Nick Munro's lucky break kick-started his design career
Nick Munro found fame turning bedsprings into egg cups. Ever since, the British designer's sumptuous modern furniture and covetable homewares, inspired by iconic Thirties style, have been a high-street hit.
After leaving the Royal College of Art with a master's degree in industrial design in the late 1980s, Nick was keen to design innovative new products. While rummaging in the attic of his Cheshire home, he came across an old bedspring and used the mechanics to create his now-famous Spring egg cup.
"It was my lucky break,' he says. 'The idea was conceived in the attic and then fine-tuned around the kitchen table before very quickly going into mass production."
The egg cup was an instant hit and won him numerous plaudits from the design industry, as well as the prize of 1988 UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Since then, the Nick Munro brand has become synonymous with elegant, original and distinctly British design. His products have a sleek, industrial style, and his signature collection has grown to include pewter, ceramics, glass, furniture and lighting.
Many of his designs pay homage to classic Thirties style. Iconic modes of transport enthral him, too. The interiors of luxury cruise liners and the shape of Concorde have helped to define his unique style. "There's definitely a period reference to probably all of my designs in one way or another" he says. 'The craftsmanship, integrity and wit, especially of products designed during the Deco period of the 20th century, I find fascinating."
Munro first collaborated with John Lewis in 2009, and since then, the relationship has flourished, with a raft of gorgeous new products about to hit the shelves, among them a fresh, exciting line of furniture and upholstery, and a new colour palette to add to the existing range.
'I call it "rhythm and blues" – well, actually, greys too! It's inspired by the northwestern skies. We get scudding clouds here, white and grey, racing across big blue skies" he explains, referring to his home city of Chester. "Rhythm and blues comes from the patterns and colours as the weather rolls in from Wales."
As well as adding fresh elements to the existing Trombone barware collection, there's a new range, Octagon, combining silver and glass, which includes bottle stoppers and swizzle sticks. An exclusive line of wristwatches (inspired by the Japanese railway system) also makes its debut this autumn.
The sheer diversity and breadth of Nick's output is illustrated by an upcoming project for RNLI Lifeboats. "Did you know they invented the first life jacket? Made of cork. So I thought, let's do a collection of cork stuff. It's exciting to make these links between things and people. At the egg-cup stage of my career, I didn't know anyone. Now I know many smart, influential people and, with their help, I have the freedom to connect things creatively.'
One of those inspiring people is Sir Terence Conran. 'He's a design hero of mine,' says Munro, 'for his encouragement, entrepreneurship, great spirit and mega-talent for taste and precision – I love how he selects colour, shape and combinations.'
It was this enthusiasm for design that saw Munro recruited by the BBC last year to be a mentor on High Street Heroes, a programme helping other designers launch their own products. Other recent Munro projects include a collaboration with the V&A and Italian brand Bugatti, as well as designing fittings, sculptures and tableware for a commercial cruise liner.
If he had chosen a different path, Munro thinks he would have liked to be involved in motor racing, either as a driver, or perhaps a racing-car designer. 'I like to do stuff that's real: stuff you can pick up, look at, walk through, then stand back and appreciate. The whole virtual design thing is not my bag. It's not physical enough. I love going to a factory and seeing tooling being made, watching fantastic lumps of steel and the big machines that crash into it. If there's one thing that's for sure, it's that design bridges the gap between art and technology.'
A longer version of this feature appeared in the autumn 2011 issue of Edition magazine