The Animate Desk

Rural furniture craftsmen Young & Norgate are contenders in contemporary design
by Poppy Austen

The Animate Desk is an article from Futurespace
Issue no1. Get it on iTunes.

Furniture trends come and go but what most of us are searching for are pieces built to last. It’s not so much about keeping up with current trends but rather seeking out that unique piece of solid, traditional craftsmanship. Tucked away in a Devon studio, two young furniture makers are carefully sculpting pieces designed to last a lifetime, with one item in particular living up to such expectation.

Founded by David Young and Ross Norgate, the Devon-based furniture design company Young & Norgate disregards mass-production within the retail industry. The duo like to keep things simple by sticking to old-school design methods, says Young. “We are fairly old school with our approach using pencil and paper. There’s just something about drawing with pencil that is so immediate.” Young & Norgate have now been recognised for creating items that boast longevity and pared-down design, and were awarded a Design Guild Mark in 2012 for their company’s signature piece — the Animate Writing Desk.

The desk’s concept, borne out of their Animate Bedside Table piece, embodies a more challenging aesthetic — resulting in a piece that adheres to the company’s strong hand-made principles while keeping up with movements in technology. The desk, which factors in the increase in tablet sales, has a rest and cable- management system housed at the back to hide unsightly wires. Paying consideration to the trend towards open-plan living, it looks just as good from the back as the front, and could be used in the workplace.

The desk is made from fsc-certified timber in either black American walnut, oak or rosewood — Young says they favour using darker timbers that are “more sophisticated, chosen for the fact that they will age well with time.”

The walnut desk’s
optional Maple-leather
stationery tray

There’s just something about drawing with pencil that is so immediate

When asked about the desk’s peerless appeal, Young says, “It’s certainly unique-looking in character and personality; we wanted to create something that would ‘wow’ people, adding the cheeky design twist of contrast drawer runners and harnessing the quality of the construction and craftsmanship with beautiful design.”

It’s not just the exposed internal drawer mechanics, organic materials, carefully mapped-out space for correspondence needs and storage space that render this desk desirable; it’s the contribution of the people involved with the desk’s creation that makes Young & Norgate designs unique.

“We take the whole process in-house from conception to the end product, so a high level of quality is guaranteed,” says Young. “There’s no ironmongery and each piece is hand-veneered — it takes about two weeks for one cabinetmaker to produce one desk alone.”

“We keep a watchful eye on the industry but, being on a farm in Devon, we’re not exposed to our competitors. We have an open view and we’re not distracted by what anyone else is doing, meaning we can concentrate on producing quality furniture,” says Young. The company are adept at forging ahead of the pack when showcasing new pieces — such as a barstool, dining table and display cabinet — at Clerkenwell Design Week in May, yet remain purveyors of long-lasting pieces that are already design classics.