Creative storage with James Latham

Creating furniture out of unfamiliar materials was the goal for students at a leading furniture-making college.


James Latham is a long-time supplier of Rycotewood College in Oxfordshire, one of the country’s leading institutions for vocational training for furniture design and making. Rycotewood has delivered furniture training in Oxfordshire since 1938, and has been located at the City of Oxford College since 2004.

James Latham was asked to partner Rycotewood’s annual student competition, donating materials to help the students with their work.

The competition asked students to focus on colour and curve under an overarching theme of ‘storage’.

To provide an extra level of challenge, the company also suggested the students work with unfamiliar materials, using the resources available at Rycotewood under strict timings.

Testing creativity

To support the college, James Latham donated a quantity of Valchromat, giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and initiative when working with non-traditional materials to meet a challenging creative brief.

Twelve Rycotewood degree students participated in the competition, and were given 10 weeks to create their entries, with judging taking place during the end-of-year celebratory show before the winner and highly commended entries were chosen.

Unparalleled versatility

Benjamin Scott was the competition’s winner, using Valchromat to breathtaking effect in a sophisticated storage cabinet.

A stunning fusion of yellow and grey Valchromat with oak, the modern day parquetry on the cabinet has over 1,000 precisely arranged, extensively sanded and polished Valchromat pieces, forming elegant herringbone-patterned panels, showcasing Ben’s incredible attention to detail.

The judges felt the piece truly exemplified the creative potential of Valchromat, representing a massive leap forward compared to its use in the previous year’s competition.

Importantly, they also felt it encapsulated Rycotewood’s growing proficiency in working with the material.

Benjamin says: “Valchromat’s superior sanding and finishing capabilities are remarkable. It outshines alternative materials, effortlessly achieving a flawless surface. Additionally, it retains sharp edges when shaped by hand, offering a more refined look.”

A resounding success

Josh Hudson, Furniture Lead at Rycotewood, says: “We’re thrilled to witness the tremendous growth of the students in their ability to work with new materials, as demonstrated through the ambitious and captivating pieces submitted for this year’s keenly-anticipated and hotly-contested competition.

“Partnering with James Latham has been fantastic and our ongoing collaboration allows the students to push their creative boundaries and showcase their talent to the full.”

Ongoing support

James Latham has been supporting Rycotewood’s student competition for a number of years. In 2022, Catherine Warsi was singled-out for her clever and creative use of Valchromat MDF panels, maximising the versatility of this engineered panel when aiming to create an ambitious spherical unit.

Catherine wanted a through-colour surface, so turned to Valchromat’s blue-hued board as a solution.

She says: “The structural composition of Valchromat makes it easy to shape, meaning I was able to achieve the stepped spherical shape I wanted using the equipment available at Rycotewood. Furthermore, the product came in an amazing range of colours, which fired my imagination.”

In the same year, Luke Rawlinson used UPM’s Grada2000 Birch Plywood to breathtaking effect in an elegant, biophilic-themed storage cabinet.

Luke used the material’s thermoformability by accentuating Grada2000’s signature ability to curve and stay curved.

Light and modern, the sustainable credentials of the material were further enhanced with curved shelving and ribbing on each side of the central storage unit, creating a pleasant visual contrast.

Furthermore, the ribbed side acts as a trellis from which creeping plant life can prosper.

You can learn more about Rycotewood School and its work at www.rycotewoodfurniture.co.uk