House style

Bert & May’s founder re­vamped his life – and now he wants to do the same for your kitchen

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents - Jes­sica Doyle

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

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