Sir Edwin Lutyens, who was born in March 1869 in Thursley, Surrey, is most famous for designing New Delhi, so much so that this area of the city is also known as ‘Lutyens’ Delhi’. Back in the UK, he would cement his reputation for his beautiful designs of English country houses.
His first commission was for a private house in Farnham, but in Sussex he is best known for having built the Grade 1 listed Great Dixter, which he created by combining the existing 15th-century house with a structure brought from Benenden, Kent. Although he is less known for his furniture designs, these formed a significant part of his work. Candia, however, got into the business in a roundabout way.
“It was really a happy accident as much as anything else. My husband and I bought our first house together and wanted a pair of Napoleon chairs. I’d grown up with one, which my mother had sold when I was a teenager. I knew that various aunts had them and asked to copy one, which was then held in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. “I started out with the intention of just making a pair of chairs for ourselves, but then my husband – an architect – got interested in Lutyens’ furniture and discovered there was a furniture archive which no one had particularly known about.”
This was in 1987 and Candia’s husband gave up his day job to pursue the venture, while she was working in the City in a job that she gave up in 2001. “The rest is history,” she laughs. The vast majority of furniture designed by Edwin Lutyens was for New Delhi. Candia travelled there last year and was delighted to see that much of it is still there.
Candia managed to explore much of the Viceroy’s house in New Delhi – apart from the private apartment – and discovered “a lot more furniture than I ever dreamt existed.” Parts of it, she says, had been badly restored and painted gold, and a lot was still missing, having been lost in the flux of India’s independence.
The country house furniture is derived from the arts and crafts vernacular, and Lutyens prided himself on using local craftsmen. These processes are described in her father’s memoir of Sir Edwin.
“My father wrote about how Lutyens used a carpenter who could tell when the oak was ready just by the smell of the acorn. It was all about traditional arts and crafts.”
Candia’s own work responds to this legacy. While people may not be able to afford to buy a Lutyens’ house, they can afford a Lutyens chair, she explains. Much of her business comes from the US, where they love Edwin Lutyens’ quintessentially English work. She also offers a tailored design service to clients.
“A lot of Lutyens’ furniture is quite big – built for a palace, for example – so clients might not want a table that seats 26, preferring something that accommodates 14. My job is to adapt it.
“But sometimes I’ll design something which Lutyens didn’t, so rather than saying we don’t do coffee tables, for example, I will take the Lutyens’ design idom and come up with something that he may have designed.”
As well as creating furniture suitable for all rooms in a house, Candia also creates a beautiful, eclectic range of lighting – much of which is based upon her grandfather’s original designs.
But Candia doesn’t source her materials in the same way as Sir Edwin. She lets clients choose whether they want to use Walnut, Oak of Cherry wood and then the craftsmen are charged with finding it.
“It’s often a question of budget, as different timbers command different prices. However, I’m into sustainability at all costs.”