Armed with a saw, a few chisels and a head-full of ideas Charlie Smallbone set about starting his career in 1975. At the time he found his niche buying, selling and renovating antiques all around the great city of Liverpool.
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Within the next three years he had recruited his two best friends Graham Clark and Mark Wilkinson, and their company had evolved from renovating antiques to building kitchens from salvaged materials Charlie found.
Ever since the first Old Pine Kitchen from Smallbone and Co, Charlie has sort to design a space that is functional, but must look the absolute best, and must be designed and constructed with integrity. With over 40 years of experience in the industry, Charlie now discusses his latest venture – Ledbury Studio.
- Why did you choose the name Ledbury Studio?
We gave the name a lot of thought but at the end of the day, we wanted something that defined our location in Ledbury Mews, Notting Hill. We will also be working closely with a handful of talented artisans, so the word ‘studio’ felt right.
- How would you describe Ledbury Studio’s signature style?
I wanted to blend the warmth and comfort of a traditional kitchen with cutting-edge design. We still love wood and stone – materials I have worked with throughout my career – but Ledbury Studio will also be focusing on strong contemporary shapes and a radical approach to finishes. The Metallics Collection is the epitome of our aesthetic, marrying traditional design details like Georgian-style cockbeading with contemporary elements such as slender brass door frames and copper fascia panels featuring a dramatic Verdigris patterning.
- How has the Metallics Collection changed from its debut at the Chelsea Flower Show 2018?
The first incarnation of the collection (the Elemental Kitchen) was made completely of metal, but we quickly learnt that however much we tried to soften its look, we couldn’t. In purely practical terms, there were also issues in applying metal to certain areas of the kitchen. As a result, we decided to be more discerning in our use of metal, restricting it to the fascia panels for a sophisticated look that is stylish and functional.
- Bespoke kitchens are traditionally made of wood, why were you initially drawn to metal as a material when designing the Metallics Collection?
I’ve worked a lot with liquid metal over the years, creating all sorts of crazy finishes, so I started looking at that. However, I wanted to take a more disciplined approach with Ledbury Studio, focusing on materials with integrity. That's why I decided that any finish we were going to create would be applied to a proper piece of metal.
- You’ve been at the forefront of kitchen design since the 1980s and have a wealth of experience, so what continues to drive you?
I’ve never fallen out of love with the beauty of what I do. In other words, it’s not just about the final design, but the pleasure of taking a drawing on paper or a render and then seeing that piece come to life. You then see the actual piece in somebody’s home or in the showroom and you know it looks good and it works – there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.
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