By the poolside, there’s a slide—sleek, shiny, and sculptural—that makes you break into a big smile as soon as you see it even if you have no intention of gliding down its glistening length. For lounging in the bath, there’s an elegant hammock-shaped tub that looks as though it’s floating in thin air.
These fun and functional forms are the brainchild of Splinterworks, a U.K.-based luxury brand whose designs, according to founders Miles Hartwell and Matt Withington, pair a theatrical flair with exquisite visual tricks. “Our slides, which are custom, respond directly to the site, so we can work slides around into unusual layouts and can create striking sculptural slides that can even appear to defy gravity,” Hartwell says.
The duo, who found the fun in function when they started out making furniture, segued into slides when one of their Florida clients who had recently renovated his pool lamented the fact that he couldn’t find a design worthy of the new space. “We half-jokingly told him we would make some concepts for him,” Hartwell says. “From there,” Withington adds, “our first slide was born.”
Splinterworks—the fanciful name refers to the founders’ first foray, timber furniture that also served as functional sculpture—has created its signature slides and baths for an international clientele that includes AD 100 architects and designers, private homeowners, and resort-style boutique hotels.
Each design starts in a sketchbook that continues to grow over the course of the project. “For every design that makes it to fruition, there are 200 pages of those that haven’t,” Withington says.
Once the design comes together aesthetically, the partners concentrate on the structural integrity of the piece. “The most fertile ground for idea generation tends to be conversations with a sketchbook to hand, but, equally, we both find ideas do tend to just come to us as individuals,” Hartwell says. Withington adds that instinct also is their primary guide.
Although their original slide was mirrorpolished stainless steel that reflected its surroundings, they have developed other finishes. Steel is, indeed, hot to the touch, so the temperature is regulated with a sophisticated, proprietary system. “The slides cool within 15 seconds at the flick of a switch or a tap on your app,” Hartwell says, adding that recycled water from the pool is pumped through micro jets that cool the surface, handrails, and steps.
Splinterworks’ projects illustrate the versatility of the form. For a natural-stone house designed by architect Bobby McAlpine, Hartwell and Withington designed a slide made of bronze-finished natural copper that fits in with the setting’s warm, natural ambiance. “Because copper is a live material, we love to think of it as growing in beauty alongside the rest of the garden,” Withington says. “It will be magnificent to see it in the years to come as it develops its unique patina.”
In another design, to complement a contemporary-style house and pool in Ontario, Canada, that were designed by Slotegraaf Construction, Splinterworks took the form to the extreme, transforming the slide into a tripod and adding a tail. “The strict geometry of the multilevel, large-scale property was crying out to be played with,” Hartwell says. “Given the size of the space, with wide vistas over the Ontario landscape, we knew we needed to amplify our design to command enough presence to make it resonate in the environment.”
Their response was a slide with what he calls a “wild tangle of curves.” “We found that by disrupting the lines of the architecture, not only did it make both elements sing, but it also invited the organic landscape into the property, connecting nature and the built environment,” he says. Withington adds that when “viewing the slide from different perspectives around the grounds, you strain to work out what it is.”
“And we love that,” Hartwell says.
Splinterworks also created a pair of double racing slides for an indoor pavilion designed by architect Rafael de Cardenas/ Architecture at Large. They complement the structure’s vaulted ceiling that’s lined with gill-like, sound-absorbing fins.
The Hammock Bath, Splinterworks’ other prime design, is the product of rounds of prototypes. “We were struck by the similarities of the ideas of kicking back in a hammock and losing yourself for a while in a quiet bath, little precious moments of me-time that allow you some escapism,” Hartwell says.
Noting that the hammock bath, which is made of carbon fiber and manufactured in the Formula 1 racing-car factory in the south of England, is “supremely ergonomic,” Withington says that “its gentle curve is so much better for your back than a deep tub with a flat base and steep sides that can crick your neck at just the wrong angle.”
The pair’s latest introduction is Downtime, a collection of candy- and custom-colored slides that are designed to be assembled on site. Assembling their three sections is almost as much fun as sliding down them, a point that delights Hartwell and Withington. “They allow the client to create a pool area that really reflects their personality and environment,” Hartwell says.