The UK is incredibly lucky to have such a rich, well-preserved design heritage. Our ancestors still stand in bricks and mortar along the Thames, pockmarked and glistening; they still tower above the cities, perched upon high baileys, and nestle into the ancient ripples of hillsides. Within their walls are the treasures of the nation; the preserved and restored relics of generations past from the floors its inhabitants have always walked on to the seats they have always sat on. In some rare instances, the companies who furnished these very buildings still lend their services to the current owners. In others, modern-day suppliers are taking great care to produce furniture and fabrics in the spirit of the tradition.
One such example is the work of Luke Hughes, an English furniture designer who specialises in creating furniture for public buildings, including five Royal palaces, 54 Oxbridge colleges and 200 churches. Hughes first set up his studio, Luke Hughes and Company Limited, in the early 1980s, having worked as a carpenter around London for projects including the manufacture of a series of bookcases for Inns of Court lawyers. In the late nineties, the company pioneered the concept of stacking pews in the ecclesiastical world, and in 2011 designed the furniture used for the Royal Wedding ceremony for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey.
The LH42 chair is the company’s most iconic piece, renowned for its stacking capability and sleek European oak frame. Each chair is made to last over 30 years and its utilitarian, robust design is ideal for both public and commercial use and in busy family homes. All customers, from ancient institutions to suburban semis, must enquire via the website for prices and specifications.
Brintons, a carpet manufacturer founded in 1783, was one of the first companies in Queen Elizabeth II’s reign to be awarded a Royal Warrant and has carried out a number of projects for the Royal household since the 1950s when it was granted. Its work with the Royal palaces, historic houses and many contemporary hotels and restaurants has established it as the carpet manufacturer of choice for many of the most sought-after properties in the country, including Admiralty Arch and the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
In 2019, the company was instructed by Kensington Palace to recreate the original early 19th-century flooring as part of a design project to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth. The objective of this milestone project was to give visitors to the Palace an accurate sense of the popular decorative flourishes of the time.
Those in search of carpets for their own home also have access to Brintons’ vast historical archives, vestiges of which can be seen trickling into the company’s newest designs.
In a similar vein, 150-year old tile manufacturer, Craven Dunnill Jackfield, has been supplying tiles for a wealth of prestigious institutions. Its recent project at Westminster Central Lobby involved the restoration and reproduction of almost 60,000 tiles originally laid in 1847. The decision was taken by the company to conserve or replace each one to ensure the iconic lobby was preserved in its original form. Other projects include long-standing works with TfL, Kew Gardens and many churches across the country.
Located at Ironbridge, a World Heritage Site, Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s commitment to its craft and its history is clear. The staff at Jackfield Factory, which is the oldest purpose-built tile factory in the world, pride themselves on creating period-style tiles with original machinery where possible and the very same glaze recipes and hand-decorating techniques they have always used.
From encaustic tile restoration to glaze colour matching, Craven Dunnill Jackfield has a menu of services that home renovators can access. It also has a series of classically-inspired, ready-to-shop tile collections, including a new floral collaboration with Burleigh, the English pottery pioneering the use of tissue transfer decoration.
Shopping from companies that furnish the country with hand-crafted, high-quality design will bring a storied dimension to your home, conversation-starting details and most poignantly, a sense of connection to the institutions for which the UK is renowned. Preserving the fabric of the nation has never been more appealing.