An Interview with Square Roots Founder Ed Stoddart
After decades spent living and working in Vietnam, furniture industry veterans Edward Stoddart and Justin Wheatcroft founded Square Roots in 2007 after being inspired by the country’s tradition of woodwork and craftsmanship.
Nearly fifteen years on, the Square Roots brand has become a global success. Made from responsibly grown Burgundy oak, the Square Roots collection combines sustainable sourcing and production with intricate woodwork to bring classic style and durability to its furniture.
Based in Ho Chi Minh City, one of the largest cities in Vietnam and known for its diverse maker community, Square Roots employs local people to apply traditional woodwork skills to make each piece in the collection.
We caught up with Edward to discover the inspiration and influences behind Square Roots, as the latest collection launches with Barker and Stonehouse online and in-store.
How did Square Roots begin?
As co-founders of Square Roots, Justin and I had spent many years in Vietnam and had always admired the intricate woodcarving that defines much of the furniture and architecture there. Stroll through any city in Vietnam, and you’ll see incredible attention to detail and use of natural materials, particularly in temples and in homes.
At the same time, we fell in love with the durability, quality and natural texture of oak from the forests of Burgundy in France. This oak is famous across the world, as it’s high in tannins and is used for wine barrels. The oak plantations there have been cultivated by the people of that region for hundreds of years, and there is a strong sense of sustainable forestry as a result.
We knew that by combining traditional Vietnamese woodwork with some of the finest oak in the world, we could create beautiful, high-quality and stylish furniture – and that’s exactly what Square Roots is all about.
What are the inspirations behind the Square Roots collection?
Our biggest inspiration comes from the natural world and the wood we work with. Using solid wood means that we can incorporate the unique character of our timber into the range, making furniture that lasts and has a timeless style.
The soft pale tones in French oak, the grains, knots and various textures you find in each piece of wood. We work these into each piece, adding different finishes and details to bring the outdoors inside.
We have also always been inspired by Mid-Century designers, especially the Brazilian design movement, which is why you’ll see that much of our range has that classic yet contemporary feel. Fusing quality, style and sustainability is what gives Square Roots our distinctive look, and is why we’re so excited to be working with Barker and Stonehouse to bring this range to customers.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Sustainability has always been at the core of Square Roots. We believe that to protect the world of tomorrow, we have to put practices in place today that show care and consideration for our environment. This has never been more important for the furniture industry, and it’s why we use wood from responsibly managed forests, that meet the highest European standards for sustainability.
The timber used in the Square Roots collection is certified under the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), a fully-transparent and independent international certification system.
For us, it’s not only that this wood is sustainable, it’s also of impeccable quality, resulting in a truly beautiful end product.
What role do traditional skills play in the production of Square Roots furniture?
Vietnam has some of the most skilled woodworkers in the world, with a long history of intricate craftsmanship. Vietnamese culture prizes beautiful design, with an attention to detail and love of natural materials that has been handed down from generation to generation.
By combining sustainable, high quality European wood with these traditional woodworking techniques, the Square Roots collection has a unique look that you won’t find replicated elsewhere.
We’re incredibly proud of our team here in Vietnam. Nearly fifteen years ago, we opened our workshop with only 25 local workers, and we’ve since grown to a team of over 350. Throughout that time, we’ve supported the passing on of woodworking skills to the next generation.
For example, when we take on apprentices, they work closely with our experienced workers to learn these traditional skills. Technology also has its place, and we use the latest in manufacturing technology to ensure each piece of furniture meets the highest quality standards. That means that our team are both using those traditional skills, and learning how to use innovative technology.
Why are you excited to be working with Barker and Stonehouse?
Square Roots is defined by sustainability, quality and classic design, and that means we’re selective about the retailers we work with. Luckily for us, Barker and Stonehouse has supported us from the very beginning, and we share a passion for responsibly-sourced, beautifully made furniture that brings the beauty of nature into the home.
Barker and Stonehouse is an independent, family business, 75 years in and still going strong. We have huge admiration for the Barker and Stonehouse brand as a result of that, and we’re very excited to be working together on this collection. Having seen the Square Roots collection in stores, with the natural textures and intricate finishes there for customers to explore for themselves, is a proud moment for us. We can’t wait to see what the next few years have in store for both Square Roots and Barker and Stonehouse.
Square Roots furniture is available online and in store. Why not explore our new Square Roots displays in our Guildford and Battersea stores?