The Designers' Advisor Asks: Nicole & Patrick Moulton Black

Nicole & Patrick Moulton Black

Origins Design

Origins Design was founded in South Africa in 1995 by Patrick Moulton Black, where he was designing and manufacturing lighting, small domestic accessories and furniture. The business quickly grew and by 2000, Patrick was supplying designers in the US, Europe and the UK. He moved the business to the UK that year and the first Origins Design store opened in London three years later, selling bespoke furniture items designed by Patrick and manufactured by local suppliers. Growing in size and reputation, the shop moved several times around Fulham and Chelsea, and as the business grew, some manufacturing had to be sourced from overseas. Patrick opened the first Origins Design workshop in 2010 so he could maintain full quality control of the products. As the trade side of the business was overtaking the retail business, the retail store was closed in 2013 and the team moved to the present purpose-built factory in Thames Ditton to focus on supporting design professional clients. Since then, the manufacturing team has grown and the product range has expanded to include joinery, metalwork and spraying, as well as a full upholstery service. Husband and wife team Patrick and Nicole Moulton Black form the perfect leadership team. Patrick’s background in furniture design and manufacturing is coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit which has allowed Origins Design to develop and grow. Nicole is an experienced business services and client services manager with a history of building teams, client relationships and managing operations teams in B2B-focused companies. Origins Design now supplies many award-winning interior designers and developers as well as private clients.

Nicole & Patrick Moulton Black

As an interior designer or brand, how has the pandemic affected your work?

We initially saw a rush of orders as interior designers and clients wanted to try and deliver on projects before the full social distancing restrictions were put in place or a lockdown was announced. We ramped up our production to meet the demands of our clients and to deliver as many orders as possible. Since the lockdown, we have seen a couple of projects placed on hold due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic; however, we are still working with other clients designing and quoting on upcoming projects in readiness for when restrictions are lifted and life can resume again.

Further to that, how have you responded to the challenges? What measures have you put in place to not only ensure safe practices but to safeguard your business?

Due to the social distancing restrictions, we have had to temporarily close our SW London/Surrey workshop where we produce our furniture items. While we could have continued our manufacturing by rostering staff on split shifts, access to materials and deliveries was becoming increasingly restricted and challenging. More importantly though, we wanted to play our part and support and protect the NHS, our staff and our communities by staying at home.

We are all trying to find silver linings to this crisis. Some are finding more time to be creative – with or without children! – to think about issues in a different way, to explore a new skill or to improve an existing one. What has been your experience so far in terms of creative thinking and output?

We have been very fortunate that to date we have never had to do any marketing, all of our work has been repeat business or via referrals and word of mouth. We are taking this time to build more of an online presence and focus on our social media. We are also excited to be developing some standardised product ranges which can be customised, in addition to our fully bespoke products.

Trying to stay on a positive note, we’d love to hear about any benefits you may have discovered amidst the difficulties?

As a family business, balancing work and home life is always a challenge. Having this time together and working from home has certainly been a benefit, as has sharing the cooking! Without a doubt, the most positive experience throughout this time has been the sense of community we have felt – coming together with others in the local community, as well as the design industry, pulling together to support each other. The Camberyard Collective has really come into its own during these challenging times. As always, Polly has been leading the way with collaboration and support amongst designers and suppliers. We’ve made some wonderful new connections and know that together we are certainly stronger!

Looking ahead to the future, when this pandemic is behind us, we’ve been thinking about how this enforced shutdown might be an opportunity to do things – personally, professionally and as a society – a bit differently. We’re thus interested to know how, if at all, you might take your own business forward in a new way?

We’ve always been conscious of supporting local/British businesses and suppliers; however, we do still have a small number of foreign suppliers. We will be looking to bring all of our supply chain back to the UK and support other small businesses in recovering from the interruption that we have all experienced. We will continue to support local interior designers in any way we can.

Many thanks to Nicole & Patrick Moulton Black

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