Self proclaimed steam bending enthusiasts, Myles & Madeleine, met 13 years ago in a wood-workshop at Brunel University. After studying Product Design they both began working for other companies and quickly became frustrated with the limited scope of work. They wanted to be involved with a project from the beginning to end so they made the jump to start their own company, LayerTree.
Tell us about yourselves and how you started LayerTree.
Since living together we had always spent weekends designing and making things for our home. It became a way of us having the high quality furniture we longed to decorate our home with but couldn’t afford. Through researching new ideas for projects we discovered the process of steam bending and love the eco credentials of it. The kitchen quickly filled up with pots of water, bubbling away under wooden boxes, to create our first steam bent products. Our weekends of home decor turned into weekends spent working on our new business. We started selling our steam bent coat hooks whilst we were both still employed and gradually as the business grew, we were able to stop working for other people and work for ourselves full time.
What is the best part about working with each other?
Some of our friends think we are crazy to be married and working together every day! We worked together on projects at University and have always enjoyed coming up with ideas for things to make. We seem to make a really good team, which bodes well for the business and our marriage!
The best part about working together is when we have a new idea. We could be chatting over dinner and then someone mentions an idea they have been mulling over and before you know it we have pushed the dinner to the side, designs are being sketched out, problems are being solved and the excitement is just electrifying! Hours can go by and we haven’t even noticed. One can become so tunnel visioned when designing something on your own, but together we bounce ideas around, we can be blunt and say we don’t agree and then a new solution has to be found. When we work together in this way you can really feel that a good, well thought-out design is forming because we are both stubborn and won’t settle for anything less than perfect. When you have two perfectionists to satisfy, you normally end up with a pretty good result!
Tell us more about one of your favorite projects and why it made such an impression.
The project we are most proud of is probably designing and building our workshop. Having started LayerTree from a 6ft garden shed we had always dreamed of having a ‘proper’ place to make our designs from. The 6ft shed became an extended shed (!) and then when we moved, we operated out of the garage for a year whilst building the workshop from the ground up. As soon as we bought our house we started designing the workshop - every single detail was discussed to make it a practical space, tailored to our business’ needs. The specially made a large island for us both to work at rather that having separate benches is great at promoting idea provoking conversations that will help the business develop. The main workbench and steam box both have a bespoke framework that has been designed around casters so that when the weather is good we can work out in the fresh air and when its cold and raining we can wheel them back in the warmth.
A friend said that our workshop looks like a showroom for all our tools! The reality is that we put a lot of thought into how the space should look as well as being practical. The result is a workspace that we both love spending time in which generates such a healthy attitude towards our work. It really has made such positive impact on the way we feel day to day.
What advise would you give someone who wants to make conscious choices in their work and life?
It is not easy to make conscious choices. As humans we often seem to take the easy route without realizing there is another option - a choice! We have more choices than we lead ourselves to believe, you just have to start looking for them. Once you realize you can make a choice, then reflect on what impact the choice you are currently making is having on you, other people and the things and environment around you.
We both feel it is really, really important to enjoy what you do for a living. We have had to make difficult choices in the past about leaving jobs and earning less money but one can normally economize and manage. You spend so much of your life working that to not try and make it the best job ever was simply not an option either of us considered. It didn’t happen overnight, and we had to and still do work incredibly hard to have and maintain our own business.
photos by: Myles & Madeleine