Bert & May’s founder revamped his life – and now he wants to do the same for your kitchen
Where to look for a kitchen makeover
A SUMMER HOLIDAY can often spark daydreams of a change of lifestyle in hot climes. But for Lee Thornley, founder of interiors company Bert & May, that dream became a reality when he left his job as a barrister and moved to Andalusia to set up a business selling reclaimed tiles. That was in 2004, and four years later the dream had evolved to become Casa La Siesta, an old country house near Cadiz that he restored with antiques and salvaged materials, and opened as a luxurious boutique hotel.
Along the way, Thornley realised that there was even more of a market for reclaimed tiles than he’d imagined, and a big commission from the Soho House group gave him a new idea: to start manufacturing his own, based on traditional designs but with modern colours. Bert & May opened its first showroom in east London five years ago, and since then Thornley has branched out into fabrics and paints, and in other rather more unexpected directions, producing tiled firepits and prefab ‘boxes’ that can be used as self-contained garden rooms.
His latest venture is a range of kitchens, designed in-house and comprising four ‘concepts’, named Library, Warehouse, Forge and Yard, that can each be tailored to suit a customer’s kitchen specifications. Thornley refers to the kitchens as ‘the grown-up Bert & May’, yet the cool, modern and slightly industrial aesthetic that characterises the brand’s other offerings remains key to their appeal.
Library is the most traditional, with hand-painted wooden cabinets in a choice of around 200 colours. Warehouse uses plywood, which can be left as is or waxed for a utilitarian look. Forge deploys aged bronze or matt copper for statement-making panelling, drawer fronts and doors. And Yard comes in a selection of characterful salvaged woods.
All of the concepts can be mixed and matched – a copper panel from the Forge range contrasts beautifully with dark-painted Library cabinetry – and the raw and rustic materials not only look good, but will stand up to a kitchen environment and age well.
Bert & May kitchens start from £25,000; bertandmay.com
From top Bert & May’s Library range has hand-painted cabinets, while Forge uses distinctive aged-bronze panels; the Warehouse range, with its plywood doors