Monday, 27 June 2011


Devon based Young & Norgate produce beautifully crafted, seemingly simple pieces of furniture. We asked Dave from the company some questions which he kindly answered (with a little help from the team.) Read on to learn about a Danish design duo that inspires them, what keeps the studio working and the importance of sourcing the right materials.

When, how and why did Young & Norgate start?

Whilst grilling sausages over a campfire in North Devon, where Ross and I met studying and we formed the idea to set up in business together. It was early 2010, Ross had notched up seven years in Bench Joinery and I was in the final stages of pulling together the current collection. We both realised that we had complimentary skills to get something off the ground and shared the same vision.

How have you found getting the right craftsmen involved?

Cabinetmaking is not top of most people’s lists when they consider a ‘hands-on’ career. It’s hard work, requires patience but is incredibly rewarding. We have been lucky in that we have attracted a talented team of craftsmen who love what they do. We’re soon to be joined by some young guys under a joinery apprenticeship scheme who we train in finer cabinetry skills. There aren’t so many colleges tailored towards cabinetmaking so we are taking on students who are keen to learn the craft.

We are also very conscious of the environmental impact of sourcing materials in one continent, making it in another continent and then shipping it half way across the world to sell somewhere else. Our products may be more expensive than those mass produced elsewhere but we deliver a more unique and higher quality product. It’s a bit like buying eggs.

Where does the team get its inspiration?

We are big fans of what has come from midcentury Scandinavia and more recently Japan. There is a timeless, beautiful simplicity to the work - although this often makes for challenging manufacturing. Based on the south coast of Devon, we take our inspiration from good clean outdoor living and a lifetime of travel experiences.

Who are your favourite designers/companies?

I am a big fan of Danish duo Finn Juhl and Niels Vodder. Some of Juhl’s designs from the 1940s look like they would sit comfortably adorning any glossy design magazine today and his right hand man Vodder produced an outstanding quality of craftsmanship.

Truck, a Japanese husband and wife team from Osaka, making all their furniture themselves. They craft furniture that is true to materials used with a nice retro twist.

LayerxLayer, a collaborative design studio crafting exceptionally designed products from domestic materials in the USA.

What about beyond the realms of design?

Where to start? If its a case of what makes our days... KCRW online music channel provides a great soundtrack to our days in the workshop. It’s sponsorship supported so there are no ads and very little commentary. Pynes Farm Shop around the back of our workshop, aside from supplying great local produce, have one of the best selection of local biscuits. And Nude Coffee from East London who send us freshly roasted beans to keep us wired.

Why make your items here?

We make our products in the UK because we want to make them ourselves. We love what we do, there’s great satisfaction knowing that a chair we made by hand is going to last generations and be appreciated by many. The UK has heritage in the craft, producing some of the best craftsmen and we want to continue that legacy. In keeping everything in house we can guarantee a high level of quality.

Wellington Chair by Young & Norgate

What consideration do you give materials? Do have any particular favourites to work with?

Obviously we are biased when it comes to timber - particularly FSC certified oak and walnut. We have a fantastic timber yard just down the road where we handpick the boards best suited to our furniture. The timber selection very much depends on the design and required density to achieve certain tolerances on chairs etc. With the Wellington Chair we wanted to push the limits to what timber thickness we could get away with. Maple being a tight grained wood is perfect. We also work with leather and laminates.

Where/what is Young & Norgate's top tip for anyone visiting Devon?

Hire a VW campervan from O’Connor’s Campers and explore the North Coast, stopping at our favourite campsite Little Meadow near Ilfracombe. Also great surfing along the way.

Mountain biking on Dartmoor. An abundance of trails through moorlands.

BBQ on Devon’s only floating cafe - the River Exe Cafe. Just opened, this is a fantastic spot for a sun-downer, bowl of mussels or a BBQ. Can be accessed by boat or water taxi.