When Samuel Chan, founder and creative director of British furniture design brand Channels, spoke and introduced his designs at a forum organized by Design Shanghai 2016, the local media went crazy, begging for interviews left, right, and center.
Born in Hong Kong, Samuel Chan grew up in England and was educated in furniture design at Buckinghamshire University. Interested in woodwork from an early age, Chan considers wood a pure, mild material suitable for a wide variety of forms. Inspired by a seemingly innate understanding of wood, coupled with years of training, Chan founded Channels and began his journey into designing and manufacturing furniture with a focus on this favored material.
In 2015, Chan’s Kerning Collection, which is inspired by the evolution of Ming Dynasty furniture, was awarded the Design Guild Mark and earned him the honor of Furniture Designer of the Year by Homes & Gardens Designer Awards.
Chan focused on two particular aspects when designing his Kerning Collection. Firstly, his design incorporated the use of very slim panels. The skeleton of the bookcase is made with panels as thin as 10mm, yet through clever design and engineering, the bookcase is strong and durable support its own weight. Secondly, he tried to innovate the well established craft of woodworking wherever he could. The doors of the bookcases, for example, have no hinges. By bending the rules and breaking tradition, Chan was able to cleverly design furniture that better conforms to the modern consumer’s habits and aesthetics, while still maintaining its functionality. “This is perhaps one of my most representative collections in recent years,” Chan says of the work.
Partial as he is to a more “hands-on” approach, Chan believes that a designer must not only possess an attitude that encompasses modern thinking, but must also have the ability to understand the target material of a design. As he notes, “The design and creation of wooden furniture is my speciality. My sentiments toward wood originated not only from a personal preference, but more importantly, from a clear understanding of its composition and properties that only comes with decades of hand-making wooden furniture. As a designer, it’s only under the premise of being comprehensively familiar with the properties of the material you hold that you can bring out its intrinsic qualities, and furthermore, with design, maximize its advantages to its fullest potential. This is also why I chose to design and manufacture wooden furniture.”
The clean, simple lines and well-proportioned details of Samuel Chan’s work reveal a profoundly huaren (from a Chinese-speaking community) style that embodies a rich, contemporary design language. When asked why his works often merge styles from the East and the West, Chan says, “Put simply, I have no other choice. Look at my background; I was born in Hong Kong, but before finishing elementary school, I was transplanted to England, where I grew up and was educated. Fundamentally, as a huaren child, my application of huaren elements is an influx of inspiration that just comes naturally.”
About Samuel Chan
Samuel Chan is an established British furniture designer and manufacturer with more than 25 years of industry experience. He is known for a distinctive style of ‘clean-line’ contemporary furniture, executed through exemplary woodcraft. Chan has received several industry awards, and currently holds ten Design Guild Marks. In 2015, he was named ‘Furniture Designer of the Year’ at the Homes & Gardens Designer Awards. Through his eponymous studio, Channels, Chan launches new furniture designs annually, which are sold through the Channels showroom and exhibited internationally. The contract arm of Channels designs, develops, and manufactures furniture for commercial projects, particularly hotels.