On the couch with Alex Willcock & Felix Conran, creators of the comfiest sofas in the world.

Father and son duo Alex Willcock and Felix Conran run Maker & Son from their Sussex base, where they’ve made it their business to create the comfiest sofas in the world. Felix is the grandson of design titan, the late Sir Terence Conran, while his father Alex trained in furniture design and was formerly the buying director for the eponymous The Conran Shop. When the thought occurred to him five years ago that it would be wonderful to dedicate his days to creating one built-to-last-a-lifetime product exceptionally well, it so happened that it coincided with Felix (who is now based in NYC) graduating from Central Saint Martins.

And so it was that together they set about the dream, their focus solely on the product – they settled on armchairs, sofas and beds constructed entirely from natural materials – above all other considerations. The entire range is available in velvet, corduroy, cotton or 100 per cent linen upholstery. And as anyone who has ever watched the mesmeric and joyful videos of people jumping onto Maker & Son sofas and chairs over on their Instagram feed will attest, the ‘comfiest in the world’ claim is no exaggeration. We covet one of their creations hard, daily and, frankly, quite unbecomingly. Plus, we also love that if you’re considering making a purchase, you can either go along to Maker & Son’s beautiful Sussex showroom, or book in a home visit from one of the brand’s mobile showrooms (aka the cosiest vans the world has ever known).

Here father-and-son tell us why the success of Maker & Son owes so much to Instagram; how bowled over by the power of social media’s connectivity they are; and why the internet is, all things considered, the best thing that ever happened.

Favourtie website

Alex: This may seem like an odd choice, but I love these guys. Axminster Tools. When I was training to be a cabinet maker over 35 years ago, they had one small shop in a small town local to us. They are now a major brand in their own right with the most extraordinary assortment of tools and services. Basically, they have everything that you could ever want and need to make pretty much anything – what’s not to love?!

Felix: I use my computer exclusively for work, and communication, so my website use is skewed in this area. I love the Google suite - Analytics, Sheets, Mail, Docs. I love spreadsheets as places to store ideas, reformat and see things in different ways. I love that it’s open to anyone to use and work together. I also love Tableau. I love to visualise data. It’s an incredible, powerful and very visual tool. It can analyse data in really extraordinary ways. I love that such a powerful thing is available and infinitely adaptable.

Favourite app

Alex: I am extraordinarily grateful to Instagram because it has enabled us to grow our business in the way that it has; to all the community of people that respond so positively to what we do within that platform. On a personal level, I love the ability to – so immediately – stay in touch with my friends around the world, and to see what it is that they are doing. I particularly love being able to see the work of the friends of mine that are in creative fields; I’m continually in awe of their work and grateful to see it from afar. A friend of mine, Joshua Yeldham, recently had a show in Australia, and being able to see the film that was made in advance of it was just wonderful – the immediacy, the engagement – feeling like I could be there when I couldn’t. There are so many wonderful things that app enables.

Felix: YouTube and Instagram. Totally neck-and-neck for me. I love learning stuff on YouTube. You will find me learning about mathematics, or blacksmithing or other practical things. You can hear amazing people talk and learn the most incredible skills. I really love learning about or listening to different unsolvable physics or philosophy problems – it’s a great way to keep my head turning over.

Internet hero

Alex: The team at TED for all that they have done to bring great content and connectivity to the world.

Felix: The Napster guy, Shawn Fanning, the first person to use the internet for something good… potentially. He freed information and fundamentally changed people’s relationship with the internet.

Favourite podcast

Alex: What Russell Brand is doing with his Luminary podcasts is really inspiring, and I think his true gift of communication and engagement comes across in the most extraordinary way.

Felix: I really like 99PI and Stuff You Should Know. I used to listen to a lot more than I do now, especially when I had a broken leg. Probably, I will fall back in love with podcasts, at some point soon.

Favourite YouTuber

Alex: I love what Russell Brand does. I’m going to keep saying him because he just engages with such interesting people in such a dynamic and intelligent way.

Felix: Alec Steele popped up on my YouTube as a suggestion years ago, when he was like 18 years old. I have now been following him for four years, and when I first started watching his videos, he was in a leaky, tiny little workshop, as an ambitious teenager. He is now running multiple warehouse size workshops, and has a team of people working for him out of Montana. It has been so wonderful to watch him, to experience his life. Good growth. Good dude.

Most recent buy online

Alex: A whole load of component parts for my 12-year-old son’s PC. I also bought lots of wood blanks – wood to make a series of bowls to make for Christmas presents.

Felix: A projector. I got the recommendation from the New York Times. They have a service called The Wire Cutter. I got their most recommended portable projector.

Last book you downloaded or read

Alex:Alex: Actually, it was Alan Watts You’re ItAlan Watts You’re It. His insights on life and humankind are, to me anyway, life changing.

Felix: F Letter. It's the second book by Isolarii. It’s a collection of new Russian Feminist Poetry, and it’s fantastic. Isolarii is subscription service, and every two months, you receive an absolutely incredible, amazing, interesting, well-bound beautiful book. It’s just started, it’s very cool.

