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Meet Tim Gosling, master of classic design

British designer Tim Gosling speaks to Effect Magazine about a background in theatre, his 18 years working with Linley, and building his own company Gosling into a powerhouse of classic design

“I love the work I do and I’m not just saying that!” laughs furniture and interior designer Tim Gosling. “It is intense sometimes, but I passionately love the ability to be able to create.” Gosling, whose career has seen him work with the royal family and a vast array of prestigious hotels, cruise ships and private homes across the world, speaks fondly of his love for drawing and how his ability to communicate through it is where his creative journey began.

“My consciousness of drawing started when I was about eight years old,” he recalls. “One of my first key moments was having a grandmother who took me to art galleries and would challenge me to find one painting that I liked which I then had to describe to her, and she would subsequently buy me the poster of it from the gift shop. It formed my ability to look at things and to work out how to communicate what you’re seeing and being able to memorise it visually. From that age, I’ve never stopped drawing.”

With drawing still an integral function of his practice today, Gosling set up his own design studio in 2005, after 18 years as a director at renowned furniture makers Linley. And while his time at Linley really shaped his creativity, he says his first big break came from a weird coincidence. In applying to study theatre design at Central Saint Martins, he says that coming from a public school, he felt he didn’t quite fit with the specifics of art school and wasn’t sure he would get in. “The only reason I did was because of my mad dog of a father,” Gosling jokes, as he speaks of his father Raymond Gosling, the pioneer of X-ray diffraction photography – which revealed the structure of DNA.

Tim Gosling pictured in his London house
Tim Gosling pictured in his London house

“From an early age he made us visit nudist colonies during the summer, so I had nothing else to draw other than naked people on a beach! At the end of my first year at Central, my tutor told me the only reason I had been selected was because of my collection of life drawings and how they stood out from other applications.” This break, as Gosling refers to it, propelled him into the world of theatre, where his ability to draw and create models flourished. From set to costume design and lighting, the course allowed Gosling to explore a variety of different creative aspects of the theatre world which he states is very similar to his work as an interior designer now.

I talk about the rhythm of a room a lot, what your eye is drawn to within it, and how the objects add to the theatre of it. The two worlds are very much aligned.

Tim Gosling

“Be it a room or a theatre,” he says, “you’re creating a feeling of what you want that experience to be. Lighting is essential and you can decimate your design by lighting it badly. I talk about the rhythm of a room a lot, what your eye is drawn to within it, and how the objects add to the theatre of it. The two worlds are very much aligned.”

After working for two years alongside renowned set designer John Napier on the production of Miss Saigon, Gosling had the choice to stay and travel with the show or to work with David Linley (now David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowdon) whom he had met while working in the arts. “The temporary nature of theatre was tough,” he explains. “I found it hard to put your all into creating something which, once the show was over, would be forgotten about and packed away. Transitioning to the furniture world meant I was working on multiple projects at once and there wasn’t a sudden drop-off point. I just needed to work out how to survive the constant continuation of work.”

The super-bespoke, hand-crafted furniture of Gosling is highly suited to super-yacht installations
The bespoke, hand-crafted furniture of Gosling is highly suited to super-yacht installations

Speaking of his time alongside Linley, Gosling says he learnt a valuable lesson. “He gave me the confidence to be able to ask anyone anything,” he comments. “Any museum director, any curator, I would ring them up and ask for just five minutes of their time. I would ask questions about how pieces had been made or restored, and what I found was an excitement and gratitude that someone was interested. Even Her Majesty the Queen allowed me to sketch all the private rooms at the front of the Palace when I asked her! I think one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that if your imagination knows no bounds, you just need to know what you want to do with it.”

Looking back on his career, Gosling’s work with heritage buildings, in preserving and restoring such valuable parts of history while working with expert craftspeople all over the world, is something he feels immensely passionate about. “I spend my life bizarrely thinking about legacy a lot, which is ironic, sadly, as a gay man, as I won’t have a child,” he says. “But my work will remain for others to see, as I am preserving legacy in every project I undertake. I draw exactly like my grandfather, who I never met, so the genetic response within me is strong, which will live on in the work I have put out there, but unfortunately not genetically.”

Gosling make an exceptional range of luxury games tables - Effect Magazine
Gosling make an exceptional range of luxury games tables

With such a strong sense of creative individuality, Gosling also comments how the fight and exploration of his own personal identity – especially through the 1980s, when being openly gay was extremely challenging – has given him a much greater and punchier confidence. “I know what I am good at and what I am not good at,” he reveals as he discusses his love for people and storytelling and the importance of being honest with yourself. “I didn’t have any role models to look up to, so I had to find that strength within myself which gives us an advantage as it makes it a lot easier for others to understand you.”

And, in speaking of the current time where there is a lot of uncertainty, he feels it is important for young designers to take courage. “Follow your heart and find a way of communicating your ideas in whatever sector you’re in,” he advises. “People are held back by fear, especially when it comes to money. But please, don’t follow the money. I never did that, and it is important to do what you love, and you will find a way of monetising it. If you can connect the creative and business aspects of your brain together, that is the key.”

As Gosling continues to work on a vast selection of interior design projects, which includes the creation of bespoke furniture pieces, he is also embarking on a personal restoration of a chateau in France which he bought with his partner four years ago. Focusing on one room at a time, his latest work was the re-design of the chateau’s library, which he presented in a showcase at the recent WOW!house exhibition within the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour. “I’m really enjoying the restoration journey,” he comments, “and this was a brilliant opportunity for me to create the room before transporting everything to be installed at the chateau.”

Tim Gosling is in the midst of a personal restoration project of a French chateau, bought with his partner four years ago. (top left): Gosling is taking his customary hands-on approach to the project

Sharing the progress and restoration journey via social media, Gosling says there are so many of the original pieces still intact which were commissioned specifically for the property. “It is a micro-museum of curation and restoration and is the most incredible process where you get to play with and handle things from the 15th-century onwards,” he says. When working on the conservation of heritage properties, Gosling also reveals how a lot of the work is in programming the use of expert teams. “It’s incredible to see the specialists getting involved,” he explains. “Everyone knows what they are doing and it’s like watching an incredible ballet of art coming together.” Concluding on his deep sensitivity and enthusiasm for restoration, Gosling states the importance of documenting each stage of the process. “Often there is an arrogancy around ensuring items are put back exactly as they are with the same colour and finish. However, the more I look at restoration, the more I realise there isn’t a finite book that says exactly how it was,” he discloses. “I am extremely careful when working within properties that stretch back centuries, so I don’t say it is an accurate representation because you only see things through the lens of the society you’re living in. It’s just doing your best to keep it as close to the original as possible, and documenting what you have and haven’t done to preserve its integrity.”

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