11 Irish Furniture Designers 

This exhibition is a celebration and showcase of the diverse talent of furniture designers throughout Ireland. By challenging each designer to embody their unique design style through the medium of the humble milking stool. This is a unique opportunity to create a modern reinterpretation of this traditional form. Each designer will be given the same quantity of rough sawn hardwood with which to make their designs.

“ Milking stools were normally carved from elmwood with legs of ash wood. Most were three-legged so that the milkmaid could lean forward into the cow without toppling over. On uneven ground, three legs are more stable than four.”

The challenge is to create a stool out of one piece of hardwood timber, all designers will be given the exact same amount of material to create their designs. The stools will form an exhibition that will be displayed in the main venue, Thompson House for the duration of Design POP. The furniture pieces will be sold through a silent auction. This will allow members of the public and visitors to the exhibition to bid by discrete ballot for the duration of the festival. Each designer will receive the full amount of the winning bid for their work.
Design POP has selected a number of Ireland’s leading furniture designers to take part in this challenge/ exhibition.

Sara Murphy

Sara Murphy is a multidisciplinary designer-maker and craftsperson. Her practice is inspired by an ongoing exploration of materials, blending knowledge of traditional craft techniques, native timber, materials technology and digital fabrication to create unique, high-end, contemporary pieces. Sara started training at the age of 17 with Zelouf and Bell and continued apprenticing in Scotland at Real Wood Studios. She studied Furniture Production and Design at Adam Smith College, Scotland and more recently Digital Design and Fabrication at the FabLab, University of Limerick. When not creating bespoke pieces, Sara can be found designing and building sets and art installations. She produces her own line of handmade homeware, and is available for private commissions and collaborations.

Stool description

Trí Thine

My design for this piece grew from an observation of the changing role of the stool in our homes, from the barn to the hearth and now utilised more often as a side table than a seat. To build on that, I wanted to give the stool a decorative surface, reflecting it’s modern function. During the Bealtaine celebrations Ash wood is burnt on the bonfire to protect cattle and crops during the summer months and to symbolise rebirth and growth. Following this theme and because of my love of all things geometric, the inlay design is an element taken from a traditional Celtic pattern. The ebonised timber is created using a Japanese technique called Yakisugi where the surface of the wood is charred with fire. Traditionally used to protect wood from the elements, here its embraced as a decoration. Unlike staining, Yakisugi gives a true black colour while enhancing the natural grain in the timber.

Sam agus Nessa

Sam and Nessa are timber fanatics with a passion for designing and making beautiful, personable objects. Having both studied furniture and craft and working in the industry for many years, Nessa in Dublin and Sam in Bristol, the pair finally found each other in a noisy workshop in High Wycombe, UK. Now settled into their cottage in Kildare, the duo has launched the award-winning Irish company Sam agus Nessa. Inspired by the Irish vernacular and observing the wonderful world around them, they design and make expressive, functional furniture and home wares from sustainable, locally sourced Irish timber. Each piece of wild timber is carefully selected and then lovingly hand crafted into a quirky creation which is designed to be practical but most importantly to make you smile.

Stool description 

 "A stool for two"

Creating beautiful functional pieces together is what drives us, so if tasked with milking a cow it would definitely be a team effort - this would require bum space for two. As the milking stool has now become an obsolete object in terms of its practical application, this allowed us to create something not necessarily functional in the original sense. Our piece is an extruded stool, designed to be shared by two people, creating an intimate space for conversation or simply sharing a cup of tea.

We loved the clean aesthetic of the functional milking stool and wanted to retain that quality. To do this we constructed it in a way that was sympathetic to traditional techniques. These include using a draw knife to shape the legs and under belly of the stool and hand planning the top smooth. 

*In a milking emergency can be used for two milkers back to back

Colin Harris

From his rural studio in Newcastle Co. Dublin, maker Colin Harris has created a unique range of handmade designs from wild Irish hardwoods that are both beautiful and affordable. Combining his background in engineering, his skills as a maker and his sculptural aesthetic, each piece is handmade with craftsmanship and engineering precision that makes them sing.

Inspired by trigonometry, the moon and the stars, a line is drawn in space to define the triangular base of the stool that is circumscribed by the circular wooden top. “You saw the whole of the moon” is a stool that is deceptively simple, yet versatile and elegant.

Stool description 

Inspired by trigonometry, the moon and the stars, a line is drawn in space to define the triangular base of the stool that is circumscribed by the circular wooden top. “You saw the whole of the moon” is a stool that is deceptively simple, yet versatile and elegant. 

The stool will be handmade in beautiful wild Irish ash or ebonised European oak. The wild Irish ash trees are sourced from Co. Wicklow and are either windblown or have reached their end of life and need to be taken down. They are unmanaged "wild" trees giving them a unique quality of grain, pattern and colours as they develop branches naturally and twist in the sun. The European oak is sustainably sourced and ebonised using a natural vinegar and iron solution.

