John Makepeace's career has been described as an adventure in wood. He first saw fine furniture being made when he was eleven, and then he visited the great cabinet makers in Copenhagen as a teenager. Design and craftsmanship came naturally to him.
Early professional recognition led to his work as a design consultant to the all India Handicraft Board, a founding member of the Crafts Council in the UK and a Trustee of the V&A, London. Early commissions from Templeton and Keble College, Oxford, Liberty's, Banque Générale du Luxembourg, have been followed by international museums, corporate and private clients.
Keenly aware of the need for an integrated education for furniture designers and makers going into business, he bought Parnham House, Dorset in 1976 to set up a college alongside, but separately from, his own furniture studios. Parnham rapidly gained an international reputation.
The clearance of forests to fuel the Industrial Revolution and Britain's consequent dependence on imported timber led to the purchase of Hooke Park, the 350 acre woodland nearby. The subsequent European programme of collaborative research explored the improved utilisation of indigenous timber and resulted in a series of award-winning buildings for the new campus. After a very successful 25 years the College amalgamated with the Architectural Association in 2001.
John sold Parnham in 2001 and bought Farrs, a historic house in Beaminser not sold since it was built in 1730. Here he has his design practice, gallery and impressive range of indigenous trees seasoning for future commissions. With his wife, Jennie, they open the house and gardens for charity and group visits.
In 2004 John received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Furniture Society, and in 2010 from the Furniture Makers Company. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Arts University Bournemouth (2009) and Hereford College of Arts (2013).
In 2017, in celebration of the forty years since the launch of Parnham College, ‘Beyond Parnham’ was published. This tells the story of the College and Hooke Park, and 100 alumni reflect on their careers.