s something you can change.
For his Colourful Language project, Tom brought an old piece of furniture back to life with Tint paint, and with such symbolism and meaning for the current climate we’re all living in. The piece was originally called ‘the privacy chair’, because ‘there is often a need for a private area in lobbies or office buildings for people to be on calls or their laptops. It resembles a very traditional house silhouette, if you like.’
I thought, well, this is a good idea—we're in lockdown. It’s the right moment to make this chair and call it the ‘Iso Chair’, because essentially we're all in isolation.
There’s two main elements to the chair: the shell (which is the house-looking profile) and the actual chair itself. Tom felt like contrast would give the concept more focus and energy, so he chose our Paper Plane white for the shell. ‘It's made out of American Oak veneer, so the grain of the wood would come through — hence choosing a lighter colour.’
The ultimate contrast was picking a bright, warm red to make the traditional element of the chair instantly recognisable. It’s a real nice moment in time to build a physical representation of what we’re all feeling right now. We’d happily coop up in the Iso Chair and binge-watch Abstract for the eighth time this year *laughs* *cries* *smiles* *laughs* *cries again*.

If you’d like to dive into Tom’s world of work, we highly recommend checking out both his Insta @thomas.coward and www.thomascoward.com.
And that’s all from us for this episode of Colourful Language — we hope you had a good time. Catch you for our last edition of Season One, coming soon! Stay colourful.
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