September 2017 is a momentous time for John Makepeace, marking 40 years since he founded Parnham College – the educational phenomenon that inspired a generation of designers and furniture makers, influencing the world of contemporary design ever since.

Over the course of his career John has been recognised for achievements in design and furniture making, but has shied the limelight notoriously not seeking interviews. 

In 1988 he received an OBE for services to furniture design. On the bestowal of this prestigious honour, John said: “It is unheard of for a furniture maker to receive an OBE, I’m of course thrilled, but it is a reflection of our work at Parnham and the team here.”

Many more accolades followed over the years and in 2016 John won the Prince Philip Designers Prize in recognition of his outstanding contribution to design, in 2010 he received the Special Commendation. Adding to this, The American Furniture Society presented John with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and also the Society’s Award of Distinction and the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers. 

Parnham College

Parnham College Alumni

John’s iconic work is represented in numerous collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the Museum fur Kunstandwerk, Frankfurt and the Arts Institute, Chicago. He now works to commission, undertaking exclusive  projects each year. 

His unconventional approach to making furniture has been a constant throughout his career: “I have a strong rebellious streak - as an artist, designer and maker. I am constantly searching for more eloquent concepts for furniture. My objective is to achieve freer, lighter, stronger and more sculptural forms expressed through each unique commission.”

Since 2000, he has been leading initiatives with the V&A to encourage more adventurous design. Longer term, he plans the sponsorship and endowment of a national educational initiative for young designers.