Alan Zoeftig Zed Sofa Bed
We have recently introduced a brand new sofa bed to our Deluxe suite in the hotel, a Zed Sofa Bed Bedchair, and we’re extremely excited about it. Designed by Alan Zoeftig, the Bedchair is one of the first of its kind, and perfectly merges beauty with function. Having been at the forefront of seating design for over 50 years with his former company, Zoeftig, Alan is an incredibly talented furniture designer that’s based in Bude, with a whole wealth of experience in creating beautiful pieces of furniture that can be found all over the world. We met up with Alan to find out a little more about him and discover what inspires him.
We know that you studied at Camberwell and Central St Martin’s in London. What did you specifically study?
Furniture design. Camberwell was fine art and then Central St Martin’s was specialising in furniture design. I’m actually dyslexic and I wasn’t very academic, but I was good at art, and so I was able to go on to art school. That was a day when you didn’t need O-levels or A-levels or anything like that, they just took you if you could draw. Margaret Thatcher changed all that so you have to have all sorts of academic nonsense before you could go to an art school now.
We also saw that your daughter Sara is helping you with the business. Has she followed in your footsteps of furniture design?
Initially she helped with the first products that I designed and sold them very well, but then she got married and had children and studied to be a teacher.
How do you source the first class materials that you use, and are they all from within the UK?
I like to get everything I possibly can manufactured in the UK. This fabric is an English fabric, and on every product that I create I try to use English fabric if it can be. The plywood is Scandinavian which is where all plywood comes from, we don’t make that in the UK. The engineered parts are all made by local engineers and companies. All the parts are made by local companies and then brought together and we assemble them.
Your signature Style 63 design from the ’60’s is a really impressive piece. What inspired it?
My first job from college was with one of my college tutors, and I managed to design a complicated mechanism for a sofa that changed into a bed, so he employed me. The whole business of sofa beds are so complicated and cumbersome in many ways, so I tried to devise a simple way of doing it and designed the Style 63. By chance, at that time, there was an international competition being held for furniture design and I entered that and won it. It was held in Cantu in Italy, the centre of the furniture industry in Italy. And that was my first design.
What have you made the Bedchair for specifically?
Well if you buy a sofa bed, generally you’ve got to take all the pillows off and cushions off, and then there’s a mechanism underneath thats usually made of metal and springs that you pull out, and then there’s another skinny mattress to contend with. You’ve got to know where to put all those cushions once it’s pulled out. Other sofa beds are also not every good for your back because, when sitting on sofa cushions, your lumbar region isn’t supported. The reason I designed this one was because at an exhibition, showing those other sofas (Style 63) people said ‘they’re too big for hotel bedrooms, why can’t you make a chair that turns into a bed?’ So that’s what I did.
What inspires you?
It probably sounds a bit high brow, but we don’t need to clutter our lives, we don’t need to have things bombarding us all the time. All my designs are really based on not seeking status or glamour or showing one’s wealth, I think things aesthetically can be beautiful by being as simple as they can be. I find Shaker Furniture very inspiring. Quakers went to America and designed everything so that it didn’t get in their way of thinking about God all the time, so they hung their chairs on the wall and you could walk through a room without having to navigate around anything. With the furniture they made, they respected the material as well, they wouldn’t over elaborate it or decorate it, it was just simple enough to see the beauty of the timber.
How did you end up in Bude, and what has made you stay here?
I was evacuated here in the war, and when I got married we bought a very small cottage and would come down every holiday or long weekend from London. And when they joined up the motorway, I realised you could work from here. It was a gamble, a bit like getting married, you do it and then make it work, or otherwise. I think its absolutely true that when you’re younger, you do things incredibly naïvely, and if they work out its fantastic, but if you consider everything that could go wrong you probably wouldn’t do anything.
Do you think it’s a limiting factor being based in Bude?
Initially it was, but to operate from here it got better. With the previous company (Zoeftig) I designed some furniture for Buchannan bus station in Glasgow, and the architects were brilliant. World Architecture Magazine took a photograph of the interior, and right at the front of the picture was my seat. The architects in Las Vegas said ‘wow, we want this seat for our airport’, and I put some together and rushed over there, and eventually 22,000 seats were sold to them. Once you start doing something that sells well, and you can employ more people and you make sure you can keep the quality, then nothing stops you.