Nick Bailey’s workshop is a packing shed nestled on an old banana plantation in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland. Remote and rustic, the corrugated iron shed is stifling hot in summer and freezing in winter, filled with disused farm equipment, deep drawers of tools and the aroma of timber slabs waiting to be transformed into bespoke furniture. For Nick, it’s the perfect place to create. “For years I worked in an industrial site in Brisbane where there were always distractions and people popping in, but since relocating to the Coast and stumbling across this shed five years ago, I’ve found the isolation helps me get my head down,” he says. “Although I do end up listening to quite a bit of talk-back radio!”
Sharing the shed with a resident goanna and countless other four-legged creatures, Nick’s furniture belies such humble origins – these beautifully crafted, commission pieces are destined for homes across Australia and overseas. Ranging in style and scale from a beautiful mid-century style desk and elegant console to a French refectory table, each bespoke piece can take several months to create. Nick designs in collaboration with his clients, who often specify functional requirements as well as a certain style or feel they want to evoke. “I love a challenge, so I take great pleasure in the technical aspect of taking a simple sketch, nutting out how all the elements will come together and then crafting it by hand into a beautifully resolved piece,” he says.
Nick launched Nicholas Bailey Fine Furniture 12 years ago. An informal apprenticeship, working alongside a friend’s master craftsman father, had ignited his passion to pursue furniture design almost a decade earlier, leading to a Diploma of Fine Woodworking at London’s Worshipful Company of Carpenters and a Diploma in Forestry. “It may seem odd to study forestry when the ultimate goal is to make furniture, but I’ve always loved trees. To work effectively with timber, you really need to understand how it behaves and responds to various climates,” NIck explains. He favours working with sustainably managed North American varieties such as oak, cherry and walnut.
Continually honing his skills across myriad styles of woodworking, Nick’s career highlights have included a Churchill Fellowship in 2005 to study and work with studio furniture makers in the UK and USA, and the opportunity to create a display cabinet for the Tower of London, which involved an access-all-areas tour of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. Royal commissions aside, it seems Nick enjoys the simple pleasure of producing tailor-made furniture for people to cherish.
“I’m often asked if I get attached to pieces, but for me, handing it over is the part I find most rewarding,” he says. “When you work with someone to create a piece of furniture you often form a great relationship, so when it comes time to install the finished product in the spot it was intended and see their joy, it’s incredibly satisfying.”
While weekdays are spent working alone, come weekends Nick’s six-year-old son Andy is an enthusiastic offsider, with his sights set on an apprenticeship. “He helps me out with handyman projects around the house and he’s declared he wants to work for me when he’s older,” says Nick. “We haven’t discussed pay, though – which may change things!”
View Nick’s portfolio or commission a piece at Nicholas Bailey Fine Furniture.