Charlie Marshall freely admits that hates shopping – hence the story of how he got so frustrated when he was trying to buy a new bed that he decided to set up his own company to make the experience less stressful, and went on to sell beautiful, well-designed handmade furniture essentials online through a website designed to be so user – friendly that, as he says, ‚“even my mum can get to grips with it“.The Sleep Company, founded in 2008, became Loaf in 2012 – the name reflecting a sense of comfort and practicality in a collection that now includes sofas, chairs, tables and bedroom furniture as well as the beds and mattresses that started it all off. With a background in food (before he got into beds, he had a soup company supplying Pret a Manger among other restaurants), Charlie takes the approach of „putting together the right ingredients“, sourcing the best materials, craftsmen and manufactures to create the perfect ‘recipe‘ for each design – established upholstered beds; traditional workshops in Jaipur and Shanghai for hand – finished wooden bends ant tables.His imagination and enthusiasm swept aside the fact that he had no experience of handmade furniture design. „There‘s no list of official suppliers, so you‘re piecing together a jigsaw and working out what fits,“ he says. To develop Loaf‘s House‘ range of neutral upholstery fabrics, he worked with one of the last remaining Lancashire textile mills. For his first bed frame, he simply sent an old French bed of his own to a toy company in China (where they have schools teaching traditional wood – carving skills), and ten days later they had made him a copy identical in every way, except it didn‘t creak. Loaf champion handmade furniture and artisan craftsman but wants to sell them at affordable prices so that good design can find its way into more homes: under £1,000 for a linen-covered sofa or a hand-finished bed made from solid reclaimed fir; chunky kitchen tables for £500 or less. “We spend our money on research and product development“, Charlie explains. Wherever possible he uses family-run manufacturing companies, and he always deals directly with the suppliers, so that he can brief them himself and maintain the quality he wants.“People love character“, he says of Loaf‘s casual style and weathered wood finishes, „but they also want perfection and not too many flaws“. That, he says, is the problem he sets out to solve every day – the challenge of reproducing items to the same high standart while maintaining their hand – finished individuality. And the latest Loaf designs take a more minimal direction – a utility – style zinc – topped kitchen table; reclaimed – wood crates that can be stacked as side tables or hung as wall shelves; industrial – looking welded wire storage racks for bathrooms and kitchens – all with a clean – lined neutrality that is perfect for modern country homes.It‘s company that lives and breathes by feedback, with service paramount (they even offer to assemble furniture when they deliver it, and take away the packaging) and new designs often promoted by customer suggestions. And they‘re going to get even closer to their customers this year, with the opening of the first retail Loaf Shacks, which will, Charlie insists, be “an absolute wow“, and will let people see the furniture at first hand. „I‘m a daydreamer,“ he says. “I love the idea of making shopping for handmade furniture an experience people can enjoy, even with children“.