CoucouManou, Colourful Cabinetry And Furniture Design

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

Personality-packing CoucouManou design colourful cabinets and furniture with a handmade heart and soul that truly make them stand out from the crowd.

Based near Bath, Nell Beale, founder of CoucouManou has over 20 years experience behind her in the field of cabinet making and furniture design. Previously working with individual clients and architects, Nell designed and manufactured bespoke one-off pieces and kitchens. When the opportunity arose to design her own collection, CoucouManou was born. The name incidentally derives from France, with Coucou meaning “Hello” or “Hi” and Manou is an affectionate term for Nell’s daughter Manon.

As you can see, colour is a major passion that manifests itself in her cabinet making, in bright, block sections, framed by the black sides that form the recesses in her storage and display units in her newest collection the Boulder range. Eco awareness is something Beale also feels strongly about, using only non-toxic, water based paints, sustainable native woods such as oak and birch and the wood fibre board she sources is classed E1, which means it has such a low Formaldehyde content it is a material safe for the production of childrens’ toys.

‘A number of clients have asked for units in different dimensions which has also worked really well. It’s rewarding to see my work in different configurations.’

The CouCouManou team is still predominantly Beale designing, sanding, jointing, finishing and painting in her studio but she outsources certain parts of the process such as the cutting of the frames and doors, which is undertaken by a CNC router company and the feet are turned by a woodturners that Beale worked for when she first left college.

The line features mirrors, wardrobes and shelving, in addition to the display and storage units and Beale is happy to modify her products for the needs of a certain project. She is also open to the idea of completely bespoke items but mainly for her its about producing work related to her range. Customisations to date include bespoke colour schemes for the Boulder Displays and Boulder Storage units with just one colour used for the handles instead of the multi coloured ones shown on the website. ‘A number of clients have asked for units in different dimensions which has also worked really well,’ Beale describes. ‘It’s rewarding to see my work in different configurations. It is really satisfying trying to give the client exactly what they want.’

Working with both private clients and interior designers, the modification or bespoke process usually begins with a meeting at a design show or an email through the website, and often the request is that they would like a piece in a different size or colour. ‘Then I’ll work on a drawing for them,’ says Beale, ‘send it via email and if they’re happy, I’ll ask for a deposit and get going on it. With bespoke colour schemes, I’ll make up a swatch and send  it in post and work with them until it’s exactly what they’re after.’

Her pieces have a lively, perhaps even alive feel, with characterful little legs and friendly shapes. ‘I love anthropomorphic furniture,’ laughs Beale, ‘something inanimate that looks as if it may come to life. I feel that these storage units may waddle off at any moment!’

‘I think it’s sort of clear that I do like striking bold products,’ she continues, ‘although I’m careful not to make  so avant garde that you can’t actually live with them or they don’t gel with other objects in the room.’

As well as dealing with the orders which comes through regularly, she is currently working on a large bespoke Boulder Display Unit for interior designer Henrietta Caledon as well products for Christmas and winter shows and a project for a well known retailer, she tells us rather cryptically! Beale also hopes to make a kitchen based on the Boulder range, at present this would be for her own home but could very well lead to her first CoucouManou bespoke kitchen range, which would be very exciting.

CoucouManou – www.coucoumanou.com


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