Favourite Instagrammer

Alex: Louella Boitell-Gill. She really is as wonderful as everything that she posts.

Felix:: I mainly use Instagram to keep in touch with people that I know, but occasionally I find new friends through Instagram. So, there’s not one person that I could single out as being the best.

Favourite tech gadget

Alex: Samsung S10 without doubt. The camera is absolutely phenomenal, and it’s responsible for shooting most of our most iconic videos.

Felix: Apple Watch series 6.. Definitely this guy. Absolutely completely awesome. I just love it. Unbelievable.

Most useful gadget/item on your desk

Alex: My Sennheiser headphones. They enable me to immerse myself in my favourite music.

Felix: I always have a pen. I like to get a Mont Blanc Fineliner refill. You can have the writing experience of a £350 Mont Blanc pen for close to a fiver. Also, I always have a calculator. My favourite one is in the UK, but I’m wanting to get it here. A white Braun calculator . For some reason it’s like $60 in the US but only £17 in the UK.

Most useful digital resource during lockdown

Alex: WhatsApp

Felix: The telephone app (the green one). You know the one that makes your phone a phone. The best way to speak and connect with friends and family every day.

Most inspirational digital resource during lockdown

Alex: Russell Brand.

Felix: YouTube. It was a way that so many people could exercise in their homes. Keeping active was absolutely essential. I would recommend Cat Meffen, who is lovely and does really great yoga classes.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning

Alex: Instagram, followed by emails.

Felix: Email. Every single day. I check them on my watch, then I move to my computer if anything important comes up.

Last thing you binge-watched

Alex: The Crown.

Felix: Penrose tiling. I was learning about tiling. I was on a YouTube playlist about shapes, and how they tile. The quest to find the smallest set of shapes that will never replicate. I learned about how they tessellate, and how they make patterns. There are two shapes that can literally go to infinity. You can create something that will never repeat. It’s based on a pentagon. They don't tessellate. They sort of smash into each other, but from the awkward space that is created you create a second shape that fits. Anyway… Fascinating!

Favourite brands have you discovered online

Alex: I do like that denim company - Huit

Felix: Feit. A friend sent a pair to me, and I love them. I learned about how the shoes are made, and completely love them.

Social media allowed me to meet

Alex: Nicola Benedetti. I saw a post about the Benedetti Foundation, and some weekend workshops that she had organised. I was so blown away by what it is that she has achieved, so I messaged her. And she messaged me back. That has now turned into a wonderful business relationship and friendship.

Felix: My friend PJ. I made a sculpture and hung it in my space in NYC, and I later learned (through a friend in Sydney!) that he put it on his Instagram story. Then my friend in Australia sent me the IG story of the outside of my space all lit up, with a comment like, ‘I love it when neighbours do cool things.’ I replied and said, ‘Hey, that’s my house!’ He’s called PJ, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Best digital advice I've been given

Alex: Fail fast.

Felix:: Own it. Be yourself, don't hide from it. It’s not going anywhere, this is here to stay.
You’re in control, create the future you want to create.

My screensaver

Alex: The house that I share with some of my best friends in North Wales. It’s the view from the house, looking down the valley which is part of Snowdonia National Park. Every time I open my phone, I’m reminded of where I most feel at home.

Felix:: A dahlia. On my other phone, it is a piece of my artwork

Standout online memory

Alex: Yes, I definitely have one – Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on Vulnerability.

Pet online hate

Alex: Endless look-at-me selfies and generally people trying to pretend that their lives are perfect when we all know nobody has a perfect life.

Felix: The ‘Discover’ page on Instagram. It just doesn’t work. It takes up 20 per cent of the app's navigation. I am uninterested in every single thing here. How many videos of watermelons do you want me to look at? And whyyy?? So many strange sandwiches. It feels like it exists solely for shock. I want it to be better. I’d like to actually be able to use it to find content, not just addictive ‘satisfying’ videos of bubble tea.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions?

Alex: I tend not to respond to emails late at night anymore – you never know what you might say. I do try to be as balanced as I can be with every email I write or comment that I make – I’m very conscious of how words can be received and where the things you say can end up appearing. I’m always my most productive very early in the morning. I use the time immediately after I wake up to do my strategic thinking and communicating.

Felix: No. I tend to have my devices sort of location-based. Yes, I have a routine, but it is not very interesting. I don’t use my computer for anything other than work. Any media that I consume is done on a mobile phone. I watch stuff on my phone because it feels completely disposable. I’ve just bought a projector to be able to watch movies in a different way, still from my phone.

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?

Alex: Oh, without question a force for good. Because of its ability to connect – people with people, people with things, businesses with businesses. The depth of connectivity that it has enabled is completely unparalleled and it’s only just begun.

Felix: Definitely a force for good. Absolutely no question! I think it’s the best thing that has ever happened. I can talk about how brilliant the internet is… for hours.

By Nancy Alsop
January 2021


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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.