Padded Sell

Molten mahogany masterpiece — exorbitant to good home

Back in the 90s, I used to make radio commercials. (The amusing kind, ideally.)

I made them in a weird and wonderful studio called Padded Sell.

Being a creative type, I wanted my dream studio to be distinctly and delightfully abnormal.

Hi-touch, not hi-tech. A place of beauty, surprises, and smiles.

My brief to designer Mike Ting was to create “a Victorian gentlemen’s club on acid”. Which he did, superbly.

Burglary was never an issue for us. That’s because Mike’s waiting room had no doors. The route to the studios was via bookcases that  swung open.

The reception desk looked like a fireplace. Clients waited for their bookings in old green leather hairdryer chairs.

Cloudscapes adorned the ceiling, where cherubs wore wispy
vestments that looked as though they were being sucked into the air-conditioning vents.

Adorning the walls were surrealist paintings, like this one, Swans Reflecting Elephants, by the greatest and looniest of artists, Salvador Dali.

But my favourite Padded Sell artefact was the custom-built desk on which our recordings were lovingly crafted by my master sound engineer Evan Roberts.

(Evan had been Dick Weir’s sound man, and is now creative director of The Gunnery in Singapore.)

Evan agreed that we should avoid the typical recording studio ‘cockpit of the Enterprise’ look.

He suggested a long floating table, with a stack of books under one end, and nothing under the other.

This is a good case study in how ideas evolve…

I called in woodworking wizard John Calvert, and regaled him with my love of Dali and Dr Seuss and smoothness and symmetry and  silliness — and Evan’s idea.

John’s brief was to create a working work of art. A piece of furniture so breathtaking that when people asked me what kind of work we did, I could answer, “the audio equivalent of that.”

His response was this molten mahogany masterpiece. Above is the only photo I have of it in situ. Below is the floating table today, reassembled and temporarily propped up in the basement.

I wish I could present it to you more elegantly, but I won’t be Mr Popular if I Ramset the back support frame through the carpet!

When the frame’s in place (covered with a curtain), the table seems for all the world to be suspended in midair, with no back legs at all, and two absurdly muscular amputated front limbs that rested implausibly on oversized wine flutes.

I closed my dream studio in 2000 when a new landlord decided to turn The Breeze Plaza into flats.

(I’d tried to get naming rights, but for some reason the name Padded Sell Plaza didn’t find favour.)

As you can see, back then I had more money than sense. Now I’ve got just as little sense, and a lot less money.

And since I need money if my Treatygate/Colourblind State campaign is going to work, I’m reluctantly prepared to let my beloved table go if someone values it highly enough.

Without the back bracing to hoist the table up, the wine flutes don’t quite nestle underneath. But you get the idea. And don’t you love those beautifully-scalloped drawers?

The table has spent the last twelve years lovingly wrapped in crinkly cardboard, so it’s pretty much ‘as new’.

I just love John Calvert’s design and craftsmanship. Use him if you can. I think he told me he was having an exhibition at The Dowse. (Open to both sexes, I hope. :-)).

I’m not letting my table go lightly.

After a costly divorce, a studio sabotage, and my habit of walking away from political campaigns, I suspect it’s the most valuable thing I own.

But if you’d like to own this highly unusual piece of furniture, I’d be happy to consider your offer.

I’m offering it here first, in the hope that it may go to one of my loyal readers.

If there are no takers after a few days, I’ll list it on TradeMe and E-Bay — in case a Neil Finn or a Billy Joel is looking for a new workbench.

The shelf is an optional extra. I can’t seem to find the support struts, so I’ve propped it up on bottles.

The shelf is an optional extra.

If you think my old table should be your new table, write to me at

If you have any well-to-do friends who might fancy it, send them the link.


7 thoughts on “Molten mahogany masterpiece — exorbitant to good home

  1. Ha Ha John –

    I remember your Padded Sell table well, having vacuumed cautiously around it hundreds of times. Can’t buy it though, no room & not enough dosh, so you will have to make do with my humble donation.

  2. It’s STUNNING John. When you told me about it once, I did not picture anything like this!!. I’m afraid that even if I could afford it, I’d be distraced by wanting to stroke those legs all day. And I love the draws. Absolutely gorgeous.
    Glad you’re not selling the Dali 🙂

  3. Oh man! This ticks all the boxes of furniture for my partner and I.

    Character and skilled craftsmanship that brings out all the beauty of wood.

    Gorgeous, John!

  4. John,
    I’m a cabinetmaker and still making artistic-type furniture but I’ve rarely seen any modern stuff to equal this. Fantastic!
    Colin Rawle.

  5. We went to see Dali at his beach house in Port Lligat in the north of Spain, Brenda.

    Unfortunately he was off dead that day.

    But we got to look around this bizarre house (in the bay that you see in a lot of his paintings), stayed at one of his old haunts over the hill in Cadaques, and wandered goggle-eyed around the amazing Museo Dali in Figueres.

    You know his painting of Mae West’s head? They have that in 3D. You actually stand inside it on a platform.

    Either side of you are two gold curtains pulled back to represent her hair, Across the room are two paintings, representing her eyes, and in the middle of the room is a bright red glossy couch (her lips).

    Mae West used to say “Come up and see me some time.” Well I did. (She was off dead too, by the way.)

    Also went to a joint Picasso/Dali exhibition in London. My wife likes Picasso and I like Dali. I asked the guy on the door which was the more popular exhibit and he said, “Dali, by far.”

    Yikes, I guess that makes me a populist. 😦

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