Celebrating 25 Years: The Evolution Of Gaze Burvill

Christian Gaze and Simon Burvill met while studying with John Makepeace in Dorset, at which time Christian designed the ‘Court Seat’, a truly innovative piece that combined flared steam bent curves and fine craftsmanship.

In February 1993, Gaze Burvill officially formed as a business with the two founders as the sole employees, based in a small workshop at Plain Farm Old Dairy, just 2 miles from the company’s current location, in East Tisted, Hampshire.  

The Court Seat formed the nucleus of a new collection launched at the Country Living Fair and then Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Both embodied the successful new design by combining the manipulation of oak through steam bending along with other skilled furniture making techniques, to create timeless designs with exceptionally high levels of comfort.

1994 saw Gaze Burvill’s first appearance at RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  The company had just six products to display on a small stand in front of the old RHS Marquee, but the show was a great success. Chelsea has continued to be the number one event on the Gaze Burvill show calendar.

In 1996, Jim Gardiner, at the time Curator for the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley, asked us to design a 25 foot long seat for the end of Wisley’s Broadwalk, at the foot of Battleston Hill. It was two years before we could begin work on this prestigious commission as we did not have enough space to build such a large piece.  

By 1997 the business had outgrown the small workshop at Plain Farm, and in 1998 the company with eight employees moved a mile away to a converted farm shed four times the size of our previous space, Newtonwood Workshop. We rapidly began to fill what had initially seemed a cavernous space, with craftsmen, apprentices, work benches, machinery and of course, oak.

In 1998 Simon selected a young British designer, Tim Royall, to work on the first Broadwalk Seat, which was installed the same year.  This first piece spawned a series of modular seats, featuring a vast range of precise steam bent curves, to form the Broadwalk Collection, which now graces some of the country’s finest gardens from Stourhead to Eaton Square.

The Millennium saw the advent of design work on two iconic collections. Splash, designed by Christian, launched in 2002, introduced ‘Chesterfield’ inspired sumptuous outdoor sofas and armchairs - offering ‘indoor’ comfort for the terrace in this new supremely elegant oak furniture collection.

In 2004, the ‘Bowline’ collection was launched, on the ‘Maltese Falcon’, (the largest private sailing yacht in the world) and designed to meet the rigours of the Superyacht industry.  The Bowline Lounger won the prestigious ‘Best Outdoor Product’ at the Design & Decoration Awards in its launch year. Bowline furniture has now been exported around the world from Italy to Asia, Australia to the USA.

In 2005, our eleventh year at the Flower Show, Gaze Burvill moved to RHS Chelsea’s prestigious Main Avenue, the premier location among the Show Gardens at this, the world’s greatest flower show and where we have been positioned ever since, each year winning the coveted 5 gold stars RHS presentation award.

A design and manufacturing revolution also happened in this year at the Newtonwood workshop with the exciting purchase of our first computer controlled (CNC) 4-axis machining centre. The design and workshop teams both benefited, and their capabilities were enhanced by this new facility, which significantly streamlined the making of the furniture, invaluable for the development of bespoke and custom pieces.

2012 the Lizard Lounger, designed by Simon, with its sleek subtle curves and complex jointing, was the first piece to take advantage of this precision machine for its manufacture, and it was rewarded with a Design Guild Mark by the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers at its launch.

Also in 2012 the Jubilee Spiral Bench was shortlisted for the RHS Chelsea Product of the Year 2012, and was chosen for a “Summer Garden” designed by Jayne Thomas entitled ‘Celebration and Jubilation’ at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, featuring widely in the national press.

In 2013, our ‘A la Carte’ outdoor kitchens were launched and this carefully studied modular kitchen system has been gaining a strong position as a leader in the outdoor lifestyle market with installations not only in the UK but in the USA, on the Continent, and now India.

2014 saw the most exciting expansion yet, moving the now 20 strong workforce another mile away to  Lodge Farm, East Tisted. A collection of converted and restored barns of varying ages and sizes surrounds a charming courtyard display area, tripling the workspace which we left behind at Newtonwood.  

Heating throughout the site is provided by a modern biomass boiler fuelled by the company’s waste, and electricity is supplemented by a 40kw solar array on the main workshop roof. These state of the art premises, equipped with the very latest in 5 axis machining technology, are enabling the company to develop in new ways, exploring new materials and techniques, while providing magnificent facilities for the experienced team of expert craftsmen, designers and office staff.

The 2016 launch of the Reedback collection with its twisting back slats, reminiscent of reeds swaying in the breeze, is just the beginning of the new 3D design revolution.  Gaze Burvill’s mastery of this technology, coupled with 24 years’ experience in designing and making fine furniture for the outdoors, has led to a soaring of custom and bespoke orders, which in 2016 accounted for almost 40% of our business.

Our award-winning furniture has famous admirers the world over, and in the Summer of 2016, we were delighted when HRH Queen Elizabeth II sat on a Moat Bench for her portrait on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.

As to the future, the workforce is now 30 strong, and helping Gaze Burvill to lead the way in comfortable, cutting edge outdoor furniture design.  Look out for the raft of innovative new designs which will be launched at the RHS Flower Shows at Chelsea and Chatsworth this year.