Brian Tyrell - Bear Creation

Brian Tyrrell started Bear Creation in 2015, aiming to make beautiful heirloom pieces from the bare materials. Bear Creation makes unique and elegant bespoke furniture, along with a homeware and dining collection inspired by our work with top Irish restaurants. All of our pieces are either made from locally sourced wood or recycled wood. We design and make everything in our workshop in Wicklow.

Rory Drinan

Rory Drinan is a furniture designer and maker currently operating out of Benchspace in Cork City. Originating from the South of England and coming from a Fine Art background, his practice moved into the field of woodwork and furniture making. This led to the start of his business ‘Rory Makes’, where he offers an artistic perspective to his clients, creating modern, unique pieces that are functional with a clean aesthetic.

His work has been selected for a number of exhibitions including ‘Sensibility’ in The Gallery at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa and twice for the ‘Emerge’ exhibition in Wandesford Quay as part of the 2017 and 2018 Cork Craft Month.


Stool description

Wanting to take the idea of a traditional milking stool and give it an injection of modern design, my process began by looking at the functionality of the piece to see how it would have been used. I found that it was common for such stools to be built with a handle to make it easier to move from cow to cow but from what I could see these handles looked very disjointed from the overall design and added as an afterthought. I set out to try and make more of a feature of the handle that would then inform the rest of the design.

I began making with just rough plans as I wanted to create an organic process for myself that would incorporate a mixture of traditional joinery and more free flowing sculpture techniques in the shaping of the overall form. 

Warren Hayes - Coolree Design 

Nestled in the protected bogs of Kildare, the Coolree Design studio and workshop is surrounded by breath-taking wildlife. Adjacent to the peaceful Ballynafagh Lake and Bog of Allen, the natural tones and textures of its serene environment are reflected in the refined styles and clean lines across Coolree Design’s expansive collection of high-end furnishings and accessories for the home. Established in 2018 by woodworker and furniture designer Warren Hayes, each hand-crafted piece adheres to an ethically-minded ethos rooted in using only sustainably-sourced solid timber to bring these beautiful and functional designs to life.

Stool description 

Creating objects of simple beauty is something we strive for in all our designs. The traditional milking stool is something that epitomizes this idea, with minimal components and maximum functionality. Sticking to this philosophy, we’ve transformed the traditional structure of the stool, while retaining its key elements. Incorporating the legs into the seat, to create a unified whole, as if carved out of a single piece of wood. The components are hand-carved and gently blended together to create subtle curves, giving this piece a thoroughly modern aesthetic. The natural wood grain is central to the overall design, adding stunning texture and pattern to the design.

Ben Gabriel

Ben Gabriel was born in the Dutch city of Utrecht in 1959. After completing his training in carpentry and joinery, he moved to London in 1984. It was in London, working for private clients, he started making furniture and opened his first workshop in Shepherds Bush in 1988. In 1996 he moved to Gort in South Galway with his partner and their 4 children.

He established himself as a furniture maker/designer and was joined by his eldest son Joshua in 2011 who graduated from Letterfrack Furniture College.                                                                            

His work includes private commissions, speculative pieces and designs for coffee shops, restaurants and bars. He works both in Native and European Hardwoods often combined with metal, glass and acrylic.

He has exhibited extensively in Ireland, the UK and The Netherlands and organises the annual Design  Works exhibition during the Galway Arts Festival for Design Island.

He currently lives and works in the Slieve Aughty region in South Galway, from home and workshop in Derrykeel.

Cian O' Driscoll - Cian's Creative Concepts

I am the Furniture Maker behind Cians Creative Concepts. I love working with timber, good design and making furniture. I make high-end bespoke furniture, handmade locally in Blackrock, Cork, Ireland. I am a graduate of GMIT Letterfrack, Ireland’s prestigious furniture college. I create inspirational furniture reflecting clients’ lifestyles ensuring their ideas can become a reality. I have many years of experience of the furniture-making industry having worked on one-off commissions, with bespoke kitchen and furniture makers and in the fitted furniture industry. Not only am I dedicated to quality, I care about the choice of materials- from the timber, but I also select through to the finishes. I use only the finest of materials; all timbers are FSC approved and sustainable. I am particularly drawn to working with native timbers. Regardless of the customer’s budget, I work closely with them to ensure that they can have the finished product of their dreams.

Stool Description 

The stool I designed and made has three legs.  The legs are laminated and the leg tops are curved and fit into the stool seat.  To curve the timber, I cut very thin strips and placed each strip in boiling water until the timber was pliable.  I sandwiched the strips together and placed them in a form - a type of mould. Each curved leg was left to dry. Once dry, each leg was taken out of the form, the curve is tapered at an angle of 93 degrees. 

