Reflecting on a decade of design

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Bespoke furniture designer Ed Cruikshank looks back on a decade in business with a mixture of pride and disbelief. 

Pride at the quality of his body of work – disbelief at the sheer amount he’s managed to accomplish. 

Cruikshank established now Arrowtown-based Cruikshank Furniture in 2004. 

“It’s like watching kids grow up; you sort of don’t notice it happening when you’re that close to it. 

“You look back and think ‘wow’; I’ve done quite a lot.” 

The firm employs two other people, including a London-based designer. 

But to create the avarice-inducing objects it draws on the expertise of a plethora of skilled artisans across New Zealand – from cabinet-makers, upholsterers and wood carvers to precision engineers, boat builders and gunsmiths. 

Cruikshank himself trained in fine cabinet-making in England and later gained a Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Design. 

Before moving to Queenstown in 2002, he worked alongside the son of Princess Margaret, Viscount Linley, at the Linley Company in London for nine years. 

“I originally came to go skiing for a few weeks,” he says. 

“But then like so many people I fell in love with the place and you end up sticking around.” 

Cruikshank began with small commissions for friends and then gradually began to take on more projects. 

“It was very much an organic growth and then the change to Arrowtown came about eight years ago. 

“It struck me as a place where people had a little more time on their hands, enjoyed the history of the area, rather than the adrenalin sports.” 

His designs aim to blur the line between functionality and art, with the build quality and timelessness to be treasured by generations. That approach has led to international recognition for the handmade luxury pieces, which are collected around the world. 

Cruikshank has recalled his top 10 design and artistic projects – from his innovative fire poker to The Hills golf clubhouse interior. 

“They’re quite diverse projects and really they represent a fraction of the work we’ve actually done. 

“Each one has been special, they’re the key ones, but every year we probably do 10 times that much work.” 

One of Cruikshank’s first Queenstown creations was his Firebrand Poker and Blower, made from a hollow stainless steel tube, allowing it to also work as a bellows. 

Then in 2006, Sir Michael Hill commissioned him to design a new piece for the award-winning clubhouse in Arrowtown. 

Cruikshank created a dining table of solid walnut – used as a boardroom table for the NZ Open – along with club chairs that doubled as dining chairs and a chef’s kitchen table with matching stools. 

The following year, Cruikshank designed a collection of furniture for the dining and living saloons of  the VvS1 superyacht. 

“It was the ultimate bespoke project,” says Cruikshank, who had already designed furniture for yacht interiors at Linley. 

In 2008, the project was The Rees Hotel fit-out – a collection of handmade furniture for the complex’s 90 luxury apartments, 60 hotel suites and reception area. 

“The idea of the hotel was that it was a high-quality, long-lasting building, and the furniture had to align with that – to be built with longevity in mind. 

“That was easy for me because it matched my design ethos of creating things to last for generations.” 

Designing, building and furnishing the art gallery wing of a Queenstown home owned by an international art collector was his 2010 challenge. 

“We designed every subtle little detail,” he says. 

“Not many people get to do the whole thing right the way through, so it was fantastic to have the opportunity to take a project from the architectural concept right through to the fine detailing of the furniture.”
Cruikshank’s 1821 Table also features in the Art House. 

The table is made from 108 black walnut segments revolving on a precision-engineered, gun-blued column supported by a cruciform base. 

It was created for the Round-about Exhibition which opened in Wellington in 2010, along with two metal bookcases, modelled on the Twin Towers. 

The bookcases travelled to Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel for the second leg of the exhibition. 

Cruikshank organised 2011’s Art With Heart Christchurch Earthquake Appeal auction, raising more than $100,000. 

The interior of Wanaka’s Bistro Gentil was 2012’s project and then, completing the top 10, was furniture for Wanaka’s Emerald

Bluffs home interior in 2013 for former Sovereign Insurance head Charles Anderson. 

Cruikshank says the business is ready for its next phase. 

“One of the things I’d like to do is start creating ranges of pieces that are more accessible to more people,” he says. 

“Everything we do now is handmade in New Zealand, so it’s quite a top-end price point. 

“We’ll also be looking to place pieces elsewhere in New Zealand so more people can see the designs.”