Loughborough based company founded by alumni in 1989
Loughborough based company, deVOL, was set up by two alumni in 1989. Paul O’Leary (pictured) and Philip deVries met at Loughborough University and wanted to combine their joint passion for design to create bespoke furniture. Almost 30 years later and the company now has three bases, one in Loughborough and two in London, directed by alumnus, Paul.
deVOL’s main base is at Cotes Mill in Loughborough, just a couple of miles from the university campus. The historic water mill sits on the banks of the River Soar and is a hive of activity spread across four floors, with kitchen showrooms, workshops, design offices and an antiques cellar. There are also several outbuildings to explore, including a ceramics and metal studio, tile yard, river cabin, fallow deer enclosure and peacock aviary which is often surrounded by a small army of chickens, guinea fowl, swans and many other birds which live on site – all topped off by the occasional smell of baking wafting from the kitchens inside.
The 60+ staff at the Cotes Mill branch perform a number of jobs including kitchen design, production management, accountancy, product design, graphic/web design and photography, showroom management and styling, carpentry, grounds-keeping, pottery, building and foundry work. Plus, there are a similarly skilled cohort of staff members at three workshops spaces in Loughborough and two additional deVOL showrooms in Clerkenwell, East London.
Director and founder of deVOL, Paul, is passionate about employing emerging graduates in his business from local universities – with an obvious interest in the talent that Loughborough has to offer. Around 18 Loughborough graduates are currently working at Cotes Mill.
Many of the Loughborough alumni working at deVOL have amazing stories to share about their journey from university into the company.
Alumnus, Huw Janes, has already made great progress at deVOL in the short time that he has been working there. A Fine Art graduate, Huw expected to be holding down a part time job in retail/hospitality and working on his art in his spare time after finishing his degree. Instead, his creative career has been rapidly progressing at deVOL. Less than three years out of university, Huw is now deVOL’s Creative Design Manager, overseeing the graphic design team and playing a crucial role in much of the company's recent product design projects. Huw’s varying talents have immensely impressed director, Paul. He has developed a range of skills in mentoring colleagues, designing new furniture items, working with suppliers and manufacturers, presenting new designs to awards panels whilst also occasionally still getting to utilise his intricate painting skills. He consistently puts his creative passions into practice in many different ways through his role at deVOL.
deVOL is not limited to kitchen design. Upon a visit to the showroom, the full range of products available from deVOL becomes clear. An example of this is their award-winning “Bum Stool & Chair” which are available to purchase as stand-alone items. The company also sells a range of other wooden accessories and ceramics. The handcrafted ceramics are made by alumna, Claire Fowler, who studied 3D Design at the University. She works in a studio on the deVOL site in Loughborough alongside fellow alumna, Kat Major, who has been developing a unique range of delicate porcelain pendant lights.
Fine Art alumna, Kat, graduated in 2017 and actually gained her role with deVOL several months before graduating. Her interests in functional pottery combined with her love of fine art have led to the introduction of porcelain shades to deVOL’s ever-expanding offering. Her designs are displayed in one of deVOL’s new showrooms at the Loughborough site; these lights hang at a range of different lengths, varying in size, shape and detailing. Kat Major is also engaged to fellow alumnus, Huw Janes – a great #LboroFamily story.
The company is managed on a day-to-day basis by another alumnus, Robin McLellan, who is the Managing Director of deVOL. Robin began his deVOL journey as a placement student for the company, and returned to deVOL shortly after graduating with a degree in Industrial Design and Technology in 2007. He has quickly worked his way to an impressive role at the company, where he started as a member of the design and development team. Robin was able to bring varied knowledge of carpentry and property to his role. He worked his way up in the company, and went from Production Manager to Managing Director in 2011.
deVOL have gained notable recognition over the years from design publications such as Elle Deco, Remodelista, Country Living and Vogue as well as TV programmes such as Grand Designs. The company has grown exponentially in recent years and they are keen to display more of their products in their new Classic English Kitchen display at the Loughborough branch, as well as expanding their workshops and spaces in London.
We hope that our talented Loughborough graduates will continue to thrive with deVOL.
You can find out more about deVOL online.