Images by Artur Szyperek
As many of you will already know, I don’t live in London like most of the other design and interiors bloggers that I know. I live just outside Dartmouth in South Devon, which is the most beautiful rural location and I absolutely love living here. Admittedly I do miss out on a lot of the action as I can’t get to London as quickly or as easily as I’d like, but I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Those of you who have been to Dartmouth will surely understand this and those of you who haven’t…what are you waiting for?
Anyway, I used to feel a bit down about missing out on the London-centric design scene, until I realised what great talent there is locally here in Devon. I am now super excited about discovering all the awesome designers, makers and craftsman that are based in this area of the country and I will be featuring more of them here on the blog in the future. One company that I discovered last Summer is Young & Norgate and I was lucky enough to attend an open studio event at their workshop in Budleigh Salterton. There I met Dave Young, who is one half of the talented design duo, along with Ross Norgate. Dave was kind enough to show me round the workshop and agreed to take part in an interview for us. I absolutely love the work of these guys as I am sure you will too. Anyway, read on to hear what Dave has to say.
Image by Artur Szyperek
How did Young & Norgate come about?
Ross & I met whilst studying furniture design and cabinetmaking in North Devon back in 2009. It wasn’t long before we both realised that we shared the same vision and ideals. Coming from a joinery background Ross is a genius when it comes to the tools, and with a keen eye on the design we make a good partnership. In 2010, we took the plunge, finding a suitable workshop space and acquiring all the necessary tooling to start making.
How and why did you end up working in Devon? How does your rural location affect your work?
My wife and I moved to Devon five years ago after a stint in London. Originally from NZ, Devon is like a home away from home. It provides the perfect balance between work and play – everyone in the workshop has a very active outdoor lifestyle. Although we are rural, much of the work we produce is destined for the London market and further afield. With the ease of communication and transportation there really are no restrictions.
Image by Artur Szyperek
How has the company grown since you first started out?
We are now a team of 6 which has propelled the business in terms of the size of projects we can tackle. Now we can take on large interior projects and commercial work whilst still committing to reasonable lead times on furniture pieces.
Can you explain your approach to design and to the work that you do?
Our main aim is to create quality long lasting products. This is important in both the design and build quality. If the piece doesn’t look the part in 10-50 years time then we have failed in what we have set out to achieve. The intention is to create a timelessness in our design, using carefully considered materials which will get better with age.
Is it true that you don’t use computer software in the design process?
Yes, although we are starting to work more with design software. There is something immediate when putting pencil to paper. We have a fairly traditional approach to design and prototyping. When it comes to furniture there are various elements that need to be 100% – like comfort when it comes to chairs, therefore we’ll be stringing cardboard, paper, offcuts or whatever we have lying around together to achieve the desired result.
You say that you make, not manufacture your pieces. What do you mean by this?
Most of the work we produce is either one off or part of a limited edition run. Even the pieces in our current collection can be made bespoke according to the clients requirements. And all of this is done by hand by skilled craftsmen. Each maker takes a specific project through to completion, as opposed to being involved in one stage of the process. It is much more satisfying for the maker and I would like to think that a better end product is achieved.
How important is material choice in the work that you do? Where do you source your materials from?
We work predominantly in timber and it is surprising how many options are available within one type of material. We are careful to source from sustainably conscious suppliers in the local area. The majority of the timber comes from a yard just up the road which is ideal for picking out boards with projects in mind. It always depends where the piece is destined as to timber choice and type of finish but we have our favourites. We have recently been experimenting more with metals and leather, both of which pair beautifully with wood.
Image by Artur Szyperek
As well as high-end bespoke furniture pieces you also do more general joinery work like shop fitting. Can you tell us about this?
As with any business starting out in a recession we have been open to all kinds of work thrown our way. Although we only really set out to craft furniture, it wasn’t long before we were making architectural staircases, handmade kitchens and providing joinery for commercial projects all over the country. It’s nice to have a mix of work and gets us into environments we could only have dreamed of several years ago.
What is the most challenging part of the work that you do?
Time is a valuable resource in our line of business and there is never enough of it. As you can imagine when making anything by hand, it demands focus and dedication – there isn’t alot of room for error. And it’s a case of educating people in terms of the time required to make something. Most of us walk into a store and if it looks good, is in budget, you buy it. There is very little connection with how it is made or by who.
What do you love most about your job?
Presenting a piece of work to a client is extremely rewarding. And it’s nice to know that it is going to be admired, used and become a part of someone’s interior for many years to come.
What can we expect to see from Young & Norgate next?
We have a few design ideas for our collection which we’ll be showcasing in May at Clerkenwell Design Week. We are working on some comfortable and stylish lounge seating concepts but there’s plenty more up the sleeve.
Thanks Dave for giving us an insight into the inner workings of Young & Norgate. If any of you guys want to go on a tour of the workshop check out this great video over on Vimeo.
*All images courtesy of Young & Norgate unless otherwise stated.