A Conversation With Polly & Tom

A Conversation With Polly & Tom

Childhood sweethearts Tom and Polly Bedford, born and raised in Devon, co-run Coppice & Crown, a sustainable British wood flooring business established by Tom's family in 1979 and based in North Devon ever since. The couple took over the business 14 years ago, and this year they are embarking on a new adventure with the imminent arrival of their first child. 

We visited them in April, greeted by this year's first rays of sun and their friendly dog Sugar. We strolled through their timber yard, visited their spectacular home (which they built!), and spoke about their experiences as young sustainable business owners and soon-to-be parents. 

Coppice & Crown are responsible for sourcing and seasoning the oak used in our Devon Oak Bed. Sourced from a sustainably-managed oak woodland on the banks of the River Tamar, the trees are individually inspected by Tom before being brought to their mill.

Your family established Coppice & Crown in 1979. Can you tell us how it came about?

The sawmill was started by Tom's father Steven Bedford who recognised a demand for quality authentic wood when renovating his own house at the time. He was in search of extra wide floorboards, knowledgeably kilned and sustainably sourced. 

Since then, we have specialised in crafting exquisite timber products that capture the essence of nature and the beauty of British craftsmanship. Our commitment to quality and attention to detail quickly established us as experts in the field.

How did you make the decision to take over the family business?

Tom bought the business from his parents after he finished school. He was never interested in the university route, having struggled with the academic side of schooling, and his real passion lay with timber. 

He already had visions for expanding and specialising the business, and quickly made the decision to use only British timber, rather than importing from abroad.

Polly, what made you want to leave the city and settle in Devon?

I tried the city life but found myself frustrated with a lack of creativity in my job, and I was constantly pining for the green fields of the countryside. London was an incredible place to live for a short time and gave me so much inspiration in certain ways, but it's Devon where I really belong.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in Devon?

We both grew up in Devon and have known each other since our school days -  we're actually childhood sweethearts. Tom spent a lot of his childhood at the sawmill with his family and their horse Tilly. Polly, who grew up on a farm only 20 minutes away, spent an equal amount of time outdoors. We both recollect summers of river swimming and picnics in farm fields. 

There is such a sense of freedom growing up in rural Devon. You become very practical, because you have to, but it's very useful for adult life. We're both really excited about bringing up a child where we live - the opportunity to explore is never-ending.

In what ways do you believe your different skills and personalities complement each other as business partners?

We actually discuss this a lot between ourselves because we're very different in the way we work, but I think this is why we work. It would be a disaster if we were too similar.

Tom is the logical thinker - cross sections, floor makeups, constructions and structures, that's him. His brain thinks like that of an architect or engineer. I'm more creative and bounce a lot of questions around. It's very useful if we're planning a new project because we both push each other's comfort zones and then both end up thinking outside the box - which is where all the good ideas are found.

We've pushed each other since running the business together, and also given each other a lot of confidence in our decisions. It helps that we love what we do too. Building our home together was such a test of our skills but we really enjoyed how we worked together and would love to do another build soon!

Do you have any tips for young business owners?

Do something you're passionate about and something you wholeheartedly believe in and your business will form around you. We're lucky with this in that we work with such a beautiful natural material. 

Being organised from the onset is a good approach. Neither of us are naturally organised people, but we've put systems in place to combat that and help our weaknesses. 

We find approaching each day with a focus keeps us efficient and helps to achieve goals. It's so easy to get distracted by phone calls, but if you can return to your task once you put that phone down, then you'll achieve loads. 

Focus of course requires sleep, and it's amazing how much better we find our days if we get a full 8-9 hours. We work so much better together. It's easy for us because we live together and we're only a 10 minute walk from our workplace, but a good home regime and healthy sleep pattern helps us achieve so much more in a day.

We know you make great efforts to run a sustainable & traceable business. How have these efforts evolved since the company was established in 1979?

We've really driven our focus on traceability of our timber and the sustainability of the mill. All of our power is sourced from the on-site solar farm, and all of our heat for the kiln is produced by biomass boilers using the waste wood from the sawing process. We've recently become certified with Grown in Britain which gives you full traceability from tree to floorboard. However, we pride ourselves particularly in being able to tell customers the exact woodland or estate that their flooring was grown. 

We've also built the UK's largest timber constructed shed using only British timber. There was such a push for us to import the wood to build this, but we stuck with our ethos to build our heated storage shed using British wood and it paid off.

As you anticipate the (very) imminent arrival of your first child, how do you envision Coppice & Crown evolving to leave a lasting impact for your growing family, as well as for the environment?

The future for British timber is looking sunny, we hope. It's great to be working in a business that does good for the environment. Bringing a child into the world suddenly makes you question your impact on the planet, and so it's lovely to be able to say we're doing and promoting a cleaner and brighter future. Hopefully by the time our child is older, the world of British timber will be bigger and we'll be building more buildings using wood as a primary source.

Do you have a specific bedtime routine? 

Since being pregnant, we've been trying to reduce the amount of technology in our home ready for the baby and we've actually got into sudoku of all things! I'm not sure if I should share that. It's strangely relaxing and the perfect send off to sleep when you complete a puzzle. 

In the summer it's always lovely to take our dog Sugar for a walk down to the river before bedtime. When it's really hot, we pull our mattress outside and sleep on the lawn for a few nights of the year. We do it every year and it's the most incredible place to sleep with the stars above us. Our friends think we're bonkers, but it's a tradition we have to uphold now!

Find out more about Coppice & Crown's story here

What Tom & Polly (& future baby) sleep on:

The Coco Mat

The Superb Mattress

The Trendy Topper

The Washable Wool Mattress Protector

Organic Cotton Pillowcases

We are delighted to say that, about two weeks after our visit, Polly and Tom welcomed a healthy baby girl.