Marcin Miller is one of life’s born charmers. Tall and broad shouldered, he is rarely seen without his felt hat, robust white beard, or corduroy waistcoat. His voice positively booms, thick with Slavic authority. The subject upon which he has such conviction? Woodwork, in all its forms. He’s been working with it since he was a boy growing up in Warsaw. More than 50 years later, and long-since based in London, he has become, shall we say, part of the Soho House furniture, working with us as director of carpentry since our very first opening on Greek Street in 1995.

 

From great, big, bespoke commissions to ad-hoc repair work on existing House pieces (‘Don’t call them pieces. Please, I hate this word!’), Marcin is a regular figure in the Soho House offices on London’s Dean Street. ‘He’s become a bit of a Soho House legend,’ says Marcus Barwell, managing director of in-house design & build, who has worked with Miller since the early days of the business. ‘He has incredible taste and we trust him with everything.’

Right now, Miller is developing a selection of 1950s-style furniture for Soho House’s next London opening, White City House, a reimagining of the former BBC Television Centre in west London, due to open in 2018. Several designs are currently undergoing surgery in his workshop, a functional unit in an industrial estate, which is certainly less charming than he is. Behind Marcin, a cream lacquered side awaits its final coating and across the room, a pale blue Formica laminate bedside unit is having its brass feet applied. ‘I’m also fixing up some tables for The Ned – adding some salt and pepper to them so they are more tasteful and in keeping with the building. My work for Soho House is very varied.’

 

Like many men of his era growing up in Poland, Miller trained in the family profession, passed down from one generation to another. ‘My grandfather was a designer. He was a great believer in the beauty of things and how they can make society feel better. I share his beliefs.’ As a child, he would spend hours in his workshop, playing around models and drawings: ‘I grew up around these objects after the war, and felt that building something out of the fragments was important. It’s just what we did. We all became makers, and wood, because it was there, was the material we made things from.’

At first, you’d be forgiven for thinking Marcin’s personal style is contrived or studied. It’s not. His patchwork jeans have patches on them out of necessity, after wearing through. His French workers’ jacket looks worn because it’s been worked in. He bought his collection of Hawaiian shirts in, Hawaii. ‘I wear a lot of my grandfather’s clothes,’ he explains. ‘For example, my Borsalino hat, classic English trench coat and sandals. My daughter says I look like a hipster. I guess I’m the original hipster. I guess I’m the original Beat Generation hipster. I don’t know. It’s just me.’

Marcin Miller’s design reading list

Out of the Ordinary: Polish Designers of the 20th Century by David Crowley. ‘This reminds me of my roots.’

Warsztaty Krakowskie 1913-1926 by Maria Dziedzic. ‘The Cracow Workshops were important in establishing applied art in Poland. It’s my design ideology.’

Modernism: Designing a New World, 1914-1939 by Christopher Wilk. ‘This is rock ‘n’ roll design rebellion.’

Den Store Danske Mobelguide by Per H. Hansen and Klaus Petersen. ‘This is all about Danish furniture design – it’s wonderful.’

Art Deco 1910-1939 by Charlotte Benton, Tim Benton and Ghislaine Wood. ‘A book that captures all my favourite shapes.’

Photo credit: Cat Garcia

 

 

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