Cabinet Maker reports on the launch of the new Celtheath Contract Furniture showroom in Perivale.
It was rapidly approaching Bonfire Night when Cabinet Maker made the journey to Perivale in Middlesex and to Celtheath Contract Furniture. In keeping with the comforting sense of wrapping up warm against a cold November evening whilst demolishing toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate, we were greeted by the Woodward family and a welcome array of hot drinks and home-made cakes. But instead of fireworks, we were treated to an exciting range of bespoke and refurbished furniture.
There was, of course, a reason for the visit - the opening of the company’s brand new showroom. But whilst it was new, it was not Celtheath’s first foray into the wilds of Middlesex, as director David Woodward explained: “The family lives in Ealing and when Anne (Lonergan, David’s wife and business partner) and I founded the business 27 years ago it was actually around the corner from here.”
Anne and David set up Celtheath all those years ago after recognising a gap in the market for a customer focused furniture restoration and bespoke manufacturing service within the hotel and leisure sectors. They had previously both been working at what was then a large furniture retailer. “The company went through a series of takeovers,” said David. “I didn’t like being made redundant! So I thought I would work for myself. I bought workshop equipment, recruited people from our previous company and rented a space in an old warehouse.”
From those beginnings, the business grew significantly and today also offers logistics as part of its service portfolio, including a white glove delivery service to customers using customer service trained and uniformed two-man teams; more than 120,000 sq ft of storage in order to accommodate storage requests in distribution hubs in London, Ambergate, Long Eaton and Exeter.
So why open a showroom now? “We’ve always had a facility around this neck of the woods,” explained David. “We took this one in November of last year. All of the necessary work was done before we moved in, so we’ve been developing this showroom for a year.
“For a long time we have been focused on the logistics side of the business, and we decided it was time to re-focus in order to make it more manageable for Lizzie Shaw, (Anne and David’s daughter and a Celtheath director) and her husband Chris Shaw, (their contracts director).
“Contract furniture would do this, and it is also a fun and rewarding element of the business. As part of this, we hope that the showroom will lead to people buying furniture from us. Customers and prospective customers come to visit by invitation only and we show a variety of different shapes and styles here. Equally, however we take pride in taking what somebody wants and turning their dream into a product.”
As an example of this, David shared his experience working with the Royal Lancaster Hotel. “Our contact at the hotel used to give us diagrams and ask for a chair. Our designer, Arthur Bishop can turn around anything, and he used to interpret these diagrams, which we would produce in calico. We’d then take them into the hotel with a black felt tip pen so that any changes could be drawn directly onto the prototype.”
Looking at (and indeed sitting on) some of the products displayed in the showroom, it was clear that these are the kind of pieces you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere. Furniture specialist, Alec Saville-Brown confirms our suspicions: “We work with interior designers, and everything you see here is our own design. The multi coloured 1930s Odeon style sofa with the striped back, for example, demonstrates how we can take a classic design and make it updated and funky. With this showroom we wanted to show what could be achieved.”
With people dropping by the showroom all day – some even requesting a tour of the warehouse (ok, this editor may have been amongst them) it was clear that the showroom is already performing as intended. Did David have an inkling that this would be a success? “My philosophy is that you can never say ‘no’ and never say ‘can’t’. You can do something if you want to,” he explained.
As well as driving Celtheath forward, the family also staunchly supports the industry. David and Lizzie are both Liverymen, and David is also an active member of the Furniture Makers Company, whilst Lizzie is captain of swimming for the industry charity (as well as a very talented baker).
With all that’s going on, what’s next for David and for Celtheath? “Well, I’ll be celebrating my 70th next year, so I’m starting to think about an exit. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to go, I love it. But equally, I don’t want to end up micro managing Chris and Lizzie. Before I go I do want to see through the changes we are currently implementing to make sure the business is fun and rewarding for them. Before they throw me out!”