Why handmade sofas are better - and why we make them here in London
At Raft we’re unusual as a small business in both designing and making sofas. We have high standards and will do what it takes to meet them. Even if it means building our own Raft sofa factory here in North London... Sounds extreme? Here’s why it made sense...
Raft sofas are made in Britain. Specifically, they’re manufactured in North London at our own purpose-built Raft factory. For most upholstery businesses taking on that overhead and sacrificing the savings of cheap overseas labour wouldn’t stack up. But for Raft founders Mick Quinn and Heinz Frye it was a question of common sense.
Here are six reasons why we manufacture our handmade sofas ourselves...
1) We can make exactly the sofas we want
At Raft we take sofas seriously. Mick and his team have strong ideas about what makes a good design, and Heinz is slightly obsessive about materials and making things properly.
Having the design and manufacturing functions work so closely together is the only real way of turning our ideas into reality without compromising on quality and standards.
“We wanted sofas made to the highest standards - like our wooden furniture, distinctive designs rendered in the best materials. Fabrics, frames, springs and so on. The only way we could get the sofas we wanted for our customers was to build our own Raft factory.” Heinz, founder and operations.
2) We can keep control of quality...
Having our own factory means we can choose and train our own team. Each sofa is put together with care by our skilled upholsterers, frame makers, cutters and machinists. They’re built to last in in real, everyday family life.
We construct our sofa frames from kiln-dried solid hardwood and each comes with a 10-year guarantee. We use good stuff: D’arc Serpentine springs and top-quality Pirelli seat webbing for comfort and longevity. Specific densities of foam are chosen and wrapped in bio-cleaned feathers - or, if requested, hypoallergenic hollow fibres - for the right look and feel.
You simply can’t control quality that closely when you outsource the manufacturing.
3) ...Yet offer great value for money
Having integrated supply chain where we do the design, manufacturing and sales ourselves keeps our costs down (for example, we only need to fund one marketing budget and one set of salespeople). That means we can pass savings on to customers with competitively-priced sofas, without sacrificing quality.
4) We can maintain our ethical standards
At Raft, good, common-sense ethics are at the heart of everything we do. For sofa frames we only use certified hardwood from responsibly-managed European forests, and everything that goes into the sofa interiors - including fibres and foam - is sourced in the UK.
Our range includes 100% natural cotton, linen, unbleached linen and wool, mostly from European weaving sheds. We have a wool range made from 50% recycled materials, and for our leather we insist on sourcing from environmentally-friendly tanneries which meet strict European regulations and animal welfare standards, and which cure, preserve and tan leather properly.
As with quality standards, having complete control over our own manufacturing means we never have to compromise on our principles.
5) We can easily make bespoke sofas for our customers
Being able to make bespoke sofas for individual customers has always been an important part of Mick and Heinz’s vision. Having our own local factory - keeping the close ties between sales, design and manufacturing - gives us that flexibility.
As a Raft customer, you can choose precisely how you’d like your sofa to be made: design, size, and material, and we can upholster it in thousands of different fabrics. Our in-house designers can help you create your vision, and then they work closely with our craftsmen to make it a reality.
“Manufacturing locally means we can adapt specifications and update styles very easily and that’s important for our sofa customers”. Heinz
6) It’s good to keep it local
We’ve got nothing against overseas manufacturing - in fact, we have our own reclaimed teak factory in Java. But it’s great to be able to create jobs in North London and put something back into the local community.
Plus, making things ourselves is our idea of fun. As founder and designer Mick put it: “We’re just fascinated in how things are made, what they’re made of. ” Having our own factory means we never get bored and keeps us out of trouble...