Paul’s Useless Objects

Part ice breaker, part practical joke and part, well, just for fun… in this instalment we take a look at Paul’s collection of ‘useless’ objects in his office. And turns out they’re much more useful than you might think…

Share this story

There is perhaps no collection in Paul’s office that epitomises the designer’s sense of humour so accurately as his selection of moving and mechanical toys – or ‘useless’ objects, as we’ve taken to calling them. Except they’re not useless at all. Of course, on one level, they’re toys. But on another, they add a very important (not to mention, ahem, professional) element to proceedings: silliness.


“I've always liked the practical jokes. And the main thing about practical jokes is the timing,” Paul says. “You can't just do them; you have to find the appropriate moment. There is a real art to practical jokes – my dad was really good at finding the correct moment.”

In fact, it’s for that reason that Paul often uses them as ice breakers when new visitors come to his office or have an important meeting with him. Naturally, they serve as conversation starters, but they also set a laidback tone. “It was something my father taught me,” Paul says. “He introduced me to the skill without realising he was doing it, of how to break the ice with people to make people relax,” he goes on. “And how to have something that diverts attention when you're nervous.”


It was a technique he employed when he opened his first tiny shop in Nottingham, too. “You had to go down a corridor, through a solid door, into a room with no windows. So, I'd always have something interesting or unusual, something that could just say, ‘Oh, hi, hello. I was just in Paris. I found this, it’s quite interesting, isn't it?’ You know, instantly they were engaged in a conversation, and they were relaxed.” Come to think of it, they don’t sound useless at all. Here then are six of the most useful useless objects he has in his collection.

The Shy Tiger

Cute as this little fella may be, you have been warned… he’s got a vicious streak. Try to interrupt him and he might just pop his furry head up to growl at you and snap his box closed. He’s also unpredictable: he does a different thing every time, so you’ll need to hold your nerves.

The Cycling Man

While it may perform no practical function, this teeny tiny model is more than an object: it’s art. Paul is fascinated by the intricacy of it, for starters – plus it features his first love: cycling. It was custom made for him by hand by a craftsman he stumbled upon at a doll’s house fair while shopping for gifts.

The Mechanical Hand

You know when you have to break bad news to someone, but you can never quite seem to get to the point? Beware the mechanical hand. In a switch, it’ll start tapping its digits on the table expectantly… And, it goes without saying, it does not like to be kept waiting.

The Clapper

Ever needed a little encouragement during a meeting or important presentation? Well, that’s where the clapper comes in. Turn it on (we suggest doing so slyly so your colleagues don’t spot it) and it will provide a much-needed round of applause for your inevitably sparkling ideas. You’re welcome.

The Scary Spider

Falling more into the ‘practical joke’ category of Paul’s useless objects, this critter may take you by surprise. By inflating the small pump attached, this creepy (and quite hairy) crawly jumps and flits about. Not one for the faint of heart.

The Useless Box

The epitome of the useless object: we present to you the useless box! It does not have space inside to hold anything. Nor does ‘do’ anything per se. It’s only function – if you can call it that – is to turn itself off. Flick the switch and a hand emerges from the interior to flick it back off again. Of course, it’s one of Paul’s favourites. Genius.

Discover More


Office Sundays: Paul’s Tin Toy Collection

The latest chapter in our Office Sundays series ­(where we rummage around Paul’s office to discover some gems) focuses on his tin toy collection which recalls a bygone era.



Office Sundays: Paul’s Hat Collection

This month our Office Sundays series continues as we take a peek at Paul’s entirely impractical hat collection, and learn more about the stories behind each specimen.


Do you want to keep in touch?

Enter your email