Matthew Hilton

Honorary: Doctorate
Position: Furniture Designer

About

Matthew Hilton, whose work can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Geffrye Museum, says British art and design courses are now world renowned. He studied furniture design at Kingston and originally graduated in 1979. His best known works include his Flipper and Antelope table and the Balzac Chair, which can be seen at London's Geffrye Museum. The leather upholstered chair, and accompanying footstool sell for more than £3,000, while his award-winning Cross Extension Table will set collectors back at least £2,000.

"It's amazing how far this country's come," he said. "When I left Kingston University, we didn't really have a properly established design business. People hadn't realised design was important – even getting a good cup of coffee in London was difficult."

Born in Hastings, Mr Hilton arrived in Kingston, in south west London, in the late 1970s. "My first year at university was a rather confused time," he admitted. "I didn't know whether I wanted to do fashion, furniture or sculpture. I soon managed to rule out fashion but sculpture still interests me. I realised that furniture design is a kind of sculpture – it involves manipulating three-dimensional shapes."

While studying, he began to experiment with manufacturing products using low-tech casting techniques. His potential was spotted by menswear designers Paul Smith and Joseph Ettedgui, who employed him to dress the windows of their new boutiques in central London.

In the three decades since he graduated from Kingston, Mr Hilton has gone on to design furniture for many leading furniture manufacturers including Ercol, Case, XO and John Lewis. In 2000, he was appointed to head up Habitat Furniture Design and he continues to work for the company as a consultant.

In 2007, he set up Matthew Hilton Limited, with the intention of becoming more personally involved in the way his furniture is marketed and distributed. His most recent collection includes the Kimble Windsor chair and Different Trains cabinet.