Fox and Monkey

Fox and Monkey

Edition Five Feature
Words by: Sam and Katie
Location: Bedfordshire, UK   
Photo Credit: ©Darina Stoda @darinastoda (profile image) & ©Lucy Cooper (product images) @mykindlifestyle 

What is it that you do and how do you do it? 

Katie: We create beautiful, handcrafted furniture and homewares that are made slowly and sustainably and have at their core the idea of bringing nature back into the home. We really want our designs to be timeless, one-of-a-kind and built to last a lifetime. 

Everything is made to order, which is also more environmentally friendly. We really want to go back to a time when the craft was truly appreciated, and things were made with more care and consciously created for people’s homes. There’s a real beauty in that and we want to hone in on that simpler time. 

But we still want things to have a modern, stylish and luxury feel, because furniture isn’t just built to be functional – it can be a real work of art. It’s no different to hanging a masterpiece on your wall: it’s a talking point. 

Your website says that you both previously worked in musical theatre. How on earth did you go from that to this? 

Sam: I’d been woodworking for 14 years, as a hobby, alongside doing shows. Katie and I met while we were in two different West End shows, and soon after, I decided that I wanted to focus on the furniture making. 

I was on stage during a show and found myself thinking about being in the workshop, and I felt kind of bad. There are so many people out there who want to get into the theatre industry that I thought it was a bit unfair for me to be doing a show when my heart wasn’t in it. By that point, I’d been in the theatre industry for nearly 25 years – I’d been doing it since I was aged seven. I felt it was time to move on. 

My passion is woodworking and furniture making and so I left to focus full-time on that. We moved out of London and into our first house together, in the Bedfordshire countryside. The day after we moved, the market shut, because of the pandemic. Katie’s plan had been to still carry on in theatre – London is still within easy reach – and then the pandemic just changed everything. It changed our entire perspective. 

How did things unfold from that point? 

Katie: We had all this time to start doing up our house and that’s when I started my interiors Instagram @thefox.home. I have a real passion for interior design and really wanted to learn more about it, and Sam started renovating the garage into a workshop, which you can see @monkeyboysworkshop. 

We decided to build a dining table together, because we didn’t have one, and I didn’t know much about woodworking at that point, but I feel like that dining table was literally the spark. We enjoyed making it so much, and then Sam proposed to me at that dining table. It was that summer, in 2020, that we decided to collaborate. 

Our idea wasn’t just to make and sell products; it was also about sharing a passion, educating people, connecting with makers. We wanted to create beautiful things and do something good for the planet, and we really loved working together. That’s why we became Fox and Monkey – drawing on the names of our two personal endeavours. 

The theatre industry had pretty much shut down at that time and we spent a good nine months planning and developing our brand. We just dived right in because we really wanted to get it right. I learned so much about woodworking in that time and Sam learned more about design and interiors from me, and together we learned about branding and marketing. 

We officially launched Fox and Monkey in July 2021. The past year has been the happiest we’ve been, and everything just feels like it’s clicked into place, so it’s all worked out for the best. 

You make each piece to order and do one-off bespoke pieces, but do you also have a collection that people can choose from? 

Sam: In the development stage, we decided to just develop and build a whole collection of pieces. They range in style, but all come under the Fox and Monkey umbrella. We have a few more contemporary pieces, like our Emilia coffee table and Arwen TV unit, and we have slightly more rustic, live edge pieces like our Peggy stool and our benches. Then there are our darker, sleeker pieces, in walnut or finished with an intense black stain. 

Katie: We tested the early pieces out on my interiors page, starting with our Emilia coffee table, and we had such a great response that we thought we must be doing something right. 

So, we now have a core collection of furniture, which we’d love to do more of, and a collection of homewares too. Together, they are a portfolio of our style, which is as much to show what we can do as anything else, because obviously we’re new. In amongst building those pieces, we do a bunch of bespoke work too – I’d say that’s what we mostly do, actually. 

Sam: I think our collection pieces have definitely influenced our clients, in terms of inspiring a style, a look or their trust in us. They have a vision and see what we can do and think, ‘I want Katie and Sam from Fox and Monkey to make this.’ It’s very humbling. 

Does Katie focus on the design more and Sam on the woodworking? 

Sam: We both do both. When it comes to designing all our collection pieces and all our custom pieces, that’s definitely a 50:50 collaboration. We always do that together because we bring different things to the table. Katie might say that she thinks this design would 

work really well in this space, and then I’ll say that this particular joint could look quite nice on that particular detail. 

