Nick Nolden and Andrew Early are Nolden & Early, a bespoke furniture company using local alien trees and manufacturing functional art for homeowners who refuse to live with ordinary, writes Anne Schauffer.
Andrew Early is a warmly familiar name to those whom, a few years back, spent weekends wallowing in the appealing work-home country spaces of the artisans and crafters of the Midlands Meander. You may even be fortunate enough to own a glorious Andrew Early hand-turned bowl, more fortunate than you know, because that hand work brought on Andrew’s arthritis so he could no longer turn those bowls.
Now, wonderfully, he’s turning his hand to something else.
The stars aligned when Nick Nolden – manufacturer and importer of home decor goods – identified a gap in his product range: “Wooden furniture, but not production line cabinetry. Something exceptional, more niche, bespoke.” By chance, Nick met Andrew, and by January this year, Nolden & Early opened its doors.
Andrew and Nick had a very clear idea of what they didn’t want to be: “We did not want to be another furniture manufacturer using the imported timbers everyone uses. We are not a joinery using American oak or beech or SA pine – we do not want to do cabinetry. We use exotic timbers, alien species to South Africa, all hardwood, so jacaranda, fin oak, silky oak, London Plane, and camphor. We made a large investment in the right equipment and gained the skills to produce superb quality bespoke furniture.”
What’s definitely given Nick and Andrew the edge in the marketplace is their imported radio-frequency drier: “It enables us to dry hardwood in six weeks as opposed to the usual three years. It’s the only one in South Africa, and it’s been a game changer,” says Nick. This expedited drying makes it far more viable as a manufacturing business.
Nick and Andrew source their wood from woodsmen who harvest these exotic woods in South Africa for them. What makes this even more exciting, is they’re able to source massive slabs which allows them to create large, dramatic one-off pieces. They’re producing live-edge tables, coffee tables, mirrors, and extraordinary epoxy river tables: “Epoxy is a very expensive material which takes great skill to use. We brought Haffie Mohammed on board, and she’s a real epoxy expert. It’s been a learning curve for us, but we’re now making incredible pieces of art, each one completely different from the next. No reproduction of the same item, ever,” says Nick. Recently, Andrew’s been experimenting with different techniques on massive, intricate roots – charring or sandblasting them, and the end result is astonishingly beautiful tables.
The partnership at Nolden & Early sees Andrew’s role as design and manufacturing, and Nick as sales and marketing. For now, you won’t find their furniture in a store. You need to visit them at trade shows – they were at the House & Garden Show, and they’ll be at Decorex in Johannesburg – or at their Westmead factory near Pinetown: “We welcome people here, to find a piece they can’t live without. We also love to talk through a piece that a client might like that doesn’t yet exist … perhaps they see the wood they want, and we can collaborate on its design.”
Nolden & Early prides itself on the exceptional finish of their products, which makes a piece of bespoke furniture an investment purchase. The combination of Andrew’s decades-long expertise and creativity with wood, their highly sophisticated woodworking and drying machinery, and the love they both clearly have for exceptional wood furniture that’s unlike anything else … is plainly visible in every single unique piece they make.
FOR MORE INFO:
- 031 700 5126
- Insta: @noldenandearly
- 43 Circuit Road, Westmead