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The devil's in the details: In conversation with Dowsing & Reynolds

Today we spoke to James Dowsing-Reynolds, the founder of Dowsing & Reynolds, and discussed the importance of details, finishing touches and leaning into one's style.

Photography credit: @de_beauvoir_design; featuring Dowsing & Reynolds' Large Bubble Chandelier
The devil's in the details: In conversation with Dowsing & Reynolds
June 13, 2023

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Today we spoke to James Dowsing-Reynolds, the founder of Dowsing & Reynolds. In this conversation with Portaire, James went deep into the importance of details and finishing touches, and how being thoughtful and deliberate in your choices as a designer is the key to any successful design.

Hi! We're so happy to talk to you today. Could you give a brief introduction to Dowsing & Reynolds?

Thank you for having us. Dowsing & Reynolds is all about giving you the details you need to create a home you love – it’s about taking everyday tasks like flicking on the light switch or opening a kitchen cupboard and elevating them to become something more with a knurled gold handle or a smooth, matt black light switch. Everything is designed and made with the end consumer in mind, showing the beauty in quality engineering and precision. 

James Dowsing-Reynolds in his design studio
James Dowsing-Reynolds in his design studio

What was the initial inspiration that led to the foundation of Dowsing & Reynolds?

I decided to set myself a challenge and make a concrete lamp. There were lighting components, such as light bulbs, which I needed to test and make a few versions. I sold whatever parts were spare on eBay, and they sold really well. 

Seeing how successful buying and selling lighting components was, I decided to make and sell lamps. Ally worked in a senior role at a digital marketing and advertising agency, so we built our first website around our full-time jobs. Everything moved very quickly from there.

The importance of details is key to the philosophy of the brand. Could you tell us more about how that came to be?

I’ve always found engineering fascinating; taking things apart and seeing how they’re constructed and how they work. There was a time when everything was meticulously designed and created with the same care and attention it takes to make a car engine. Nowadays, it sometimes feels like businesses are making things for the sake of it, with little-to-no focus on the thought process. 

The industrial trend, which is where we started, became popular because people appreciated engineering and the beauty behind the materials, and I wanted to move that forward. 

There’s a solidness to quality materials, which I’ve always thought should be celebrated. Taking inspiration from engineering and precise detail, I wanted to expose those elements, celebrating the screw on a ceiling rose, for example. It’s the simple details that elevate a product from good to great.

Credit @landmasslondon; Dowsing & Reynolds Black Skyscraper handle
Credit @landmasslondon; Dowsing & Reynolds Black Skyscraper handle

I'd love to know some more about your initial design process, and how inspiration strikes for your team.

Inspiration comes from everywhere. I could be on the underground and notice the materials, textures and shapes which might inspire a handle design, for example. Overseas design shows are also great for evoking ideas. I do tend to lean towards architecture and forms. I always carry a sketchbook or a notebook with me to develop ideas. I’ll sit with them for a while and see if I still like them in a few weeks before filtering through and taking them forward. 

Nature has always inspired me – it’s what sparked the idea for our bubble chandeliers, so I’ll always go back to nature and more often than not, I’ll find something there.

Ally and James Dowsing-Reynolds
Ally and James Dowsing-Reynolds

How does your manufacturing process bring your detail-oriented vision to life?

The manufacturing process that we’re currently exploring allows us to create small batches and then test them on the market first to examine their success - this enables us to reprocess and reimagine rather than discount or throw away stock. It’s better for us as a business and better for the environment.

We recently stepped into the handmade market with our concrete lamps. I designed and created the original concrete lamp before we started D&R, and to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, I decided to develop that product further. Each concrete base is made entirely in-house, along with the fabric shades, which use material sourced from a local mill. Everything is made and constructed by our team in Leeds, which is something we're really proud of.

Dowsing & Reynolds assembly team member

When choosing home décor, every little thing matters. What advice would you give to an up-and-coming designer choosing "finishing touches"?

If talking to a product designer, I’d say to pick something that’s loved – you’ll find it easy to produce and market. 

My best advice for an interior designer who’s working for a client, ask your client to look inside their wardrobe. Which colours and textures do they see the most? If they like to wear it, they’ll enjoy being around it in their home. We firmly believe that homes should be created as an extension of the people living in them.

Lighting can also be a powerful tool to transform a space. Could you walk us through some of the ways designers can do this with your range?

Layering lamps with your ceiling and wall lights is the key to creating different types of lighting in a space. I’d also recommend using dimmer switches to give you more flexibility over the mood you want to create in your home. Use your lamps to set the ambience and create pockets of light. 

If you have smart technology in your home, use the features to set the scene remotely for when you get home, especially in winter, when it tends to get darker earlier. 

Credit @piainteriordesign; Dowsing & Reynolds Large Frosted Bubble Chandelier
Credit @piainteriordesign; Dowsing & Reynolds Large Frosted Bubble Chandelier

As a supplier, you're at the forefront of the design industry. Could you let us know what details will be trending in 2023?

Bold neon colours will continue to develop. With the rise of AI, we can expect to see progression with more technically generated/AI colours. Pink also doesn’t seem to be dying down, so I think that will only continue to evolve, with the increase of bringing in varying shades like fuschia and lavender. There's a real celebration of colour at the moment.

Looking past the next 12 months, I think art deco with an 80s neon influence will start to take shape – combining that sense of futuristic colour with a more traditional movement like art deco.

To follow up, what materials and finishes are designers loving right now for their details?

Natural materials and textures will continue to be popular as we all look to a calmer, more considered way of living – same with organic shapes and softer curves.

Consumer consideration around what people buy and how it impacts our environment will stay at the forefront of everyone’s minds. 

Thank you so much for chatting to us. Before we wrap up, could you let us know about your plans for the next year as a little sneak peek?

We’ve been looking into product customisation for a while now. I’ve always wanted to give customers more choices to tailor their fixtures and fittings to their home and style. We’re in the final stages of being able to do that, with a few small batches of coloured hardware soon to be released. The aim is that customers can send us their RAL colour, and we’ll create their hardware using that colour.

I’ve been developing our new range of combination light switches for a few years, and they’re now available online. They allow you to have dimmers and toggles on the same plate, giving you total control over your lighting. I took inspiration from the aviation industry and designed a more sleek, tapered toggle that mixes modern, contemporary style with cutting-edge technology.

We’re also currently in the development phase of expanding our bathroom hardware range to include more styles and colours.

Dowsing & Reynolds new combination switches - All black
Dowsing & Reynolds new combination switches - All black
Dowsing & Reynolds new combination switches - brushed copper and white
Dowsing & Reynolds new combination switches - brushed copper and white

We hope you enjoyed our conversation with the brain behind Dowsing & Reynolds. The devil’s in the details, and this supplier sure makes it easy for designers to finesse their designs. To discover more suppliers obsessed with details and design, check out our interview with ABI Interiors and Béton Brut.