Katie: And you’ll often call me into the workshop to ask how we can best orientate a piece of wood. It’s very much a team effort. Sam does do more of the making and I do more of the photography and interiors side of things, but my favourite days are when we’re in the workshop together, putting on Disney songs and getting creative while we sing along. We love to sing in the workshop – can’t help it. 

You mentioned educating people – in what sense? 

Katie: We really want to inspire and educate others on how furniture can be made by hand rather than on an assembly line in a factory. There’s something so beautiful about taking materials that are already here on this Earth and using them to hand-craft a really stunning piece of furniture. 

We like to show the behind-the-scenes of our business on Sam’s Instagram @monkeyboysworkshop. We show a real breakdown of how everything is made, from start to finish. We begin with just a slab of wood and show all the processes that it goes through and how much time and care goes into a piece. 

Sam: We use all Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified hardwoods, which we source locally. The trees we use have taken hundreds of years to grow, and they have either fallen down naturally or been felled as part of a responsible forestry system. It all fits in with our ethos of slowing down and taking your time. 

Our clients have loved watching their pieces being made. It’s really exciting for them to see us take a slab and turn it into a table or a sideboard, especially as many people have never seen that process before. We get to connect with our clients, and they get to watch their piece being built and see the people who are building it. 

It took a while for us to get our heads around this, but people don’t buy the products, they buy the reason or the people behind the products. The clients who are gravitating towards us are very like-minded people, many of them creatives themselves; it always seems to be people who appreciate the craft and the hard work. 

Is the workshop still in your garage? 

Sam: Yes, it is still in our single garage, but it works. We would obviously love a bigger space but we’re so grateful for what we have, and we make it work. 

Katie: It does show that you don’t need to have a massive space and loads of fancy tools to start a business. If you have the drive and the creativity, your environment doesn’t matter. People are surprised that we just work from a single garage and pack all of our stuff in our little home office. It’s all part of the journey. We have big plans for the future, and where we’d like to end up in five or 10 years, but for now it’s quite nice that it’s just the two of us working from home. 

Sam: A lot of people point out that as we’re making bigger and bigger things, we’re going to need a bigger workshop. But I think, actually, it’s not about having a bigger workshop to make bigger things; it’s more about having the space to make more things in a more efficient way. 

Katie: I expect we will get to the point where the demand is more than the two of us can manage by ourselves. Obviously, we would love to expand but we’re still so new, and we’re very proud of how far we’ve come in our first year. 

What do those plans for the future look like? 

Sam: We want to make Fox and Monkey bigger than it is now, but we don’t want to go too big – we want it to retain its heart and ethos. The idea is to have a nice plot of land with a decent barn or outbuilding to have a good-sized workshop with offices and some employees who are just mates. We’d like it to just be a massive creative space rather than a workspace – that’s vital for us. 

Other makers and creatives could come and run workshops in our space, and we’d perhaps have offices for interior designers. And we’d love to have our clients come and visit the workshop and maybe even pick out the wood they want us to use. 

We even had the idea of having a coffee shop on the premises, so that people can just rock up, have a coffee or a nice little teacake and see what’s happening in the workshop. There would be big glass windows so that they can see what’s going on and get inspired by that. 

What drives you day to day? Why do you do it and what keeps you going? 

Katie: Getting to do what we genuinely love each day. It’s so important to do something that really sets your soul on fire and will keep you going through the hard times, because running a business is tough. 

We do keep each other going too and it is nice to have that support. We find we actually can’t stop talking about work. We’ll go on a walk or sit on the sofa to chill, and we just end up talking about ideas and inspiration and all the things that we want to try. But all that helps us to get through the harder times. 

Do you have a favourite piece or part of the process that you especially enjoy? 

Katie: My favourite piece is the Arwen TV unit. We spent ages thinking about it and drawing it, and even though Sam said he’d never done anything like it before, I said let’s just go for it and see what happens. And we made it and we were so unbelievably proud of it. That piece is now in our house. 

Sam: I’ll be making another one in June for a client, and it’s going to be even bigger, which will be amazing. But I think my favourite piece is a curved sideboard that we built from solid white oak, which we steam bent and laminated. It was a real labour of love, and I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when we finished it. I really, really enjoyed making that piece in particular and I was very proud of the end result. 

Katie: There is something amazing about when we finish a piece and get to stand back and just look at it. That’s one of my favourite moments, seeing it all come together from just an idea or a drawing. To know that we created it together is a really cool feeling. 

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