The round seat of the stool was turned on a lathe. The stool is a simple design; I added a detail to the seat. On the seat I cut three slots for each of the legs to slide into.  Each of these slots is 120 degrees from the previous. I secured the legs in place by drilling a wooden dowel into each leg through the seat.  The dowels pierce through both leg and seat providing extra stability.  The dowels are visible on the seat adding detail. The stools are designed to be stacked, stacked as a group they add a nice design detail when being stored. This stool was finished with a lime wax giving it a modern contemporary look.

Joe Bishop

Father to three childer, Modern journeyman and Dearcán Bursary Awarded Craftsman 2019-2020.

In conjunction with Benchspace Cork.
Cork County Council Arts Service & South Cork Local Enterprise Office. City and Guild qualified Carpenter joiner. City and Guild qualified Draughtsman.

Stool description

"Bucolic Stool". 

I have tried to create a stool that reflects aspects of Ireland's rugged countryside. Shale stone walls, windswept trees, sea-washed shores, jagged gorse ditches and weather-beaten outbuildings... I watched Paul Sellers tutorials on the 3-legged stool and old RTE tv footage of John Surlis and his Leitrim chair. Combining these two methods, I created a stool with a back that hopefully adds stability. I used traditional assembly methods, all the joints are glued and wedged.

Adrian Duyn - Joop Duyn & Sons

Adrian Duyn graduated with a Bsc. in Furniture Conservation & Restoration from The Furniture
College – Letterfrack in 2007. Since then Adrian has been working in the family business, Joop Duyn & Sons. Based in Kenmare, Co. Kerry. Offering an extensive range of services together with a professional and ethical manner towards antique furniture conservation/restoration; all manors of design, from one-off bespoke pieces of furniture to interior and architectural design.

Stool description

In researching the background to the origins of the Irish milking stool it is said that in vernacular Catholic Ireland, simple three-legged stools were to represent the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Using this significantly important basis from the traditional stool I researched further and came upon the symbol of a Triquetra, Latin for ‘three-cornered’ – an asymmetrical triangular ornament of three interlaced arcs. A Triquetra is an ancient Celtic symbol and considered one of the oldest, dating back to as early as 500 BC where it was used to symbolize the Holy Trinity. 

Marrying these two historical aspects I arrived at the basis of my design and to create my modern representation. Following the shape of flowing arcs taken from a Triquetra I used simple design rules to come up with a three-legged stool that is natural in shape and pleasing to the eye. 

Using six arcs interlaced into three legs where it meets the ground. Adding a swivel seat on twenty traditional wooden bearings lends to a modern touch which would also help the milkmaid with manoeuvrability while in use.  

A Triquetra was carved into the top of the seat for decoration and to further emphasise the design basis. Finished with an understated whitewash to emphasise the beauty of the grain features and reduce the yellow hue often associated with ash. 

David Scannell (Five Horizons Design) + Foley & Crowley Architects

Foley + Crowley Architects, established by James Crowley and Feargal Foley, is an Architectural practice with a strong focus on contemporary and environmentally responsible design.  They make healthy buildings and craft beautiful spaces for living, working, playing, learning.....for life.  These buildings are energised by the environment, built of natural materials and filled with natural light - this approach mirrors their belief in the connection between healthy spaces and human wellbeing.

David Scannell (Five Horizons Design) is a designer, woodworker and tutor based in Benchspace Cork. He is interested in blending modern design with traditional techniques while exploring minimalistic finishes that enhance the natural beauty and character of the chosen wood.

Stool Description:

The [s]uirlis stool

[s]uirlis is a collaboration between Foley + Crowley Architects and David Scannell of Five Horizons Design / Benchspace Cork The form of the legs was the focal point of this design, with the initial concept being that the legs themselves would form the sitting surface. This turned out to literally be “a pain in the arse” and a more practical approach was explored. The final design maintained the focus on the legs by exposing their connection at the top but provides a much more pleasant sitting experience.



Drift Knits.


Kyle Cheldon Barnett.


Cosmic Boulevard.


Spacey Studio


Sorcha O'Higgins


Stephanie Sloan Design


Post_Work Magazine 


Shane O' Driscoll 


Annymolo Illustrations


Badly made books


Banana Melon Kitchen


Sara Murphy


Elements of Action



NEW LIGHT EXHIBITION is a Glucksman project that took place during Cork Midsummer. The exhibition comprises of 8 artworks by Cork-based artist, presented in the public realm and experienced in a series of walks. Design POP will collect these pieces in one place and exhibit them in Thompson house. It is a celebration of the resilience shown by the Gluckman Art museum and these artists during the lockdown.










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