Scumble Goosie is a furniture company with a difference. Founder Jon Madeley trained as an architect, but soon decided his real love was designing furniture rather than houses. He started to realise that he might have a commercial viable business when his first-ever table, made for an interior designer in Tetbury, was ‘spotted’ by Homes and Gardens magazine and called in for a photo shoot. From then, a combination of extremely hard work (including press-ganging his father into working with him in an unheated workshop) and opportunities as his work was spotted by more magazines lead to the business, now known as Scumble Goosie, becoming a reality in 1990.
Now, Jon’s speciality is producing unpainted pieces of furniture that customers can finish themselves to their own requirements – although an inhouse paint service is available. He also offers furniture made to your own bespoke specifications and the range spans accessories, a range of furniture and other home furnishings such as lighting. Jon is still extremely hands on with the business and attends a number of trade and consumer events as well as designing furniture and looking after the Gloucestershire showroom. Sara Walker managed to catch up with him to find out more about how it all works.
SW: As far as you know, are you the only people doing exactly what you’re doing in the UK?
JM: We think so. Some companies still offer bespoke furniture but normally at much higher prices and it does seem increasingly harder to find people these days willing to make one offs. Also not many offer the option of having the furniture in the natural wood for the customer to finish (or leave as is).
SW: With so many years of success behind you, you’re clearly doing something right! What do you think it is that people find appealing about your products?
JM: People like the simplicity of our designs combined with the fact that they are handmade from sustainably sourced solid timber rather than mass produced. The option to vary the size is also especially popular even though it means waiting much longer for delivery. Simple things like the bottoms of drawers being made out of solid planks of wood rather than a bit of flimsy man-made board definitely appeal to our customers. There is an increasing realisation that buying something that will last is also much more environmentally friendly than making do with the cheap mass-produced furniture that is so commonplace on our high streets.
SW: Do you personally have a favourite product, and what is it? And what’s your current best seller? And where’s the furthest-flung place you’ve ever delivered to?
JM: We have sent our wall panelling to South America, our Mora Clocks to New Zealand, our chairs to Tokyo and our lamp bases to Australia – to name just a few! Our current best seller is our range of radiator tables. My personal favourite is our new unfitted Kitchen Belfast sink unit!
SW: Do you still do all of the design work yourself?
SW: I understand that you now out-source a lot of the manufacture to India. How did you go about establishing those relationships, and finding the people who could make your products to your standards? Do you make any trips out there at all?
JM: We have been working with the same team in Jodhpur for nearly twenty years and they have become part of the Scumble family! We do go out but not as often as we would like as we are so busy – thank goodness for FaceTime and email! We were approached by a very enterprising chap who liked what we did and said his team could produce in hardwood rather than the mdd we were using at the time so we gave it a shot and have never looked back. Wood is so much nicer to work with and of course has the huge advantage over mdd of not having to be painted.
SW: Can you tell me a little about one of the main woods you use, mango – why is it so suitable for what you do?
JM: It is immensely strong and very attractive. It takes all types of paint extremely well but many customers like it so much they prefer to leave it raw. It also ticks all the sustainability boxes which is great.
SW: From the previous correspondence we’ve had, I know you do a lot of trade and retail shows! Why do you think those work for you? Is it that you like to get out and about and engage with new potential customers, or do you think the uniqueness of your product sells better face to face than online?
JM: We are in the process of creating a new website with better images but no matter how good the image you cannot beat seeing our furniture in the flesh! Customers are always saying that it is very tactile and much nicer in real life than they had anticipated having only ever seen photos. It is also very useful to meet people to find out what they are struggling to find as this can often lead to new products coming on stream.
SW: What new designs are you currently working on?
JM: We are expanding our unfitted kitchen range and also developing the radiator tables to allow for more size options.
To find out more about Scumble Goosie or to shop online, visit the website at www.scumblegoosie.co.uk. Example accessory prices including wooden waste paper bins from £26, and butlers’ trays at £39.