Noah Kay and Ben Hooper were latecomers to the world of furniture design. Choosing to step away from the nine-to-five in favour of the chisel and lathe, the pair met while studying at London’s prestigious Building Crafts College. Now they work from a warehouse in Bristol, crafting wooden tables, desks and accessories that are as effortlessly cool as they are environmentally friendly.
Tell us about your background
Noah: I started off going to university in Bristol, studying architecture and engineering. I then went travelling, before moving back to England and working with my stepdad, who is a blacksmith. I’d never worked with my hands before, but I fell in love with it. I eventually enrolled in the Fine Woodwork and Furniture Making course.
Ben: My uncle and grandad were both bench joiners, so I’ve always been surrounded by making. Music was my first career: I studied it and then went on to teach music technology. I wasn’t particularly happy as a teacher, so I took redundancy to explore other career paths. A friend recommended I enrol in the Building Crafts College course, which is where I met Noah.
How and why did you start Knotch Design?
N: We got on really well and went out for a drink on the first day of the course. We quickly discovered that we were both obsessed with artisan coffee.
B: Noah and I have a very similar approach when it comes to designing and making furniture. We have different ideas, but they work well together. After we finished our course, we attended trade and design shows. We were approached by brands to work as product developers, but neither of us wanted to create other people’s designs, so we decided to set something up together. We both spent a year working for deVOL as kitchen fitters, which gave us the money to invest in tools and sort out our business plan, and now we’ve been trading as Knotch Design for over a year.
What’s your aim?
B: Our long-term goal is to develop our own range of furniture, alongside bespoke pieces. We’re currently prototyping new designs.
N: We’re really inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese designs, as well as architectural and sculptural forms. And many of our designs come from ideas of sustainability and the sense of community in Bristol.
Are you influenced by any other designers?
B: I love the work of Charles and Ray Eames.
N: There’s a designer called George Nakashima, and I think his pieces are just beautiful. I also love the work of Finn Juhl.
Talk us through your process
N: Sometimes we’re in the middle of a creative slump, but something will spark inspiration and the ideas pour out. We’ll then draw upon each other to pick our designs apart and create the final piece.
B: My favourite part of creating a piece is the prototyping stage. It usually takes three or four attempts to make a final design.
Describe your workshop
N: We’ve recently moved, which has been a revelation.
B: Our last studio was freezing as it was previously used for packing meat. The new workshop has lots of space and natural light – it’s had a huge impact on our productivity.
What has been your proudest moment to date?
N: There’s an immense sense of satisfaction when you apply the finishing touches to a piece. We recently made a huge dining table for someone. They were thrilled when we brought it into the house – especially as it took six of us to carry it!
See more from Noah and Ben at knotch.design