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Made in Britain: meet the makers

Nabil Assaf, co-founder, Urban Front 

All Urban Front hardwood doors are handcrafted to order by a team of skilled experts in our workshop in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. We also make luxurious bronze and painted doors. Making our doors in Britain is particularly important to us. It allows us to control the processes, push for continual improvement, and take immediate action if needed. My wife and co-founder Elizabeth and I sign off every door we create to ensure our work meets the highest quality standards.   

Through our partner Gone West, two trees are planted for each door we make. Every new tree can offset up to 1 tonne of CO2 emissions over its lifetime and is, on average, twice the amount of wood used to make each door. A chain of custody for our timber also matters, so we are currently going through FSC registration.  

Wood waste is an unavoidable by-product of our work, but we have found a way to put it to good use. Using the combination of a briquette machine and our DEFRA clean air-exempt biomass burner, we process our wood dust, shavings, and offcuts, and use them to heat our workshop. This has helped us reduce our CO2 footprint by 22.2 tonnes per year.  

Sandy Buchanan, furniture maker and sculptor 

The ideal of meaningful work drives everything I do, from sourcing my timber in the most responsible way I can, to the process of making furniture. All the timber I use is available because of wind, disease, or development. My goal is always to prevent timber from going to the chipper or being burnt. I use a network of like-minded people who rescue and season timber, which allows me to pass the chain of custody onto my clients with their finished pieces. 

My design philosophy is minimal and crisp, which creates a juxtaposition to the organic wildness in the wood. The timber I use is not always clean, clear and straight-grained. I minimise the waste of this precious resource by using traditional techniques of patching and bowties to make good and strengthen any imperfections. My work celebrates nature's beauty and lets the timber tell the story and remember the life of the tree. 

Understanding where their timber is sourced from is an important part of my journey with clients. From design to finished product, they receive weekly updates, which include the provenance of the timber and the tree it came from. 

For the future and the fight against climate change, I support the Treemaker initiative, which encourages everyone who works with timber to donate 1% of their profits to planting new trees and managing woodland. 

sandbuchanan.co.uk

Gareth Lowe, Nigel Tyas Ironwork 

The art of blacksmithing underpins everything we do and our craftspeople hand forge fine ironwork. Our business, which is celebrating 20 years this year, aims to keep these traditional skills alive and, while we incorporate some modern elements to improve the quality of our products, they are all handmade via forge and anvil. 

We focus on interior lighting and homeware as our mainstay. We can create made to measure curtain poles or a bespoke pendant light for example. Proudly Made in Sheffield, we use as many British-made components and suppliers as we possibly can within the production of our goods.  

We support other independent companies and small producers, especially those local to us such as ceramic artist Sarah Jones-Morris and Lumsdale Glass, who both make shades for specific pendant lights and lamps. I believe people are interested in buying products that will last a lifetime and we want our customers to know the provenance of our products. 

Steel by its very nature is infinitely recyclable and mild steel is one of the most sustainable materials to use in terms of availability. It’s also the least energy and resource-intensive metal. When we are packing our products for shipping, we reuse material and the site we work from is fed by renewable energy.

nigeltyas.co.uk 
 

Emer Gillespie, founder, Spark & Bell 

We operate on a made-to-order basis and allow customers to customise their lights. Wherever possible, we work with local/UK artists, designers, and manufacturers to limit our footprint. We choose materials such as brass, cork, jesmonite, locally sourced wood and recycled plastic.  

 
Circular design principles guide our approach, integrating considerations for a product's entire life cycle. Material choices emphasise local, regenerative, and recyclable options, waste is repurposed for packaging, and lights are designed for easy disassembly and refurbishment. A 10-year guarantee, in-house repair service, and end-of-life management underscore our commitment to quality and longevity. Our commitment to sustainability extends to packaging, prioritising recyclable materials and reusing packaging from suppliers.  

Our design influences blend mid-century and classical inspirations. We strive to imbue our creations with a unique touch, favouring clean lines that yield timeless pieces. 

We have our own in-house recycled plastics workshop where we turn our waste and the waste of other local businesses into beautiful marble-like materials. We have just released a new material made from chipped CD cases and will continue to develop new material finishes in our recycled plastics workshop, so watch this space! 

sparkandbell.com

Andy Guard, Creative Director, Roger Oates Design

It was when working on a commission for a private client in the late 1980s that Roger Oates and Faye Morgan, his wife and partner, came upon a historic Venetian flatweave sample. Although heavily faded on top, the underside of the two-hundred-year-old piece was vividly coloured and deliberately patterned. This unique piece became the inspiration for the very first Roger Oates Design flatweave collection, reinventing this woven narrow-width flooring for the 21st century.   

Now creatively led by myself, the company ethos remains firmly rooted in heritage and craftsmanship. Creating timeless designs with a contemporary edge, the unique flatwoven texture, vibrant designs and bold use of colour form our iconic handwriting.  

We recently launched the first collection of 100% British Traceable Wool, working with The Woolkeepers, an assurance network that provides sourcing integrity and fair wool prices to farmers. It’s possible to trace all the wool in the collection back to the farm where the sheep are raised. This enables us to produce a wool product in the most environmentally conscious framework possible.  

The wool is then spun and dyed in Yorkshire, woven in Devon, and the rugs and runners are finished by hand in Herefordshire. We’re committed to creating a thoroughly British product.

rogeroates.com

Teresa Allen, British Artist

The natural world provides me with an endless source of ideas and inspiration – safari wildlife and equines dominate my profile. In terms of artistic process, music plays a big part. When I’m singing and doing my art, I access a flow state where my mind switches off and my natural instincts kick in. It’s all about trust and knowing that I can transpose the image in my head through my hand to the paper. The whole process feels spiritual and magical.  

While I get my inspiration and reference photography from Africa, I’m all about bringing the travel memories back to the UK and my work is created here. 'Embracing the Future', which features a gorilla and infant, holds special memories for me. I took the photograph that I worked from myself on a once-in-a-lifetime gorilla trek.  

I'm always very conscious of not being wasteful so I'm efficient in what I do and how I do it in terms of my art materials and artwork packaging. There are certainly more sustainable packaging products available today, which is something I continue to review when buying stock.  

TJ Allen Art

Lights and cabinets by British makers

Best of British lights and cabinets

1. Ceiling light £168 - sparkandbell.com
2. Floor light £475 - marklowe.co.uk
3. Flume wall light £564 - jadamsandco.com
4. Cabinet £1895 - jamesdesign.co.uk
5. Side table £3630 - katiewalkerfurniture.com 
6. Fractal table £4333 - maxmccance.com
7. Cabinet £6929 - knowles-christou.com
8. ARC wall light £295 - studioarcform.com 
9. Console table £8620 - janlennon.co.uk
10. Cabinet £4360 - knowles-christou.com