Discover Johnstons of Elgin
Discover Johnstons of Elgin SVG

Keith Coghill

Furniture Designer

Sometimes, the perfect partner is closer to home than you might expect. We called upon the exceptional talent of Scottish artisan Keith Coghill to build a unique, welcoming space at our Elgin site. The versatile private atelier will be used for personal shopping and styling and will also serve as a warm reception area for our immersive Archive Mill Experience. Keith knows how to blend the spirit of Scotland with modern design, a true Kindred Spirit with our brand. 

Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Tell us a bit about what you do.

When I started making furniture, I wanted it to be something no one had seen before. I started making things with the underside finished as beautifully as the top; everything was perfect. Then I met the guys up at the Wildlands [design-led self-catering escapes in the Scottish Highlands], and they wanted something more organic. I mostly make furniture, often liaising with designers. Last year, I started working with Caithness Stone, making stone bowls. They've been very popular. I also do artwork, and I make bespoke items for homes. One customer wanted a staircase to look like the entrance to a witch’s den, made with wood from his own forest. I also made an 8-foot figure woven in copper. Each piece was cut with tin snips, which was a laborious process. I love the artwork; that's my favourite part of what I do.

Discover Johnstons of Elgin
Discover Johnstons of Elgin

Tell us a bit about the furniture you made for the new space at Johnstons of Elgin.

Johnstons of Elgin wanted interesting furniture that people would talk about. The inspiration was Scandi-Scot, which is just as it sounds: an amalgamation of the styles. All the wood used in the furniture was reclaimed, as in wind fallen. Nothing was cut down on purpose. You can see tool marks on some pieces, but everything has a reason behind it.

Some items, such as the bobbin stools, give a nod to Johnstons of Elgin’s heritage, and others, such as the simplistic four-legged stools with tenons through the seat, remind us of simpler times.

I spent several hours in different woods looking for the perfect fallen tree for the bar area. Like everything else, the idea was for the bar area to be a place for interest and discussion, to provoke questions like, 'Was the tree always there?’

The large low table made from the double log slice came out of the kiln in about 15 pieces and was put back together like a homemade jigsaw with the ethos, ‘Waste nothing. The beauty is there—it's all there.' The long low cabinet design shows Scandinavian simplicity, so it doesn’t detract from the beautiful pictures on the wall above. 


Where did you learn your craft, and how long have you been making?

I originally trained as a joiner. When I met my wife, I moved up to Thurso with her and had just sold a house in [Highland Village of] Beauly that I had made myself. I was a housebuilder but didn't really enjoy it, so it was the right time to make a change. I had always wanted to make furniture, so I chucked my wife’s car out of the garage and commandeered the space. It was a small garage where the car doors couldn't open fully, and you had to squeeze past. It became a tiny workshop with a workbench, a saw and a plane, and I started following my dream. That was about 13 years ago.

My family is quite artistic; my younger brother does key art, creating the main visuals to promote movies. I moved to more creative work around February 2018, when I made a chair inspired by Sunna, the Viking sun goddess, with flames all around her. 

Discover Johnstons of Elgin
Discover Johnstons of Elgin

What inspires your work?

If you're working with a designer, they'll send you a mood board, but I don't think you need inspiration for the kind of wood I work with because it almost does it itself. I sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud because the wood is so beautiful that I just rub it up a bit.

I also work with Caithness Stone. As soon as Caithness stone is out of the ground, it starts to weather and split. Once I discovered how soft this stone is to cut, I decided to start working with it. I cut one particular piece to make a bowl, and there were a lot of fractures in it. I repaired the cracks with gold resin and called it Caithness Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object rather than something to disguise.


What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

The biggest challenge is selling. It's a real struggle for most makers, I think. The making is actually the easy part.


What does Scotland mean to you?

What can I say about Scotland? The words I associate with Scotland are wind, beauty, and family.

Discover Johnstons of Elgin
Discover Johnstons of Elgin
Discover Johnstons of Elgin

What similarities do you see between your craft and Johnstons of Elgin?

Johnsons of Elgin is way out on its own. I don't think anybody could be described as similar - no one can even come close. I guess the only similarity between my work and Johnsons of Elgin would be the natural materials we both use and the muted colours.


How would you describe your style of craftsmanship?

I don’t know if I have one particular style. Designers can ask you to make absolutely anything, and I pride myself on my ability to really make the customer happy. If they want something super shiny and glossy, they get it, and if they want to go full-on hobbit, they can have that, too.

Visit our Elgin Site